I thought marriage would bring me happiness. Isn’t that what the movies teach us? “You complete me!” Instead, marriage has been the training ground for an other-ness I didn’t really understand. I wanted to be loved, seen, cared for, and protected. I wanted a partner to do life with. I wanted someone to meet my needs. When I met that dark-eyed boy/man, he felt like home. He seemed to be able to “handle life.” He took care of things, and he wanted to be with me.
So we married, and soon we were five. It didn’t take long to see that he was not what I had hoped for. He didn’t read my mind. He wasn’t very good at romance. Our first Valentine’s Day he bought me kitchen tools. But we were busy, we were making a life together. Where will we live? Who takes out the trash? Who bathes the baby? We had work to do, and life moved quickly.
His strengths are awesome. He worked hard every day. Every damn day. He remained calm in the face of my storm. He did his best. But his weakness made me better. The tender places in his heart, where he needed me… gave me purpose. In new situations, he felt better when I was there too. When he felt disconnected, he needed me to pull him back into the family, to our love, to our life. When it got loud, he needed a tender word, a touch to remember it was good. He needed some space when I got mad. He needed a safe place to say uninterrupted words. These were the things that made me love him more.
It wasn’t the strengths that pulled us together, but our weaknesses. The places we make a difference for each other. There were things I couldn’t bear to face, and others he avoided. We worked it out, together. We learned that only one of us could crisis at a time. He learned my fear, which fell as criticism, leaked from a place of brokenness. He learned that when I was most unlovable, I most needed to be loved. I learned that he needed me to remind him of his value. We learned the shape of each other’s heart— by trial and error mostly.
The lives we birthed and nurtured took over ours for a while but we held on. We made time away, just us. We didn’t go far, but we did make time for love and focus. We learned to grab snippets of time. To run away, to remember we were in it together. As they moved out, we found those moments paid off in familiarity and recognition that we were still us. That my kindness and attention still mattered to his heart. That his thoughtfulness and care made my life better every day.
It would have been easy to walk away. Over the years, there were big and little moments of boredom, anger, and betrayal. We are so very different. I come with lots of words and emotion. He brings practical support. He shuts down, and I get mad. Our hearts and lives are wired differently. He longs for quiet and solitude, I gather and feed people. I love to try new things, he enjoys familiar patterns. But, his heart is precious to me. I have learned to tend his heart, his life as a gift. His joy, his peace, his growth, his life matters, as much as mine, sometimes more.
We talk these days of new relationships in our family, lives moving together. We see the tenderness and care that have served us well, and we celebrate it. We point it out, recognizing the value of these small things. We did not know if love would be enough when we started. We did not know how to make love grow. By God’s grace, we found each other, and we keep finding each other… again and again. We don’t take that for granted even now. We look for each other and pay attention to the ways we care and serve. We voice our fears and dare to remain vulnerable to one another. We are still looking to make love last.