I shared with y’all a few days ago that this Saturday, Aug 1st, I will be celebrating my 10th anniversary. I’ve really enjoyed my marriage and look forward to the next 10 years. So, here are a few thoughts I’ve been chewing on as I’ve spent some time recently reflecting on the things that have marked our marriage over the past 10 years.
-I Don’t Need You, I Choose You
I’m not at all saying that I don’t need Amy’s help or insight (or that she doesn’t need mine) from time to time, even often. But our need for one another is not the foundation of our marriage. Need implies usefulness and usefulness is a bad motive for relationships; I keep shoes around because I need them and then discard them when I’m done with them; their use is depleted.
Love and necessity have a very strange interplay in a marriage but the bottom line is that Love has to say something more than “I need you.” It has to move past usefulness to something more like “if you were of no use at all, lost all your beauty and ability, I would still be here because I choose you. I did not marry you because I can’t get along without you; I married you because I don’t want to do life without you.”
-Two Whole Persons
“You complete me” is a really cute line from a mediocre movie but shooodang, it is a horrendous practice in relationships. I valued Amy because of who she was without me. She’s still a whole person without me and I value her for everything that makes her who she is. I’d have a difficult time respecting someone whose identity was so tied to mine that she doesn’t know who she is without me. I respect Amy as her own person and am glad to share life with her. I can admire and root for her in her own pursuits and gifts just as I can in they ways we share life.
One of the best aspects of our marriage has been the adventure of our shared mission. From our commitment to our local community to our partnership with Compassion International (the decision to sponsor 5 children as well as to travel as advocates), we’ve been on the same journey to live missionally and generously. It is heartbreaking to see folks get married to someone in hopes that the other will either slow down their pace of life or pick it up. While there may not be a formula for determining which person is “the right person,” I would suggest that if you don’t find yourself headed down the same roads at the same pace and with similar passions, you may want to take a long look at sticking together long-term.
Our courtship was a blast. We actually dated long-distance for over a 18 months, during which time we competed to see who could get the most impressive item sent through the mail. She stamped a frisbee and sent it, I wrote a letter on a rubber duck, stamped it and sent it. She wrote a letter on a giant rubber ball (almost waist high on me), stamped it and sent it. I wrote a note on the sole of my shoe (ew.. I know), stamped it and sent it. She sent a dozen eggs upon which she had written a letter with a clear wax pencil; the intention was that I dye the eggs in order to read the message.. I ate the eggs… She did not think that was funny. There were many more exchanges like that.. It was how we fell in love.
Now, It’s easy to think that this kind of stuff is all part of the ‘game’ by which we impress the ones we’re trying to win. I’m learning even now that that ‘game’ (if we want to call it a game) is never over. The emphasis changes from trying to win the attention of someone we want to know to creatively expressing to that same person how much we still want to know and enjoy them.. Even after 10 years, I have more fun with Amy than with just about anyone (exceptions include dogs who wrestle).
-How Many People Are In This Marriage?
I remember being told that I’m not just marrying Amy but marrying her entire family as well (In Amy’s case this includes a twin sister, divorced parents, generous and insightful in-laws and Italian relatives) That’s also been true of the community we live in. Our church community is uniquely close and I can say with great assurance that the health of our relationship owes a great debt to the folks we live life with. They have shared in our victories and our defeats.. They help us keep laughing and praying etc… The people who make up Shelter Covenant Church are as much a part of this marriage as our legal and biological families. Our marriage is more than just the two people in it. We’re better with our families, our friends and our community.
It’s fun, easy and helpful to make the list of things we adore about someone (particularly someone we want to spend the rest of our lives with). That list is also pretty easy to commit to. It’s the OTHER list that becomes more important as time passes. One of the truly pivotal moments in our pre-marital counseling was being asked to make a list of things we knew we did not like about one another. Once we made those lists, we exchanged them to see what it was about us that was about us that the other did not like (so much fun) and then took them back. Our counselor asked us to take a long look at that list and ask this question: “What will I do when none of these things change?”
This made it really clear that we were each marrying a flawed person. It’s been important for us to know that we committed to both lists; enjoying and benefiting from the one while having grace for and carrying the burden of the other. If either one of us had held onto the expectation that we would change the other then we would have ended up sorely frustrated and disappointed.
Do it. It’s really great. Of course, sex takes on a much different character the longer you are married. It’s centrality and importance tend to wane while it’s meaning grows and deepens exponentially (or sexponentially.. haha. he.. ahem). Sex becomes less a matter of impulse and freedom and more a way in which you share yourself with your spouse; a way to serve one another rather than a way to satisfy a need.
-Being Her Biggest Fan
This is key to both sides of a healthy relationship but I’d suggest it’s a more important discipline for the fellas. With regards to the things she is interested in (athletics, art, academics.. whatever it is that gives her life to do), you must be her biggest fan. A friend of mine ran a half-marathon last year. Her husband did not run the race but showed up every 2 miles or so at an intersection or crossing to cheer his wife on. That’s what I’m talking about.