Married people have been known to come to me for what I’m calling a little ministry. It could be a friend dissatisfied with her marriage and asking for prayer, or a pal who is frustrated about the lackluster efforts of their spouse and wanting tips on how I manage to make my marriage look so joyfully effortless.
I scratch my head at this. Not that I’m not honored people see my relationship as pedestal material. But because the perfection they see is far from that. I’ve been married blissfully for six going on seven years and we’ve been together for almost 10 years. I’ll preface this by saying I love my husband with all my heart parts. He is my favorite human being on this planet. Period.
But the road that led us together was broken and tragic and littered with garbage and junk. Yet, marry him I did, and love him I always will. I still get excited when I hear the front door open and his voice says, very Ricky Ricardo-like, “Honey, I’m home!” I would marry him again and again. I would not change one moment of our journey together, because it led us right here. Through our tears and triumphs, each detail has placed us in this spot currently. Ever growing and always trusting God’s plan for us.
That being said, marriage is a funny little onion, isn’t it? Layers and layers of things you never knew existed. Peeling back one layer at a time while your eyes tear up and your fingers burn. There are so many things that people don’t tell you when they are signing your wedding card.
I’ve seen things and heard things—shoot, I’ve said things in my marriage that are not even worth a sentence spoken out loud. Alternately, I’ve seen great triumph and sincere unconditional love, given and received. With each passing day, my marriage changes. Almost like a human being, a marriage is created as two things merge together and are born anew as one.
Just like a growing person, there are stages and phases, bounds of progress and painful regression; it is all very ebb and flow. Hill and valley. Some days are like a fairy tale; there’s a singing princess with an endless smile, surrounded by birds chirping a catchy ditty. We’re all singing and happy and la la laaaaa.
Other days, not so much. Those days, there are volume control issues and eye rolling and even, dare I say it, cussing and slamming. But good or bad days do not change my childlike love for the hunky man I gave my heart to those years (and tears) ago.
Not long ago, I was at the airport sending off my eldest on her first solo adventure in the Midwest to visit family. It was honestly a huge deal; I had so many reservations and feelings leading up to that day. I tirelessly planned her entire wardrobe for the trip and packed her up like the first day of school, with little baggies filled for any and all circumstances. (Excluding deodorant. Really, Natalie, you forgot the deodorant?)
By the morning of, I really had a zero stress level, because there was no stress associated with actually traveling myself, and I had thought of everything. All the worry had washed off me. I managed to hold it together, get there on time, and kill it as a mommy.
Sure, there’s always a certain excitement to traveling. But let’s be honest, there’s also a little bit of anxiety, nervousness, and irritation, met with the preparation and countless checking and rechecking associated with plane travel. That morning, we arrived before the sun rose at the airport, and none of those feelings were within me. Yet.
We checked in, and because she was an unaccompanied minor, I would get to walk her all the way to her gate. Which meant I got to go through all the fun hurdles of traveling without actually going anywhere at all. After we got our tickets, we waited in the TSA screening line with the rest of the tired travelers. I carelessly stood waiting to take off my shoes and empty my pockets. I had no anxiety, no irritation, no wristwatch watching, and no phone checking. Just strolling through the line peacefully, watching as the people around us jostled and talked amongst themselves or on their phone.
Then I noticed the man in front of me. He was a particular shade of ticked off. I’m not sure what events transpired prior to our meeting in that line that made him so very angry, but man oh man was he not feeling this particular part of traveling. He stood cursing in Spanish. (Or rather, I assume it was cursing because while I know he was speaking Spanish, I do not know what he was very angrily saying in Spanish.) I watched him fume all the way through what I thought was a quick-moving line. Sir, you have to take off your shoes. Sir, please put your arms out . Sir, I’m gonna have to ask you to step back through again. With each moment, his mounting anger became more visible; even the X-ray conveyor moved too slowly. Of course, the old lady in front of him with tricky shoes was nowhere near quick enough for him.
It was exasperating to watch his discomfort with the mind-numbing monotony that is TSA screening. But I was still in this complete sense of peace. Not a worry. “Oh sure, you go first, I’m in no rush.” Blissfully naïve of what awaited.
As we walked closer to her gate, I began to feel more and more stress. I kicked myself for not packing her deodorant and bought her a very overpriced one from the shop there. I got us both coffee and a snack, but neither of us was hungry. When the time came to say goodbye to her, I’d forgotten to pray, held up the line doing so, and proceeded to cry like a four-year-old who had fallen off their bike and skinned their knee. All while hundreds of strangers watched, might I add. Quite a messy human being moment for me.
Just then, I noticed the same angry man from the TSA line sitting at the gate across from mine. Just sitting….waiting. He looked so much more peaceful than before. As if every concern he’d had while tapping his foot at Granny’s slow shoes was just gone and he was ready to board. Meanwhile, I’m wiping my tears with my sweater as I “sup-sup” cry and stress-eat my Starbucks cake pop and croissant and her cake pop she forgot. My once peaceful solace slowly turned to despair as I watched her plane leave the gate while that man’s clear anger issue just flitted away on the wings of his flight.
I think that marriage is very much like that entire scenario.
The way people perceive the same thing sometimes differs greatly. The airport is the airport, a line is a line, your spouse is your spouse. We can choose to accept them just as they are. Each flaw and each quirk that makes them, them.
Like the airport, spouses have good qualities and bad. For instance, an airport helps us to move faster over larger spaces in shorter periods of time. It also unites people with a great distance between them. Furthermore, and my favorite part, the airport is always at 100%. Oh you’re hungry? Let’s eat! You want to drink coffee and it’s 3 a.m., why the heck not? No bedtime at the airport; lights are always on and things are go go gone!
On the flip side, the airport can be this anxiety-filled space. Crowded with people busily knocking past you, moving way too fast and doing a lot all at once in a rushed state of panic. Don’t get me started on the germs and bacteria that I can only imagine plague every square inch of every surface at the airport.
Just like marriage, it’s all about the attitude in which you face each moment. You almost can’t have one without the other. A little stress for a lot of reward. A lot of stress for a little reward.
In fact, a marriage is very much like an airport: delays, layovers, old baggage, adventure, a connection, a reconciliation. It just all depends on how you look at it. My marriage is no exception. While I enjoy the adventure that is my union, there are most definitely things about it that make me curse in Spanish. (Or, at least, I think I’m cursing.)
When I talk to other people about marriage—mine particularly in relation to theirs—I don’t sugarcoat the long lines, the language barrier, the (at times) irritable tension between busy passing strangers and the luggage we tote around. But no matter what may come, the adventure at the end of the gate is so worth the incessant foot tap. Maybe that’s why I compare the two. You sure have to put in work to be able to go on an adventure with someone you love beyond measure.
One flesh. Because what was two is now one. The death of me, plus you, and the birth of us. And I have no rules or guides telling me how to get there. I’ve had no real successful examples shown to me by a working marriage. Instead, I’ve learned how to have a successful married life by not doing what I’ve seen and heard in other marriages. And for me it’s hard, but worth it; the juice is totally worth the squeeze. Each day it ages one day older, growing into something I never imagined I would ever have. My hope is to always feel that way, even though I know not all days will feel like that.
Even so, I hope the joy or sorrow I do feel from my better half brings comfort enough for people to continue to come and lay their marriage woes at my toes—not so I can inflate my own success, but to deflate their perception of my marriage in relation to theirs. At the foundation of my love collaboration with my smoldering soulmate, we are simply two travelers with lots of baggage and a one way ticket for the adventure of a lifetime, no matter the weather.
Be safe, be great, BE YOU!
Reality Changing Observations:
1. What is the best marriage advice you’ve ever gotten?
2. What is the worst marriage advice you’ve ever gotten?
3. If someone you love was about to get married, and you could tell them ONE thing, what would it be?