Growing up, I think, we all inadvertently develop our own unique expectation of what marriage is. Some hybrid amalgamation of our parents union, what we know from literature and film, and our own unique and romanticized hopes for what matrimony might look like.
In the first 16 years of my marriage I have learned an incalculable number of things and while I am sure that there have been many before me and will undoubtedly be more to follow who exceed me in the deftness of their husbandry, I feel like I have done a fairly good job of navigating the complex waters of walking out life in chorus with another, thus far.
Among the myriad things that I have learned, a few key themes seem to continually resurface in the ever-changing seas of my life.
Marriage isn’t for the faint of heart, but it is marriage that teaches the heart how to endure without fainting.
In the immortal words of Sheryl Crowe, “no one said it would be easy, but no one said it’d be this hard.” Many a difficult evening of emotion and discussion, conflict and reconnection, has concluded with these words, standing together in our kitchen at 2am. There is, without a doubt, no more effective tool for change and growth in our lives than marriage.
Marriage, like chemistry, is all about the combining of two different elements to create something entirely different.
The best piece of advice our marriage counselors gave us was to expect conflict. The goal was not to live peaceably separate, well coordinated lives, but rather to take two distinct, individual, broken people and merge them into a union of two hearts that was greater than the sum of its parts. On hearing this we took comfort in knowing that our fighting was normal, even if we naively thought that the butting of heads would end in relatively short order. As it turns out, the clash of our personalities and hearts has never stopped, it has just grown and matured along with us to be an increasingly effective tool of sanctification in us as individuals and as a pair.
Whether it’s the seasons of life that you painfully endure and wish that you didn’t have to, or the precious moments of sweet tenderness with your little ones, this thing called life seems to hurtle along with ever-increasing velocity. The idea that we’ve been married 16 years and have teenage children is, and will remain, entirely surreal. And now, accepting that they will potentially be dealing with things like college, marriage, careers and parenthood in the next 5 to 7 years, the reality of just how short this season is has come crashing in on us. Along with this is the awareness that when they move on to live their own lives, what will be left is the two of us, with the largest portion of our lives still ahead of us, to be walked out as a pair, just like when we started this whole thing.
The Road So Far
Last night, on the eve of our 16th anniversary, after 7 grueling days of being displaced by home renovations in the middle of the hardest 6 months of our married life (due to our producing a book, not internal conflict), we sat together and laughed hysterically as we read a website about personality types and saw each other and our ongoing interactions reflected back to us from the screen.
I realized that despite spending the last 16 years ardently trying to know and love this one person, I still have, and will continue to have an endless amount of knowing and loving and growing and discovering to do. This is my adventure. This is my joy.
To know and be known by another is perhaps the most treacherous joy and intoxicating journey that we can experience in this life. These last 16 years have just been the beginning, and I can’t wait to see what the next 60 have in store for us.