In one week it’ll be my three year wedding anniversary. That’s pretty exciting. Of course, three years is pretty short in the scheme of things. I’m hoping we’ll be married for at least another 50 or so years. I’m not planning on getting divorced at 84, that would be silly, that’s just the time when I suspect I’ll be dying. On the other hand, with advances in science maybe I’ll live till I’m 156, in which case we’ve got 122 years of marriage left. Compared to that, three years is very short.
A while ago I wrote a series of blog post about what I learned in singleness and in dating. I was going to write one about what I learned during my engagement, but I never got around to it. So here are the things I’ve learned in my first 3 years marriage.
Marriage is fun
So I really like my wife. I also love my wife, but I like her too and that’s an important distinction. I suspect that not all marriages are fun, but mine is mostly great. The other morning Em woke me up with a very loud fart. That ain’t sexy, but it sure is funny. We laugh a lot. We have stupid arguments and intelligent conversations (at least we feel intelligent having them, and that’s all that matters). Sometimes we eat popcorn for dinner and sometimes we eat it for breakfast. We watch TV and movies, play iPhone games together (though I never play my turn quick enough for Em), send each other memes and sometimes keep each other up late at night telling dumb jokes. Em is my best friend and I love that I get to hang out with her every day. Also, there’s sex. Marriage is fun.
Communication is generally the problem and the solution
We rarely have issues, but when we do it is almost always to do with communication. If I’m honest, it’s usually because I haven’t communicated enough, I have misunderstood something that Em was saying, or I’ve been stuck in my head and thought Em was on the same page as me when she wasn’t – only I was on the same page as me. The solution is to communicate more and communicate better. To clarify plans and desires. To learn to say what I’m thinking, not just think what I’m thinking. The more and better we communicate, the better we get at marriage. We’ve always talked a lot, we’re learning to talk better.
Marriage is an exercise in helplessness
For about a year of our marriage, Em has been unemployed. She has had a few health issues. She has had frustrations that I can’t solve. I would love to give her a job. I would love to fix her health. I would love to just make her life great. But I can’t solve the difficulties that Em faces.
For much of our marriage, I was in a job that I found pretty difficult. Em couldn’t fix it. She could only watch as I wrestled with what was happening and how to respond.
As much as we’d love to be able to step in and solve each other’s problems, we can’t. As much as we’d each like to take away the difficulties of the other, we can’t. Marriage highlights our helplessness. In marriage, our job isn’t to fix the other person’s problems or fix the other person. We love, we care, we support, we encourage, we serve. None of these things are solutions. Marriage has highlighted my helplessness, and my need to entrust Em to God. To trust that he knows what he’s doing with her as much as he knows what he’s doing with me. Helplessness leads to dependence on God. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s not an easy thing.
Marriage is not better than singleness
I know, having been the single guy, the question of marriage was often hovering in the background. I regularly said that marriage is not better than singleness, and singleness is not better than marriage. Now that I’ve done both, I’m happy to agree with my former self. They aren’t equal because they aren’t really quantifiable, but one isn’t better than the other. In marriage, the highs are higher and the lows are lower. Life is more complex. It sometimes feels like everything is cubed. We’re greater than the sum of our parts – in the good and the bad.
There are things I miss about singleness, particularly the fact that I was more free to serve God without having to consider anyone else’s needs. But I have opportunities to serve him now that I would never have had before. We complement each other in ministry and together we can achieve things that were inaccessible to me when I was single.
All that said, I’m not neutral, I’m not thinking “Eh, married, single, I could go either way.” I’m glad I was single for as long as I was, but now that I’m married I’m very pleased to be here. Which is great because there is nowhere else for me to be.
Love is a choice
Marriage is not about feelings. Of course in our culture, it often starts in feelings, but it can’t end there or it will end there. Feelings are fickle and unreliable. People fall in and out of love all the time. Marriage is about choices and covenant. Love, if it is to last, must be a choice. If I only love Em when I feel like it, how will she know if I love her from day to day? What will she have to rely on? Will she feel like she has to continually earn my love, or like she always has to be the kind of person I want to be with? Without my making the choice to love her, she might live each day in the fear that my love will suddenly run out.
Love isn’t ultimately about feelings, but about putting the other person’s needs before your own. When I’m at my best, I’m choosing to put Em’s needs ahead of mine. I don’t always do that, but that’s what I aim for. When I do, I’m the husband I want to be and the husband Em needs me to be.
The great story of the Bible is that even when we were unlovable, God chose to love us. He became one of us and gave his life for us. That’s love, and that’s a choice. There is a lot to love about Em, so it’s not a hard choice, but I choose to love in the hopes that every day till death, love will continue to be my choice.
Jesus is Great
Marriage is a reflection of Christ’s love for the church. It’s not always easy to know how to be a good husband, but I can reflect on Christ’s love for me – Christ’s love for us. I can learn how to love Em when I can see how he loves me. I love that marriage means I get to consider how God feels about me, and how God treats me. It leads me to know God in ways I didn’t know him before. It also means I can never rest, I can never say I’ve arrived as a husband, because there is always more of God’s love to discover, and there are always more ways to discover how I can love Em better.
To love like Christ is a monumental task, which I am only equipped for if Christ equips me. So not only does marriage teach me about Jesus, it shows me how much I need him too. If I succeed as a husband, it will be by his example and through his strength.