No disrespect intended to those couples who say the best years of marriage were when they had nothing but love, staring into each others eyes in that first, tiny apartment, only peanut butter and jelly in the cupboard, but as I celebrate 26 years of marriage I’m thinkin’ the best years are yet to come.
After all, as love grows so does joy. And if those bare cabinet days don’t separate, they bind. Tight.
Reflections are strange sometimes. There is much good to celebrate today–and I do–but I find my musings today have taken an unexpected twist.
I’m thinking of what we DIDN’T do instead of what we did.
In those years of lack and hardship we didn’t blame each other.
When one of us struggled–with life, faith, forward movement–we didn’t give up on each other.
When people came against us, throwing conflict and discontent into relationships we didn’t allow them to divide us.
When grief sometimes silenced one of us, even immobilized for a time, we didn’t push each other to get over it.
When there were problems we didn’t ignore them. We also didn’t rush the fixing process.
When one of us succeeded we didn’t get jealous.
When life grew hard we didn’t look for greener pastures.
When opportunities came for a spouse we didn’t hold them back. We also didn’t let opportunities rob us of our priorities for each other and the children.
We didn’t compare our jobs or roles or claim we worked harder than the other.
We didn’t expect the other person to be our only person. We also didn’t expect love to grow between us without giving it a lot of attention.
We didn’t assume the other person made hurtful choices out of a desire to hurt.
We didn’t set unrealistic expectations of each other.
We didn’t do any of the above perfectly. And, perhaps most important, we didn’t expect each other to.
Early on my sweet Jerry taught me the value of trusting each other’s heart. When I was (much) less than perfect in my efforts to love him, or when I struggled with choices he often told me, “Honey, I trust your heart.”
Over the years I learned that if we had that core belief–that the other person always, at the heart level, wanted the best, we could weather a lot of stuff. Mistakes became simply mistakes instead of a premeditated attempt to wound. Conversations became about understanding perspective instead of assuming conflict and duking it out.
I (eventually) discovered that I often let my anger grow toward my husband not because I was truly upset but because once I got hurt I imagined what he was thinking or feeling toward me. As I made assumptions my anger and self-justification escalated. Soon a full-blown battle was raging inside of my head. When I learned to ask Jerry if he was actually thinking those things his look of shock taught me that I could imagine far more conflict and condemnation than he came up with on his own.
So, as I grew, I didn’t make assumptions about what he thought or felt. Instead, I trusted his heart and asked questions to clarify.
We’ve weathered a lot of stuff, my man and me. We’ve seen more joy than any couple deserves, and we’ve had more disappointment and pain than we ever wanted to experience or would invite again. But when I think back to early days I don’t long for something we’ve lost. What we had then has only grown and reshaped itself, not disappeared.
I’m sure there are things we DID do that helped our love mature, but I can’t help but believe it was the things we didn’t do that kept our marriage from self-sabotage.
And so it is maybe largely in part to the “didn’ts” that I can’t wait for the next year of marriage and the next and the next. I think since we didn’t give into blame on those empty cupboard days (and I’m not just talking finances here) that as our days are rich they will be richer. We won’t take the good for granted because we know the bad. And (I hope) we won’t let the bad send us as quickly to despair because we have walked hard days and come out on the other side together. Stronger.
So it is with great gratitude I celebrate 26 years of NOT doing and wait in eager anticipation for the love and joy to come.