I’m going to go out on a limb & make a sweeping-generalization-type-of-statement: Aside from the glimpses we get online about marriage from freshly-penned blog posts about life as a newlywed, Instagram photos of a shiny stone, a perfect manicure, and an “I said yes!” caption — all tastefully filtered in Amaro, of course — most of us base our assertions, values, and desires surrounding marriage off of our parents’ relationship. Today my parents celebrate their 32nd “wedding birthday”, as Aaron calls it, and for some reason, this year’s milestone seems particularly significant to me. Maybe it’s because I’ve watched several of my own friends get married, and I have also seen their marriages fall apart. Or, maybe it’s because I am nearing my own anniversary of marriage, and after two years, I can say that I’ve received an accurate depiction of what it’s like to be married. In my (almost) two years of experience, marriage requires these 3 things: Expression of love, more than just a “date night”, and…yes, I’ll say it. Hard work.
Expression Of Love
Let’s face it. Most of us are not Shakespeare. We have all the feelings, but not so many words. I say that even as a literature nerd and a girl who always has a notebook in her purse. I’ll write Aaron little post-it notes & sneak it in his lunch box now and then but it is certainly no poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning! But even when you love and admire the person you married, you are not alone if verbally expressing yourself isn’t your strong suit. Aaron shows me he loves me by singing me to sleep, texting me “I love you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” with literally ten zillion exclamation points, or surprises me with pink shot gun shells (he thinks if it’s ‘pink’, I’ll want to go shoot with him). I’m a talker. He’s a listener. I’m a doer. He’s a hugger. Whatever your expression of love in your relationship, it is enough. You’ll do just fine if you cultivate loving feelings and continuously share them with each other.
More Than Just A “Date Night”
It’s trendy to talk about how we should still make time to “date” our spouse but I think that should mean more than a date night once a month. I remember when Aaron and I were dating, we would do almost anything to just spend as much time with each other as possible. Now, it’s as if we have been in a season of dream-chasing. He spends extensive hours at the college library studying for exams to prepare for his dream job (okay, an Auditor may not be his “dream” job, but it’s a start), while I spend my weeks babysitting, writing, and doing my own thing while chasing after my dream writing career. Truth be told, it gets lonely. We miss each other a lot during the day, but instead of allowing ourselves to forge two different paths and trying to make them run parallel to another, we try to intersect and work together. We love our date nights to the Logan Megaplex once in a while but what I’m proposing is an extension of that, even if that means playing “I Spy with my Little Eye” at the dinner table at 9:30 p.m.
Does Marriage Really Have to be Hard Work?
Every couple, new or seasoned, has to face the difficulties, struggles, unexpectancies, demands, & addictions of daily life. Aaron and I have had to deal with a few unexpectancies ourselves recently but what I learned off of my parent’s marriage is you deal with them together. In a matter of weeks, we have had to find somewhere new to live, we’ve had to rearrange our monthly budget, and find a new car, all while trying to keep the other person’s perspective and opinions in mind. These circumstances can be difficult to discuss, but think of marriage like this: It is like the strawberries you grow in your garden. They taste much sweeter than the ones you buy in the produce department. Or, for instance, the scarf you knit is softer and warmer than the one you’d pick out at the local boutique shop. Even the view at the top of the mountain is more majestic than any photograph you’ve seen because you hiked the miles using your own strength to see it for yourself. Do you see the wonderful pattern here? We appreciate the things we work for, then we are more willing to continue the work once we have seen the beautiful results of our efforts.
I’m not here to say that marriage doesn’t require hard work, compassion, forgiveness, and perspective, because it does. But I am here to say that you can whistle while you’re at it! Thirty-two years of marriage is a pretty huge feat and I feel so much gratitude for my two loving parents who started it all. They have whistled while they’ve worked for 32 years to stay in love, raise children, and model to us what a successful marriage is like. They each have individual relationships with Christ and a spirituality about them that has taught me to rely on Christ in every circumstance I encounter in life. They continuously choose to forgive, show grace, and incredible generosity. I mean, anytime my mom is at Costco, she’ll text me asking if she can buy Aaron and I anything we might need. And, my dad gave me a Chevron card so I can drive home to see them when I don’t have the extra money for gas. See what I mean? Generosity.
Mom and Dad, you have certainly set the example, and Aaron & I can only hope to continue building a marriage like yours and be like the parents you are one day. I love you immensely. Happy 32nd “Wedding Birthday!”