I must be a slow learner, because eight years have passed and I am just awakening to this truth: Marriage is not hard. Marriage, the equal yolking of two well-matched individuals for life, is not so difficult in principle and practice. You know what is difficult? Overcoming selfishness. Constantly squashing the urge to serve one's own desires, to not eat the whole pint of Ben and Jerry's, because, puhh, I want to. Marrying someone, and being married to someone is not the hard business. You say, I do, and then you say I do, I do, I do, over and over and over again, every day, until death do us part. But the hard part is not saying I do, also and simultaneously, to 401 other commitments that, in themselves, are not inherently wrong. However, the leading parent-teacher council and the working overtime, the agreeing to bake 3 dozen cupcakes for the party--they all steal energies and consume time and wring us out like dirty dishrags from the demands of married partnership. Marriage is not so hard. Marriage is not the enemy or the whipping girl. Marriage is good, it is so so good. Our selfish, guilt-filled, distracted parts are the ones that make marriage bad and hard and toxic and weak.
I've also learned that marriage doesn't need us to define it. And believe it or not, that's not a political statement. Even though marriage is mired in politics, especially in this country, marriage has been doing just fine since God had the idea to pull Eve from Adam's rib so that man would not be lonely, so that he would be in the good company of equal partnership. Marriage, as institutions go, is pretty strong. I can't think of too many more that have been keeping on, by the same name, since their inception like marriage has. But it seems as though we're spending a lot of our time trying to define the bounds of this marriage thing than actually living out our calling as married people.
My role in marriage is to make mine strong, care for, and enjoy my marriage. If others ask how I feel about cohabitation before marriage, or culture clashes in marriage, oh sure. I can tell them. Truth be told, though, on any given day, I find the maintenance of my own marriage is an immense task. To see marriage as anything but hard is hard for me. Is anything worth defending that I am not already treasuring? My desire is to be good to my marriage, but the temptation is forever to be good only to myself. I can barely fathom having enough time to judge the adequacy of others' marriages. I cannot spare the energy that defining someone else's marriage requires when I should be busy about finding God in my own little marriage pond and keeping the distractions at bay. Marriage does not need me to define it. Marriage needs me to be in it, 100%, and eight years have taught me that task alone requires my 100% dedication.
Eight years has also taught me that marriage is not long enough. Supposedly Loverpants and I have surpassed the "seven year itch." Last week I told the mister that this last year has taught me the most about my husband. That's seven years after we walked down the aisle and THIRTEEN years after we first became cookies n' milk. This past year we have faced foreclosure, bankruptcy, the traumatic loss of an animal, major family crises, cancer in our family, and we have grown closer and become stronger through these trials. Seven years is considered a symbolically long time in the Bible. Yet it feels like a drop in the bucket to me! Matthew 22 says we will not be married to one another in Heaven, but to Christ. In this way, marriage is for eternity, but from my flawed human view, I don't want to imagine living without my husband. I know that marriage is intended to be a foretaste of God's total devotion and unconditional love for us. I feel as though I fall so short of that kind of love for my husband. I basically fight the urge to tell him to figure out dinner every.single.day. Occasionally I will joke and tell Loverpants that I am doing such a great job preparing him for his second marriage. And in a way, I am right. We are all, you and I, preparing each other for Heaven. Married couples are preparing one another for the ultimate marriage. Maybe that's why marriage right now feels so hard. And yet, so important.
Happy 13 years together Happy 7 years married Happy 2 years as Southerners Happy almost anniversary, Lovey Loverpants! <3
photo credits to Steven Mastroianni, the best.