I almost never write about marriage - I'm fortunate enough to have a great many couples in my life who could squash my meager experience. (Zip it, pipsqueak), so I generally bite my tongue to respect my elders, because I'm Biblical like that. But today marks 4 years and wow, that feels big. We made it past that "3 year glitch" and that's got to count for something.
And oh, were they glitchy.
We started off with so many glitch labels: too young, too inexperienced, too poor...and added some of our own along the way. But we survived and it seemed fitting today to make a list of what we've learned. Share our Yoda-like wisdom with the world, we should. Drew is known for his love of paperwork and lists and was just thrilled to sit down and work on this with me. Ecstatic! Overjoyed! Because marriage makes you magically love the same things and work seamlessly on projects!!
Except opposite of that.
So here are the 4 most important things we learned in 4 years of marriage. Take it or leave it, but you can keep the change, ya filthy animals.
1. You have to be really brave. This came our first year, a hard year for many reasons. Marriage is not for the weak or the wavering. If you'll allow me to just toss my hair and quote myself really quick:
I’ve learned that there is a dark force in this world that doesn’t want us to live beautiful stories. It doesn’t want us to walk toward Heaven, toward God and toward each other with the love and joy that we celebrate today. “It doesn’t want us to face our issues, to face our fear and bring something lovely into the world." I think you will learn that marriage is all at once unexpectedly difficult and unexpectedly beautiful because of this force.
Because in a world that resists beautiful stories, you constantly have to choose between love and fear. You cannot have a little bit of each. But here’s the wonderful truth, the lovely secret that I beg you to cling to when the promises you make today get hard to keep:
When all hell breaks loose against you, that’s when you know you’re in the middle of something eternally right. Because if there’s a dark force resisting beautiful stories, then imagine how ferociously it will resist this, our personal illustration of Heaven on earth.
This is just as significant today as it was when I wrote it 3 years ago. Love has an enemy. Be prepared, be vigilant and be brave.
2. Hold hands and pray before bed. This is a more practical lesson, and perhaps only applies to those of the same brand as me...
I'm the specific brand of sea-witch passive-aggressor that likes to scoot to the very edge of the bed when I'm upset so as to deprive Drew (who is like a furless golden retriever) of all human contact. I'll even let my foot drift over to his side of the bed, brush his toe and then snatch it away, just to be sure my message is received. I'm pissed, your skin is poison, wah wah.
At some point, we agreed that it would be a good idea to hold hands and pray every night and it has completely foiled all of my evil schemes. It's hard to not feel chagrined and ridiculous when I have to contort and twist my arm behind my back to hold Drew's hand and pray to the God I made vows before. And being angry is just so exhausting - holding hands and prayer is enough to crumble most of my petty grudges.
On the flip side, as a rare human/golden retriever hybrid, Drew spends his days running from one thrilling diversion to another. He is high energy, high output, high activity. Our little mandated ritual grounds and calms him. It creates a forced focus on us - my hand in his. On tough days, it spotlights any frustrations or tension between us and then it shifts the focus to God, reminding his hurry-up-and-fix-everything mind that we are not in control. On great days, it scrubs distraction to make space for thanksgiving.
3. Choose, even though you don't have a choice. This was a hard lesson for me to learn and consequently the most difficult to write about. And yet, I feel as though I could fill 3 more posts with passion for this lesson.
When roads go dark, some of us tend to curl into defensive, to shut down and give up. Self-preservation. Huddled inside of our walls, it's ever-so-easy to drum up regret and worry and doubt.
For women, this often happens when we feel hurt by the man who is supposed to protect us.
For guys, it might be a little different. You'll glimpse the hidden side of womanhood - the self-doubt, the unreasonable tears, the un-airbrushed imperfections.
And a question will hiss from behind you:
Did I make a mistake?
There comes a time where you'll look at the discontent, anger and regret you're carrying and the ways you use your spouses behavior as an excuse for your own apathy, and the ways you shirk through your days and you'll have to say (Please say, I hope you say)
That's enough now.
Drew and I have learned - desperately and surprisingly - that love isn't something you fall into or out of. It's a choice and the twisted beauty of a marriage covenant is that you're choosing a person you've already bound yourself to. There are seasons where marriage feels like a bear trap you'd like to gnaw your own leg out of. But you can only move forward, so choose to rebuke Love's enemy and stand firm in the conviction that your Heavenly Father loves you and has a plan. Choose to participate in love, choose to work at your marriage, choose to forgive. As Elizabeth Gilbert says, "put your backbone where your wishbone is."
And it will be worth it, I promise. It is only a season, I promise. It will be an asset someday, I promise. God has shown us the most facets of His grace through the difficulty of these choices. They have made us so aware of our need for a bigger Love, one that does not keep record of wrong, or assume the worst or jump to anger.
4. Friendship is different than romance. Most days, Drew and I are like toddler best friends who bite each other's faces out of sheer excitement. We're violently happy to be together. He'll shake me like a bobble head and scream into my face I LOVE YOU SO FREAKING MUCH. (Maybe he says freaking.) We were friends before we were lovahs and maybe that accounts for it. But here's the catch: when we hit bumps in the road, we shift to best friends mode and stay there. It's safer there, with less responsibility and repurcussions. We can hit all of Celine Dion's high notes in the car and stay up late watching Parks & Rec and make fart noises on our arms all the live long day. But marriage is both friendship and romance - it has to be. If you're like us, you've probably learned that it is important to make a conscious effort to put away the pal-ness and...woo each other. To encourage and invest and delight in your partner as the attractive and fascinating counterpart that they no doubt are. If you're the opposite of us and all of your old sexy moves aren't cutting it - maybe you need to work on your friendship. Are you laughing and sharing adventures and being a good listener? Be a good friend, too.
And that's all, folks! Marriage is the most challenging and yet most worthwhile adventure we've taken on. Here's to another year and another bullet point. xoxo
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