It was supposed to be a long, lingering dinner, one where Dave and I grow more in love with one another as we pass on sage words to the newlywed couple invited to our home. We would smile knowingly and touch hands as we listened to them talk about the adjustment to married life. And when they would finally head home, more in love then when they arrived, Dave and I would cuddle and stare into one another’s eyes and reaffirm our deep love for one another, fifteen years into wedded bliss.
Except I forgot that I don’t live in a movie scene.
I forgot that I’m a woman who works in ministry and raises three children who can make an extraordinary amount of noise. I forgot this was the first week of school–and lunches and homework and paperwork and sports practices don’t wait on lingering dinners. I forgot that I would be so bone-weary by Thursday night at 7pm. I forgot “lingering dinners” require someone to make them, and that someone is me.
And so we didn’t even have a meal. Kids rushed in and out and vyed for the attention of our twentysomething friends. We ate cupcakes standing by my counter. We talked about job promotions and new schedules and finding friends. And we watched Bering Sea Gold and I tried to keep my eyes open.
Because as much as I’d like to write a post that’s about the lingering dinners and the satisfaction of fifteen years of marriage, life is characterized by a very different reality.
But what I’ve come to understand the environment of our marriage isn’t shaped by candlelight dinners, but by the ordinary moments of life together.
I am good to my husband in unusual moments of life. Times of deep joy and deep crises are both easy, in some ways, because we know we need one another. Every cell of energy is directed to the other person, like when we toasted good friends at their wedding or show up to be with another couple during illness or when Dave’s father died.
It’s when life looks “fine” on the outside that we’ve ended up struggling the most.
And if I could tell you a few things, if you would let me so bold as to impose our fifteen years on your marriage, if I could weave together some thoughts from the years I’ve spent counseling couples and listening to women and living out my own marriage, this is what I would really want you to know:
- I would want you to know that it is foolish to ever think that you have your spouse “figured out”. That a lifetime together isn’t long enough to fully understand or discover them, and that’s good news.
- I would want you to know that it’s also challenging news, because you will have to keep talking. That there will be moments and days and even weeks where you feel like you are missing one another. And that’s not worth freaking out about, it’s worth talking about. You might start as simply as, “I feel like we are missing each other. Can we sit on the deck tonight and talk?”
- I would want you to know that most of us freak out about the wrong things, and that when we do freak out about one thing, it’s usually about something else. So stop arguing about the dishwasher or about who is paying the bills, and try to talk about the deeper things, like respect, and trust, and saying sorry.
- I would want you to know that if you can’t laugh at yourself, life’s going to be a lot tougher. So when your spouse exposes you to who you really are, try not to take it too seriously.
- And I would tell you that you can never overcommunicate love, or grace, or confidence in your spouse. You can never, ever say those words enough.
You are the only person on the planet who can speak deep truth to your spouse—the truth about their gifts, their dreams.
You have been given the great honor of breathing confidence and assurance into them. The intimacy of marriage gives you the power to bestow great gifts and great wounds on one other. So choose the gift. Choose the words that are hard to say. Overcommunicate your gratitude, your love, your desire to know and cherish your spouse.
These are the ordinary moments, the threads of a life-shaped tapestry, entwining your hearts together. And my hope for my marriage—and for yours—is that the glimmering threads of forgiveness, redemption and joy would outnumber the darker shades of petty squabbles and misunderstandings and disrespect.
And that will make our lives worth celebrating, over cupcakes or candlelit dinners.
YOUR TURN: How do you survive the “stranger seasons”? What’s the best marriage advice you’ve received?
Nicole Unice is an author of She’s Got Issues, available with companion DVD study guide. She is also a ministry leader, wife, mom, and frequently eats cupcakes for dinner. You can find her blogging at http://www.nicoleunice.com, or more about the book at http://www.ShesGotIssues.com.