If you’ve been married for more than twenty or twenty-five years, what would your current self say to your newlywed self about marriage? Dan and I have been married for thirty six years, and I’m asking myself the following questions:
What did we expect back then?
What do we know now?
We once took a bike ride along Chicago’s lakefront, and while stopped at Buckingham fountain we met a starry-eyed young couple who had just gotten engaged. We congratulated them sincerely and mentioned that we were still enjoying life with each other after thirty-some years. The young man enthusiastically asked us, “Does it just keep getting better and better?!?”
We answered, YES! (That was all he was prepared to hear.) Our response was honest. Life does keep getting better and better…with occasional difficulties.
Our marriage, like most marriages, has been full of beautiful moments and serious challenges, hum-drum stretches interspersed with exhilarating days. The good times were very good, and the bad times were awful.
But, I never doubted that we always had God and each other. We supported each other, challenged each other, laughed and cried together (well, I cried; Dan felt my tears) and loved one another. Our relationship has grown richer with every year.
What did we expect back then?
We had grown up in different parts of the country and had little common experience. Dan loves the ocean and the mountains (How did he end up in Chicago?). Dan is an introvert; I am a (just barely) extrovert. Dan enjoys solving problems, finding solutions, researching answers, and fixing things, for which I am exceedingly grateful. My delight is in relationships and communicating. I’m a talker; Dan is a doer. Dan loves music; I love words. I thoroughly enjoy a good novel; Dan occasionally reads fiction, but newspapers, magazines, and non-fiction are what I notice him reading.
We didn’t realize all that about each other when we were married. Of course, we knew that we were different, but we didn’t know exactly how we were different and what impact our dissimilarities would have on our relationship.
Naturally, we focused on what we enjoyed together. We both enjoy deep spiritual, and even political, conversations, and there are often no answers to the dilemmas we ponder. Theater, concerts, hiking, bike riding, traveling, and having dinner with friends are activities that we both enjoyed.
We were like the couple by Buckingham Fountain; stars in our eyes and love in our hearts. We were committed to each other, and that’s about all of our future that we understood. Actually, that’s not a bad way to begin a marriage.
What do we know now?
We Know God
Shortly after we got married, we were confronted with the choice to get serious about our faith. We both thought about it for a couple weeks and independently accepted the challenge. We have been growing and learning about God and each other ever since.
It was the single best decision we have ever made.
When life doesn’t go as we had hoped or planned, we have learned that God won’t leave us and that he knows what he is doing. He has, and he will, help us through whatever he has allowed in our lives. I usually don’t understand, but I believe that God is in control, that he is for us, and that he is using everything for our good.
We Know Each Other
Years ago we did a Bible study on communication, and one of the exercises had each couple standing a few feet apart and then walking toward a single object in front of them. Point taken. As we grow closer to God we grow closer to each other.
Dan and I have many failings, but we are both honestly moving toward a more intimate relationship with God. And just like the exercise promised, we have grown closer to each other in the process.
We know each other much better, have seen each other succeed and fail, and have experienced the best and worst of each other. And we’re still happily married. Not only do we know each other, but we accept that neither one of us will ever be the perfect spouse. We might get a bit better, and we should encourage each other to grow and improve, but we won’t ever be exactly what the other person needs.
I know that Dan will always get frustrated in traffic; he will fuss and fume when traffic is terrible. He knows when I announce that dinner will be ready at 6:30, that we’ll eat at 7:00. He just lives with it.
Is that all I have learned about marriage in thirty-six years: seek God and get to know and accept each other?
I’m sure people gave me that advice back when I was starry eyed, and no doubt it made sense to me. I probably told the well meaning individual that I appreciated the input and went immediately back to my dreamy state.
Now, having experienced thirty-six years of marriage and family life, with its countless joys and a few heartbreaks, I know the faithfulness of God. I know the love of my husband and of my children, and they know my love for them.
I think I’d say, enjoy it!
I know that there’s not much more to know.
Love God and love others. It can take a lifetime to learn how to do that.
If you’ve been married a while, what would you like to tell your just married self? If your not or just married, what do you expect from your marriage?