(I’m sure my Comms/Marketing friends would assert that no self-respecting person uses a slang “z” abbreviation in a title, but if you’re reading this, I got you anyway. Also, I couldn’t actually use the word “nugget” in the title without having to immediately die. So, here we are.)
Today is our 4th wedding anniversary.
Anyone desiring to get married, preparing to get married, refusing to get married, sad that they aren’t married, or already married should be reminded that getting married is one of the most counter-cultural things one can do. Fun fact: it’s not just having someone to keep your feet warm or someone to kill the spiders, though those things are good things. Getting married, in its truest sense, is standing before God and witnesses and saying, “whatever this man becomes, I am his.” And, “whatever this woman becomes, I am hers.”
And on your wedding day, you really don’t know what that means. Who can tell two married people all that they will face during their life together? Who can say who will grow sweeter with time and who will become embittered? What you’ll lose? What you’ll gain? Who can even tell you to whom you are getting married? Am I the same person I was the day we met? The day we got married? Yesterday? Do I look as youthful or laugh as much or have the same likes and opinions?
But the beauty of marriage is that it is designed to reflect the unwavering love of Christ for His people. Whatever we are, we are His. Whatever befalls, we are held. My “performance” as a wife to Caleb isn’t even really tied to Caleb’s “performance” as a husband to me. The way I interact with Caleb is a response to God’s call on me to be a loving, serving, and faithful wife. The stakes are pretty high and I fail often. But the call is still there.
Now, I’m well aware that 4 years of marriage does not a marriage expert make. I’m also aware that I am not a theological scholar, a therapist, or a doctor and cannot speak to the many spiritual, emotional, and physiological benefits of healthy relationships. (Obviously.) But there are some practical little things that I’ve learned in my marriage that I think position us well. And I want to share them with whoever is still reading.
No. 1: Feed the commonalities and foster the mutual weirdness.
I like to think of relationships as Venn diagrams. However miniscule, there’s usually always some common ground between two people. And as you grow in love for someone, it serves you well to invest in that common ground.
Perhaps you’ve heard the adage, “the grass is greener where you water it.” This can be lived out practically. Watch shows you both like. Listen to your spouse explain why he or she likes something you don’t understand. Champion their talents and hobbies. Take interest in the things that they are excited about. Like little kids who make up random nicknames for people and objects, have your own way of doing things and saying things that the two of you understand.
I remember confessing to Caleb recently that our harder times as newlyweds were largely due to the fact that I felt that we were two people who didn’t go together. I knew intellectually that there was no place for me other than the covenant relationship I’d chosen to enter. But living it out, I felt disillusioned. And perhaps he’s felt the same at times. But now, while we are still very different, there’s a sameness we have as husband and wife. We’re weird, but we’re each other’s. And there’s something intangibly precious about that.
Invest in your mutual interests, do those things together, and watch few similarities grow to be many.
No. 2: Come home in a good mood.
I have repeatedly recommended this to married or engaged friends, and while I fail at it often, I genuinely try to do this consistently.
Your job may be horrible. The traffic where you live might be a nightmare. Your kids may be horrendous monsters. But when you see your spouse at the end of the day, be kind. Warm. Try to muster a modicum of general human kindness. And if you feel you have none left, say that gently and ask for a hug. No matter what happened during the day, be excited to see your spouse. That is wayyyyy better than walking into a crap storm at the end of the day.
No. 3: Big or small, make decisions about your home life together.
I envisioned a life of moving to a new city every few years, or at the very least, moving to a new city and starting life together as a family. Caleb is steady and rooted and would be content to live in the same place until we’re dead. Clearly, we have a difference in priorities. (Mine being novelty and his being all of the good things.)
So we’ve learned to set goals and projects together. Yes, at times one person has to compromise. But compromise is a lot more fun if you reach the end decision on the same team. We talk about what we want to save for next. What would we do to the house if we could afford it? What are our priorities with regards to this or that? What’s our stance on ______ going to be with Hazel?
But even if you’re not buying a house or doing home improvement projects or talking about parenting, you can carry this concept into the most mundane of tasks. One of the most precious things Caleb does for me is go to the grocery store with me. And it may be an inconvenience to him to have to spend some of his post-workday hours walking around Publix, but it means a great deal to me. It’s a chance for us on a small scale to make decisions together. To remember which kind of cheese we liked or why we don’t think it’s a good idea to get that cut of meat because this week we have this or that. In your marriage, it may be that you pay the bills together or set a budget together or actually cook together. I suggest finding the chores that you both are willing to do collaboratively and doing them together.
No. 4: Laugh and reminisce together as often as possible.
Caleb is not talkative, and I am. He’s never going to spill his feelings to me, because he’s not even certain he has feelings. So I’ve learned that I have to ask a very specific and surgically constructed kind of open-ended question to engage in what civilized people like to call “conversation.” I quickly learned that asking, “what’s your favorite ______” never got me a serious answer, and asking anything that could be answered in a single word, eye roll, or grunt wouldn’t get me anywhere.
So occasionally I’ll ask, “remember when ______” and see what he remembers about a certain place, event, trip, date.
It’s not uncommon that he’ll remember things I’ve totally forgotten. He’s made us both laugh uncontrollably and get carried off onto some rabbit trail of conversation where I’ll learn things about him that I didn’t know. Whether his vantage point makes us roll with laughter or pause in sadness, it is always rewarding to listen to how he remembers a certain event. He is, after all, the only other person in this marriage, so it’s good to know how he thinks it’s going.
And, though this isn’t officially a tip because I only wanted 4 – remember that this is all fleeting. Cherish it. I don’t know the number of my days, or his. We still have a lot of years that can get a lot harder than the 4 we’ve crossed. So I’ll try to notice and thank him for his sacrifices, however big or small. I’ll try to use my standing as the only wife he’s got to make his life rich with the good stuff. And I’ll pray for insight on how to love him well.
Happy anniversary, C. Hall. You are far better to me than I could ever have dreamed.