Sometimes James and I feel overwhelmed that we have been married a WHOLE SIX MONTHS (almost) because it feels like just yesterday and I still have a couple thank you notes left to write. How long do I get to claim that we are newlyweds?
Obviously, I am far from knowing everything about marriage. In fact, my knowledge is still only slightly above knowing nothing about it. Still, in these first months, I have come face to face with some of the fictions that I held of marriage, some of the lies I fostered and believed. And here is the biggest one:
All you need is love.
Pretty sure anyone who has a happy marriage could tell you that this is ridiculous. Loving someone doesn’t mean that you will pick up your dirty laundry and put it in that special basket designed for the express purpose of holding dirty laundry, or that you will remember to change the toilet paper roll, or that your spouse will suddenly become someone perfectly attuned to your slightest mood shifts. I would say that these first six months have showed me that respect is just as important as love, that laughter is more useful than romance, and that common interests often trump romantic prattle.
But here is the second lie I fostered about marriage, one that might seem to be the contradiction of the one above:
Marriage takes work.
Don’t get me wrong – marriage does take work, just like any relationship. You get out of it what you invest in to it, and it isn’t always going to be easy nor will it fix things. But somehow our world has developed a perception of marriage that is based in extremes. Either it is “all you need is love” or “marriage is so hard and often miserable and not at all about romance.” Is it possible that both of these could be simultaneously right and wrong? My big problem with the “marriage takes work” philosophy is how much it emphasizes the negative aspects of it, just like my problem with the “all you need is love” business is that it completely ignores the negative aspects.
Many people told us about all the work that marriage would be, for which I can’t really blame them, as our culture seems to have forgotten that truly good things (like marriage) are not always easy. But they also shouldn’t always be hard, always be work. I think than in our zeal to remember that marriage is something that requires a continually active investment, we have often painted it as long-suffering drudgery.
The best thing I have every heard about marriage came from one of the pastors at our church in our first premarital counseling session. He spent almost two hours going over all sorts of details about our life and our dreams for our future together. Then he told us this:
“After the Fall, the first thing that was broken as a result of sin was the relationship between man and woman, husband and wife. Through a God-centered marriage, God is able to undo the Fall one couple at a time. Marriage is another model of redemption. Your job is to not get in the way of this redemptive work.”
This seems to me to be the good balance between all love and all work. The work of marriage is to love, not in the mushy romantic comedy sense, but in the striving to put the other first. And in this way, the work of marriage fosters greater love.
Maybe it was because we went in to it fully aware that marriage could be difficult, or maybe it was just the serendipity of life this year, but our first six months of marriage have been surprisingly and blissfully easy. Yes, James makes more laundry than I thought was humanly possible, and yes I have the world’s most high maintenance sleeping needs that we have to cope with, but those things only make marriage hard if we let them. And for now, we’re not going to.