Around our wedding anniversary every year, Nick and I like to assess and reflect on what we have learned about being married. This last anniversary, he joked about it being our marital “fiscal year end” – a “meeting” in which we discuss the things we love about our marriage, what we can work on to strengthen, and what seriously needs some change. This sort of informal “annual meeting” has been really good for us.
And every year, I feel the need to write something about what I have learned and share it—mainly to look back on it and be accountable to and for myself, and partly to just share where we are in life with my family… [and there is also the small part of me that always hopes that being vulnerable and honest about our struggles and small relationship revelations will help/inspire someone somewhere].
So here they are!! A small list of a few things I learned from our third year.
1. Passionate, genuine romance sometimes simply looks like my husband doing the dishes for us at the end of a long day, or going to bed early together, or me putting away his laundry.
I shouldn’t buy into the lie that hollywood-type romantic feelings/gestures = love. It takes a fervent, robust passion for that handsome man to do all the dirty dishes for his wife. It takes a serious, unmeasurable, boundless love for him to fold his socks (he has sooooo many socks, you guys). Romantic gestures don’t always look like surprising one another with a fancy dinner, him twirling me around in the air on some beach somewhere, or public poetic declarations of our love. It is important to recognize how much energy goes into the little things we do everyday to show each other we love each other, and not get distracted by grand, movie-like gestures.
2. We cannot sustain our marriage by our own might.
I cannot sustain myself on my own, nor can I sustain my marriage on my own. I have found that every morning when I wake up, I need the full, fresh grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. I am human, and I love poorly; when I am not striving to abide and rest in Christ, I can be selfish, prideful, even dark at times. Apart from Christ and His work in us individually, without looking to Him to teach us of love and service and gentleness, our marriage would be quite difficult. Without the work of Christ continually in my life and on my heart, I would be a sorry excuse for a wife. Knowing that marriage is an illustration of Christ’s love for the church (his bride), makes marriage based in so much more than just the love of two helplessly flawed humans. Staying focused on what marriage means to me as a Christian, on serving each other and forgiving each other freely, makes for this beautiful, happy little sphere of free flowing love and generosity between us.
3. I’m not tired of my husband—I am tired of myself.
This last year, I often felt exhausted by being married—and then one day I realized that it wasn’t my marriage that was exhausting (it’s actually quite energizing), it was all these impatient reactions and negative emotions I was having at Nick’s routine annoyances. No, I am not tired of my green-eyed, soft spoken, caring and gracious husband. I am not tired of holding his hand, solving everyday problems with him, or sharing his bed. I am tired and exhausted by my own impatient or ungracious reactions to things that he does that annoy or upset me (like when I say “hey, look at that parking space!” and he drives right past it). I need more grace in my life, and I need to give grace more freely to others, especially my spouse.
4. There are so many different seasons in life and, rightly so, there are so many different seasons in marriage.
Confession: I feel incredibly guilty about Nick doing quite a lot of the cooking while I am doing quite a lot of the working. I know I shouldn’t and that I don’t have to – and honestly, I am unbelievably blessed to have a husband who enjoys cooking and is good at it. However, there is some deep, serious and very feminine desire in me to take care of him by routinely cooking us great dinners, vacuuming regularly, and running all house-related errands. He takes responsibility for a good portion of these chores, and doesn’t mind one bit. This used to make me feel really awful (aren’t all of us females supposed to be successfully domestic all the time? *sarcasm*), until I realized that this will change. When this season of life changes, this season of our marriage will also change. How beautiful and wonderful will it be that, one day when I am the one more at home, he understands how much work is involved in preparing meals and running routine errands, and how I understand how much energy it takes to be the one working the most. Our roles will flex, shift, and change as our life does.
5. Turns out, we are really good at hurting one another’s feelings.
So, looks like through life we are going to say things that hurt to one another (even when you are incredibly, head over heels in love with someone). Whoops! Yeah, it sucks that it can happen. Sometimes they are things that need to be said. Sometimes, they come from a hateful place of trying to manipulate negative emotions out of one another (that’s the worst). Genuine love and forgiveness towards one another builds trust (Again. And again. And again). I have learned that it is significantly more beneficial to be vulnerable to choose trust and love after those instances of getting hurt, rather than build up dangerous walls that cause separation between one another. I have also learned if I do insult Nick or say something ugly to him during an argument out of spite, it is so important to be quick to apologize for hurtful words (I mean, super quick. Like, even while I am still mad at him in the heat of the argument—which kind of burns, you know? It’s hard—but worth it… because I love him and I should have been practicing self control in the first place, right?).
6. Being naked with one another is important—it helps with lots of stuff.
Not physically naked (although that’s always fun)–the emotional nakedness I talked about in my post about my marital growth last year (see THIS LINK https://amandabjohnson.wordpress.com/2012/08/12/on-the-second-year-of-marriage-another-qa-session-with-myself/ ). Learning how to be confident in being emotionally vulnerable last year allowed us to really start putting that into practice this year.
And you know what? It can heal things. It can solve problems before they even become problems. Raw honesty in a loving environment works miracles, guys.
One example: when either one of us is struggling with lust (and not the kind of lust for one another—the not-okay kind), we talk about it pretty quickly. We confess it to one another—we pray about it. The end. It stops. It doesn’t even become a problem or a big argument or an emotional thunderstorm. Crazy, right? There’s power in confessing things to one another honestly with no harsh, unloving judgement towards one another—all while asking for God’s help.
7. The honeymoon is not over.
I am not for sure when that end to the “honeymoon-like” feeling will be, I am not for sure when that happens or if it is even supposed to. I think I have found that continually walking through life in wonder and awe that this man chooses to love me everyday keeps that feeling going. I think that being in wonder and awe of the bond of marriage—that we have been brought together by an Almighty God for a holy and good purpose—and all of it’s joys and struggles and strength and meaning, continuously makes things feel new. Marriage is challenging—it calls two individuals to live and work as one, to lay down their lives daily for one another; however, this necessarily does not mean that the lovey-dovey feelings leave, that the excitement dries up… it just calls us to love one another more deeply. Life’s routine may get exhausting, and one day we will grow old and tired, but I will always find it astounding and mind-boggling that he loves me always.