I got engaged at 21, and married shortly after turning 22. More times than I could count, I heard people tell me how hard marriage was going to be, some even going so far as to bet on my impending failure for jumping in so young. Naively, I felt pity for them, that their love just didn’t measure up to the love I had found, because if it had there’s no way it could have failed them.
I had NO clue.
I liked the idea of marriage more than the institution. I wanted dinner parties, to set a cute table and prepare a complicated meal, decorate a home, and show off sweet well behaved babies. Basically, I wanted a dream that only existed in the fantastical world the media portrayed. I’d seen my own parents try, I watched how hard they worked, but they never seemed happy… rather, quite miserable. In the end I’m not sure they remembered what they were fighting for, so it seemed to make more sense to stop, literally, fighting.
I knew what I didn’t want… and what I did lacked a certain degree of reality. What resulted was a rather painful journey toward discovering what growing a real marriage looked like.
The problem with ‘playing house’… is just that, playing infers a degree of fiction. Rather than embracing the hard truths of reality, talking about them, and developing a plan to tackle them together, we swept them aside. In my insecurity, in a new town, I needed him with me, but I never told him that. As he started back to school for the first time in 10 years, he needed patience and support, but he never told me that. Rather I’d invite him to go places, he’d pass and opt to study, I would feel neglected, he’d feel guilty and unappreciated.
There is an old Indian Proverb about two wolves battling within each of us. One is evil; it is anger, jealousy, bitterness, guilt, resentment, pride, greed, and lies. The other is good; it is peace, love, joy, patience, humility, generosity, compassion, truth, and faith. The question is asked, which one wins, and the response is the one you feed. In those years I fed bitterness, resentment, and all sorts of lies, that he didn’t need to be studying, he just didn’t want to be spending time with me…. evil won.
Rather than turning to each other for support, we turned to other people who would listen to us complain and tell us how right WE were, rather than challenge us to see the others perspective. It’s scary how easy it is to burn your happily ever after down to the ground, before ever really giving it a chance. The benefit of walking through hell, and burning the happily ever after down, was realizing all we lost was our fake reality, and it paved the way to rebuild on a more solid foundation.
When I realized how fragile it all is, how quickly a lie, or a suppressed emotion can grow, we knew there was no more room for unrealistic expectations…. we’d be real with each other. It seems simple, but its not. Real means finding a way to be ‘o.k.’ with a house in perpetual chaos, and not believing the lie that it being that way makes me less than. Real means understanding this season of small children doesn’t define us, and won’t drown us, if we don’t let it. It means making choices for us, and not feeling guilty that another would call it selfish. It’s tuning our ears only to God and each other and encouraging each other that the decisions we’re making are right because they are ours. It is believing in the best, and forgiving the worst. It really is a relationship God created to make us more like His son, that we would choose to lay down our lives for each other, doing what we can to help them succeed, not so we can get something from them in the future, but simply because we love them. We don’t get it right all the time, we still annoy each other, try to correct each other, take each other for granted…. but when I got a second chance at happily ever after, I decided to hold onto it with everything I’ve got!