Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Three Years Ago Today...

Today, dear readers, my husband and I celebrate three spectacular years of marriage, and look forward to many more.

And I'm not just saying that.  It has been wholly and completely phenomenal.  At the risk of sounding cheesy, let me brag on my handsome husband for a moment.  Stephen makes everything more fun; he's honest and completely trustworthy; he's unflinchingly supported everything I've wanted to do; he doesn't take himself too seriously; he puts me before himself and always has my best in mind.  We're happy together, and our relationship has been easy.  And I think a lot of people, whether single, dating, engaged, or married, really need to hear something positive about the institution of marriage.

So, if you will permit me, I'd like to share my point of view on matrimony.  Many an engaged or newly married couple has heard some part or variation of this diatribe speech, as I give it regularly and without invitation.  Subsequently, many a couple has remarked how refreshing it is to hear a success story; we're lucky enough to have some great examples in our lives of happy and functional married couples, whom we've tried our best to emulate.

When you are engaged or newly married, a host of well-intentioned family, friends, and even total strangers will make it their business to share with you all manner of advice, suggestions, and personal experiences in order to prepare you for the road ahead.  In my case (and I suspect in many others), more often than not this advice tended toward discouragement; this, I contend, is human nature.  I think when people have a negative experience they almost relish the chance to project it onto someone else, that they might justify it to themselves, thereby making their experience normal.

Whether from these well meaning friends and family, from strangers, from sitcoms and movies, from books, or even from sermons in church, many of us grow up expecting all kinds of ridiculous things about relationships, weddings, marriage, and even gender roles, like:

  • The wedding will be stressful.  You probably won't remember it.
  • The first year will definitely suck.  Hard.
  • Having kids will make everything suck harder.
  • Look out for the seven year slump.
  • Don't expect to love each other or even like each other all the time.  It comes and goes, you know.
  • Women will be controlling and manipulative, and will nag their husbands mercilessly.
  • Men are terrified of commitment, so if you manage to snag one, he'll be emotionally distant and probably unfaithful.
  • Essentially, marriage is a series of fights, one long struggle, full of sacrifice and disappointment.

Ok, so maybe I'm being kind of dramatic about it, but seriously- I've heard this kind of crap proffered 'helpfully' by fellow Christians, and we're the ones that go on and on about the sanctity of marriage.  We've also been told on multiple occasions, "Oh, of course you're still in love.  You're just newlyweds."  Psssh... no wonder half of us get divorced.  That kind of relationship is boring and hopeless.

I'm happy to tell you that it doesn't have to be like that!  You and your spouse get to decide for yourselves what your relationship will look like.  I'm proud to say that Stephen and I have never in three years had a fight that we didn't completely resolve within half an hour... that's a legacy we intend to uphold.  We communicate about everything, keep no secrets and harbor no bitterness, have no unspoken expectations.  We've been intentional about the way we treat, talk to, and talk about the other.  We act in humility, rather than pride.  And it's been easy.  It's been so easy that we sometimes feel guilty and embarrassed talking with other couples for whom it hasn't been easy.

I'm not saying it'll be sunshine and lollipops for everyone.  All I'm saying is this: don't let anyone tell you what your relationship is going to look like.  Sure, sometimes I've had a long day and treating Stephen with love and respect is more a decision than something I just do instinctively.  I'm sure challenges will come up in our lives together.  We'll have the added responsibilities of kids, we'll have tight budgets, we'll have stressful circumstances.  But Stephen and I have settled internally that we aren't going to let any outside factors determine the quality or working of our relationship.  So, here's to many more years of better and better!