Let’s keep the tradition going, shall we? I seem to want to write some lovely little something on my anniversary, commemorating the fact that we have added another year of marriage under our belts; however, I always come up short and get frustrated with myself… so I am styling this little thing after my last year’s post of “A Q&A Session with myself.”
Original? No. Effective? For me, yes.
Perhaps one day I will be an eloquent and well-exercised writer, and know exactly how to communicate another year of deep, passionate love and how it humbles me so. Until then, I will be participating in question and answer sessions with myself.
You and Nick recently celebrated your second year of marriage. How was it different from the first?
In all honesty, it was worse than the first year. I am unsure if Nick would agree, but I feel that he would. It has been a year of life testing the strength of our toddler-aged marriage by hurling weird and uncomfortable obstacles at us, and by us making a couple very selfish mistakes.
This last year, we both owned up to the fact that we were going through a season of not only not liking where we were in life, but not liking ourselves as individuals. There was this really strange moment driving in the car together a couple of months ago where we both felt like we were emotionally running through pudding or under a broken umbrella in a thunderstorm or something similar. We were both in an awful, defeated and cranky mood and recently had a couple of sizable arguments, and it felt like there was an elephant between us, and if we were to hug at that moment, that we would have to somehow hug around that elephant, too.
Nick looked over at me from the driver’s seat, “Do you still like me?”
“Of course I do. I love you always,” I replied genuinely, while pensively staring out the passenger window. “Do you even like me anymore?” I looked over at his face, hoping for a positive answer.
“Yes! I do like you! I love you,” he replied with energy and then paused for a second, choosing his next line carefully. “I think we just don’t really like or love ourselves right now.”
I buried my face in my hands and cried a little, wiping away the small tears and nodding my head theatrically in agreement. He was so right! How can I know how awful I am and not even love myself at times, and this nice guy still love me? What is wrong with him?
We sat in silence for a few minutes, deep in our own individual thoughts. Then, I realized there was some great hope that we were both unaware of and had left untapped during this season.
My eyebrows perked up. “But, Nick, isn’t it great that even when we do not love or like ourselves, that we still love one another? I mean, I know you aren’t happy with yourself right now, but I love you so deeply. It’s not going away!” I gestured enthusiastically with my hands, like when I tell a story to Lauren and Julia. An additional burst of excitement came over me and it seemed that the large, imaginary elephant between us exploded into a million tiny, imaginary grey bits, “And guess what? You know what’s even cooler? We both know our human love is so limited, even though our love for one another feels so deep… if this feels deep and strong and unmoving, how great is Christ’s love for us?! Ah! This is wonderful, right?”
We sat in the car all smiley. The elephant had exploded, and are hearts had pretty much exploded with joy too. This revelation–that even when we know we are unworthy of love because our own selfish actions, that we love one another and have grace with one another as husband and wife, and still love one another passionately and wholeheartedly–was like a backwards hurricane. (Picture this: a hurricane on rewind, going backwards into the ocean from which it came and disappearing entirely… and on its way back, reconstructing buildings and unsnapping trees and putting wayward cars back in their respective parking spots. That is kind of what it felt like.)
This year I discovered that the strength of our young marriage resides primarily outside of us, and stands on the foundation of what Christ did for us on the cross. If love does not find a secure hold in mutual forgiveness and grace, I am not for sure what it would be called. I think it would have to have a different name.
I observed in our second year of marriage that marital love cannot thrive and flourish without a basis in grace. Where do I get an abundance of grace for others as a mere, self-absorbed human being? At the cross, by owning up to my own sin and realizing that, despite all my ridiculous mistakes and shortcomings, I am thoroughly loved by a God who died for me.
It seems you learned a lot from this last year. Wouldn’t it then make it abetter year than the first?
Well, yes, I guess you are right. What is life if not learning?
We did learn how to constructively argue with one another, rather than destructively argue—and that can make all the difference in a relationship. Most of our arguments in this tiring year built our marriage up or solved problems, instead of creating them.
We also learned how important it is to be transparent and vulnerable with one another. It’s one thing to feel comfortable, confident, and natural while naked in front of someone, its an entirely different and more complicated thing to feel comfortable, confident and natural while emotionally naked in front of someone. However, the latter of the two seems to be more vital.
And when I say emotionally naked, I mean really, really naked and COMPLETELY transparent and COMPLETELY vulnerable. It is freeing to have this sort of relationship with someone, and fuels passion to have this ability within marriage. Nick and I both can feel free to express absolutely all of our needs or concerns or frustrations or shortcomings without the fear of uncaring judgment from one another. We may not always instantly understand the other, but we have learned not to deem one another’s feelings out to be illegitimate. In other words, we listen and we talk freely. It takes courage to be this vulnerable, and it also takes a spouse (or close friend, etc) that is full of grace and worthy of trust.
In marriage, I believe emotional transparency is another essential thing for passion and a healthy relationship. In our case, when we hid certain feelings and frustrations from one another this last year, it created the elephant I spoke of earlier. It literally was something I could feel, like a wedge, that made us feel separate, instead of one unit or on the same team. Once we realized the importance of being completely vulnerable with one another and started to put that into action, the more we felt like we were on the same team. It is a great feeling to be able to be emotionally naked with someone–and know that there is at least one person out there who won’t poke fun at all your flaws.
What do you look forward to in the next year of marriage?
I feel like we are in the most exciting stages of growth; our young marriage is like a seed that was recently planted, and is still working hard under the surface of the soil to establish a root system for itself. I am excited for when our little seedling will mature and blossom into a strong, confident flower.
Hopefully we get to spend more time with one another in this next year, or at least are more intentional about the free time we do have with one another. However, I look forward to every new day of our life, whether we spend it together, or working and running around and cramming things in.
A couple of weeks ago, Nick and I were battling our bedtime, already tucked in with our heads on our respective pillows, sleepily talking to one another about things that could wait until morning. It was one of those days we had off together, and we spent the day trying to enjoy being in one another’s presence as much as possible, while at the same time getting things around the house done. I yawned a deep, luxurious yawn, fighting my nine-thirty bedtime for as long as I could to extend this wonderful day spent primarily at home with my husband.
“We are going to have a nice life together,” Nick sleepily whispered to me, his eyes blinking away sleep. I didn’t really hear what he said, because my mind was slipping in and out of an awake state.
“Hmmm?” I asked, watching his eyes fight against the sweet, relaxed eight hour coma in which we were about to enter.
“Well, we really enjoyed our day together today,” he began to explain, “and we always enjoy our days together—life is made up of a long string of days. Therefore, together, we are going to have a pretty nice life.”
I smiled brightly, fully awake at this moment, and kissed my favorite little corner of his mouth—the one that perks up into a little “greater than” or “less than” mathematical sign with every one of his smiles, depending what side of his face it is.
“Yes, we are,” I replied with a smile, before burrowing myself further into the covers and drifting off into my own separate world.
So, as we enter our third year of marriage, when the newlywed feeling starts to wear off, and you fall in to more of a usual routine, and you often have one day off together in the week and have to pack it in with things that need to get done and also some quality time, is it possible to fall even more in love with your spouse, to feel even more deeply connected to them despite the newness fading and life getting in the way?
Yes—and that is why I look forward to every new day of our marriage. It is another day to experience the gifts that God has given us, and another day to love one another, love our friends and family, and to love our simple little life.
So, is it a sign of insanity that you ask yourself a question and then come up with an answer to it, like interviewing yourself?
It might be. Nevertheless, I find it entertaining and therapeutic. You should try it.
And why do you feel the need to write this all down and share it with other people? Are you a secret narcissist or elitist or something weird like that?
No, I don’t think so. In writing this, it allows me to reflect on important things and be thankful for what I have, rather than focusing on things in life that I don’t have. I share it with others to express what I cannot express through social interaction with my community alone. I share it to communicate to my family that I live far away from that I am growing, and that my husband and I love one another and are building a solid marriage (we don’t get much interaction with them at this point in our lives, sadly, since they are far away).
And I also share it to share a bit of hope. I don’t know if anyone would ever read anything I write and get a glimmer of hope from it, but I do “hope” so. There was a dark time in my life I felt incredibly hopeless, unloved, lonely and unworthy of life. Sometimes, that feeling still creeps up on me in little ways, and I have to remind myself that it is complete fiction. I know a lot of people who have experienced hopeless relationships and a lot of women who have experienced weak and irresponsible men. I have experienced some of that first hand.
There are men of character out there who are strong and gentle and caring and committed – I have proof! And there is a Love out there for all of us, full of grace and freedom, abundance and joy that surpasses all understanding, that we cannot earn or buy or find in relationships with the opposite sex.
If you did not already know, I also love reflective writing, and want to encourage others to do the same. You should not feel insecure about the words you put on paper or your own ability to write—you should just go for it. Every person has a worthwhile story to tell. Go tell it.