10 years ago today this happened...
10 years ago today I had expectations.
I expected that he would always be my favorite person.
I expected that we would face trials together, hand in hand, with the same mind and spirit.
I expected that he would always know the right thing to say when I was feeling stressed, or angry, or depressed.
I expected that the bedroom would be a place for intimacy and connection in a way I'd never known.
I expected vacations, dinners out, and surprises for birthdays and anniversaries that he lovingly planned out.
I expected babies - a houseful of babies - that I would stay home and nurture while he went out and earned a comfortable living for us.
I expected that he would lead our home with the wisdom of a strong Godly man and be someone I could count on to always redirect me when I got offtrack.
I expected that our 10th anniversary would be spent on a nice trip without a care in the world. Somewhere with moutains and a jacuzzi tub and a nice bottle of red wine and chocolate cheesecake.
But here's the reality...
(Yes, he knows I'm writing this. He pre-read it. He approved it wholeheartedly.)
He is not always my favorite person. Sometimes we disagree so bitterly that I wonder to myself how I could've made this choice.
We do not approach conflict in the same manner, so most of the time we spend trials fighting each other as well as the trial.
He does not know the right thing to say. He's not good at words. And when he tries to be poetic he sounds like an SNL skit.
The bedroom is not what I thought it would be. Sometimes the "passion" just isn't there. Sometimes there are lengths of time where neither one of us can be who we need to be for other person.
He has never planned a birthday, anniversary, holiday, or vacation. If I don't plan things they don't happen. And when I try to get him to help me plan he says "I'm fine with whatever you want to do."
There is not a houseful of babies. There is one baby. And there might not be any more. And, honestly, that's okay because this one baby is just almost more than I can handle on most days and I question my ability to nurture him the way I'm supposed to. And my husband doesn't know the things to say to make me feel better (remember the not being good at words part?), so I spend quite a bit of time alone with my thoughts about this particular issue. And as for the comfortable living...well, steady finances have been a struggle since Day 1 and I'm not sure there's an end in sight to that.
He does not know how to be a Godly leader. He assumes that things will take care of themselves if left to their own devices.
Our 10th anniversary is going to be spent pinching pennies with a cheap dinner at home, a DVD or two, and the baby asleep down the hall.
And if you asked him about his expectations I'm sure he could come up with a list equal to mine.
And yet - despite those broken dreams - we're still together. We like to joke that the only reason that's true is because I'm too stubborn to divorce him and he's too lazy to divorce me. And, folks, there's some truth to that statement. But when it all comes down it there are two main reasons that we're still standing side by side ten years into this mess called marriage.
First, we are friends. When the passion isn't there, when the romantic words don't come easily, when we've argued ourselves into a corner the night before and the tension is still palpable the next morning...we are friends. We share interests (roadtrips to nowhere, pasta, board games, and cheesy sci-fi tv to name a few). We can find ways to connect outside the bedroom. When the romantic love disappears for a season we can focus on the friendship and eventually find common ground to reignite the spark.
But the biggest and most vital reason we are still together is this....God's love. We believe that 10 years ago the vows we took before God meant something. It's not because we're afraid of going to hell if we split up. It's not because "we said 'until death do us part' and now we're stuck so we might as well make the best of it". It's not guilt or obligation or blissful happiness or fantastic bedroom skills that keep us together. It's the fact that God loves us unconditionally, unendingly. A love that is full of grace and second chances. Even when we don't deserve it. Especially when we don't deserve it. My relationship with God is not always sunshine and roses. Sometimes I get angry with Him. Sometimes I struggle with trusting Him. I let him down over and over again with my selfishness and arrogance and need to be in control. Sometimes I am struck by the absolute certainty that if God could get a migraine I would be giving him one.
And yet, He's still here. He hasn't given up on me.
He hasn't said "This isn't what I expected. You haven't lived up to your end of the bargain. I'm not sure I love you anymore".
He hasn't said "I love you - I really really do - but I just can't handle this struggle any longer".
And so neither will we.
We will keep trying to build our marriage around the example God set for us with Christ and the church. The example we're called to uphold in Ephesians 5. We will mess up. We will fight. We will let each other down. But we will choose grace.
My point in this is not to preach at anyone who is struggling in their marriage. And it's definitely not to condemn or judge anyone whose marriage has fallen apart. My point is to encourage you. If it's your 10th anniversary and you're sitting in your house with a sinus headache and no money and no babysitter because your husband didn't plan far enough ahead it's very easy to get on Facebook and look at your friend's "highlight reels". It's easy to see the sweet things that people say about their spouses and think "MY husband doesn't do/say/act like that".
I could have given you a "highlight reel" today. I almost did. A slideshow of pictures of the last 10 years full of smiling faces and tender moments and happy memories. There are plenty of those things to share; we've had a lot of fun along the way. But I chose to give you the other side of the coin instead. If you're struggling, you're not alone. If you're disappointed, you're not alone. If you look around and wonder if anyone else feels the same way you do - I love my spouse but this is so HARD - the answer is yes. Absolutely YES. But some of those same people who are struggling and disappointed are making the choice to stick it out and see what God has in store. We're standing up for marriages that can last. We're not buying into the Hollywood version of "happily ever after". Because "happily ever after" doesn't just happen...it takes work. Because when my weary heart says "I can't", God says "I can". Because when the world says "It's broken", God says "I can fix it". Because He makes all things new.
I love my husband, but it hasn't been an easy 10 years for either one of us. Neither one of us are easy to live with. And there's no guarantee that the next 10 years will be any easier, although I'm very hopeful that it will. But even if it's not....we will smile through the tears, and find ways to stay connected through the hard times.
We will choose each other.
We will choose grace.