Love, marriage

Milestones

This week my husband and I celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. I’m proud of this milestone we’ve hit. And I’m grateful that we not only made it to 30 years but that we made it here strong. Intact. Together. Truly happy, together.

Marriage can be hard. Insanely so sometimes. But it’s also the most satisfying thing on the planet when you get it right. And miraculously, overall, we have gotten it right. Which is amazing when you consider we were kids when we met. I was 16 and Scott was 17. A high school junior and senior. One date, led to us going out. And breaking up. And going out. We went out for 3 years and and that was followed by a sometimes rocky, 3 year engagement.

We were strangers when we started dating. And in some ways, we remained strangers for quite some time. Preconceived ideas about how relationships work and who the person is that you are dating can get in the way of truly knowing each other. We started out as opposites and we still have some basic characteristics that are very different from each other. But over the years we have learned to appreciate and value those differences. And in many ways, after 30 years, we have become alike.

Scott discovered Jesus 31 years ago. A year later I joined him on that journey. And for me, it was my marriage that made me open my heart to Christ. I watched Scott pursue this new way of life…I saw him embarking on a journey without me. And I determined I would go too, so we could stay on the same path. Eventually my faith became my own. Real and powerful. But it was my devotion to my marriage that made me take the first step.

Scott and I, always seem to chose the hard thing. We haven’t done it on purpose but its one of the ways that we are alike. We had responsibility even before we had kids, being the house parents to 9 adults with intellectual disabilities for 3 years. Then we bought a house and invited family to stay with us….got a dog, and before we knew it, had kids. Before our first child was 3 months old we were doing foster care for hard to place teens. We decided we wanted me to stay home with the kids- which meant we were broke for years! We took in more family. We took in friends. We had more kids…..and more kids. People routinely told us they ‘didn’t know how we did it” or the less tactful ones told us we were crazy. I guess we were, but we had each other so crazy felt pretty good. Then we decided to homeschool, The craziness continued.

But we made it through it all, pretty happy and content. And I think there are some secrets to our success. One secret is laughter…we crack each other up. We are not afraid to look silly or be silly and this has saved us unnecessary heartache. Heartache is self inflicted when you take yourself too seriously.

We also have always made it a point to do kind things for each other. We go out of our way to try and make each other’s lives more comfortable. We don’t keep score, we just do for each other because the other person is our favorite person on the planet and we want them to feel that. And during those times when we don’t ‘like’ each other very much…we still do it. Because kindness has a way of changing both the giver and the receiver’s hearts.

We have learned to keep our negative thoughts about each other between ourselves. Ok, Scott was always good at this. I was not. But he taught me how my complaining about him to others was hurtful and I listened. It doesn’t mean we don’t tell each other how we feel….we do. But we stop there.

And communication….we make talking – a priority. It hasn’t always been easy. Life is insistent and annoying and constantly wars for our attention. But we fight for time together to connect and share.

We have also learned together, the power of physical touch….even when you want to be mad. Even when you are mad or the other is mad at you. We’ve learned we need to not let walls be built and touch is the perfect way to stop them from growing.

We’ve learned patience. We’ve learned to let each other keep growing, We’ve learned to actually encourage each other to grow.

We’ve learned that neither of us can be everything for the other person. Sometimes it comes close, but most of the time, we need other people in our lives too. Friends, family. Making time for them is important to us. It’s not always easy to juggle this though. 30 years into our marriage and we still long for and need time together to stay balanced and healthy. With many things on our plates – sometimes, something has to give. We try not to let it be our relationship that has to sacrifice. But sometimes, times with friends is exactly what we need.

We’ve learned to forgive each other for not being perfect. For not meeting some unrealistic ideal. And we’ve discovered the importance of forgiving when disappointed. Little disappointments can add up and cause great division, if couples aren’t careful. It has happened to us. But we’ve been fortunate. Over time we saw what was happening and made a choice to forgive. Forgiveness doesnt come easily. Often it has to be fought for. But the battle isnt against our spouse. The true battle is against ourselves and the desire to hold a grudge.

I know I am blessed. People tell me how lucky I am. To still be ‘in’ love, 30 years later. And I am. I look forward to seeing him every day…..when I wake up, when he comes home from work and the moments in between. We haven’t done this marriage thing perfectly. We’ve had our ups and downs, just like most couples have. But we started this journey, determined. Determined to make it together.

I still see my husband as the most interesting person I have ever met. I see his flaws, we know each other’s flaws better than anyone else does. But I have discovered that I love him best when I allow him to be imperfect.

Our shared faith gets big credit in our story. We started our journey without it. And although we knew we wanted to be together, before sharing a faith, our relationship was rocky. So much depended on our abilities to sustain a good attitude and the right thinking. After we came to faith we discovered we now had a foundation to build on. Faith gave us a reason, so much bigger than ourselves and our fickle humanness, to work at loving each other well.

Hey, we still can annoy each other. We can still drive each other crazy and need space from each other. But even those thoughts are more balanced now. It’s ok and actually good to have a little space now and then. It is not a poor reflection on us that we need it. But our willingness to make time for ourselves is a reflection on our greater understanding of the things that ultimately make us stronger.

We realize that many people never get to experience what we have enjoyed. We see the last 30 years as a gift. The good and the bad. The happy times and the struggles. Our lives are so intertwined we can’t imagine them separate. We’ve built something of great value.

We have seen friends struggle in their marriages and we have seen marriages end. We can understand the struggle – it hasn’t been all sunshine and happiness for us. We’ve had regrets. We’ve felt sorrow for some of the choices we’ve made over the years. When our regrets loom large, we remind each other of our successes. We determine together if there are things we can do differently, moving forward, and we strive to encourage each other towards effective change. And we pray….individually and together, remembering that it is our faith that keeps us strong.

As this week leads up to my wedding anniversary on March 6th, I’ll continue reflecting on this 30 year milestone. Our story has been full of great love. And the hard parts have been softened and made bearable by that love. Two imperfect people, choosing to walk together on a journey. Choosing each other. Choosing love.

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All of Me

The first time I heard John Legends song, “All of Me”, something stirred inside of me. The stirring became an obsession as I began playing the song over and over again. The words were getting at something I was feeling but hadn’t yet been able to express. (If you aren’t familiar with the song, both a link to hear it and the lyrics are listed at the end of this blog)

I’ve been married 26 years. Happily. But this song exposed something that I hadn’t realized. I had been holding back in my relationship with my husband. And it was the “all of me” line in the lyrics that showed me this. I started to realize that I wasn’t really giving my all. I was giving my ‘most’.

I started to look more closely at my thinking and here is what I discovered…..

What I determined was unlovable about me, became something I had long ago decided my husband must also see as unlovable. It occurred to me that maybe I would lose that assumption and see what happened.

I was also struck by the line, ‘love your curves and all your edges.”. I know my husband very well. And he has some edges. I think up to this point, I had viewed marriage as making allowances for each other’s edges. But what if I actually started to love his edges? What if I saw his edges as a vital part of who he was?

And as I consider my marriage, I realize that with him, even when I lose, I win. Maybe things in my life don’t always go as I plan, disappointments come, frustrations pop up….but at the end of the day I am married to this amazing man. Even when I lose, I win.

Offering someone all of yourself requires great risk. Even having been married for a long time, there continues to be a part of me that wants to avoid risk. But sometimes not taking a risk is the biggest risk of all.

Now and then, I marvel that 32 years after we first met, I am as intrigued and attracted to my husband as I was on our first date. He is my worst distraction. Nobody’s opinion matters more than his. He is crazy and I am out of my mind. We know this. We embrace it. It’s what makes us laugh.

So what happened when I stopped deciding for him what was unlovable about me? He’s more relaxed. I don’t know that he ever hated those things. But my determination that he must, stood between us. When I took a risk and offered them to him (by letting go of my preconceived ideas) I gave him a gift in the form of trust. Without knowing what my motives were, he accepted the gift and my risk was rewarded.

What happened when I moved beyond just accepting his edges and began to love them? The change is in me. My ‘edgy’ responses towards his edges have softened. I want to love all of him. Not just the easily lovable parts. What good is it if all I can offer him is just a slightly stronger version of what the rest of the world offers him? In trying to see this differently, I have discovered that his ‘perfect imperfections’ are precisely what makes him HIM. And I love him. I don’t love a perfect idealized version of who he is or who he could be. I love him. His imperfections are perfect imperfections. They have always been what makes him uniquely him. My perspective has changed.

He is my end and my beginning. I love that the lyrics are written in that order. He isn’t my beginning and my end. He is my end and my beginning. The best part of my story starts with him and it will end with him. Every day together, is a new beginning.

Someday, one of us will be gone before the other. And if I am the one that goes last, I don’t want to live with any regret. I don’t want to think then of things I could have done differently. And if I were to go first, I want the assurance that I gave him everything I could, while I could. So every now and then I play this song. It’s a reminder to give it my all.

http://youtu.be/Mk7-GRWq7wA

“All of Me” by John Legend

What would I do without your smart mouth?
Drawing me in, and you kicking me out
You’ve got my head spinning, no kidding, I can’t pin you down
What’s going on in that beautiful mind
I’m on your magical mystery ride
And I’m so dizzy, don’t know what hit me, but I’ll be alright

My head’s under water
But I’m breathing fine
You’re crazy and I’m out of my mind

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning
‘Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you, ohoh

How many times do I have to tell you
Even when you’re crying you’re beautiful too
The world is beating you down, I’m around through every mood
You’re my downfall, you’re my muse
My worst distraction, my rhythm and blues
I can’t stop singing, it’s ringing, in my head for you

My head’s under water
But I’m breathing fine
You’re crazy and I’m out of my mind

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning
‘Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you, ohoh

Give me all of you
Cards on the table, we’re both showing hearts
Risking it all, though it’s hard

‘Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning
‘Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you

I give you all of me
And you give me all of you, ohoh

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