We were married on June 3, 2005. And so for this wedding anniversary Lane planned a surprise getaway for us, coordinating the care of the toddlers, not telling me an inch of the fun though he was bursting at the seams. He wins all of the points for all time for planning what he did.
He took us back to downtown Colorado Springs. To the city where we got married, to the hotel where we had our reception and spent our first night as husband and wife. We walked the same spaces over which my white dress and my satin high heels strolled nine years ago. We walked the streets and the halls in which we celebrated and we danced and we partied, our hands wearing the same rings they did that day, now having seen so much more life than they had that first Friday evening when we put them on. We had SUCH a fantastic time.
We talked about this marriage of ours thus far over a 3-hour dinner. From where we sit, this is what we have learned.
::: thoughts on being married for 9 years :::
* make memories together. It can be all too easy to get lured into the magnetic pull of your own sphere of influence and stay right there. Make an effort to engage in life together. Plan a day of adventure together, take a Saturday morning bike ride to breakfast, pour a drink and go on a walk around your neighborhood. Sometimes do their favorite thing rather than your own. Put down your to-do list and remember what it’s like to laugh with each other. Have fun, be silly, find an activity you both enjoy. We love the outdoors so we go on hikes, we go on walks, we climb mountains, and we sit in our front yard in the evenings with a glass of wine and watch the kids play. It can be big or small, extravagant or simple, but we develop traditions and we make memories.
* it is one… but also it is two. You don’t have to fall so completely into your spouse when you get married that you lose yourself. Dream big dreams, pursue your passions, have big goals and hopes and plans for your life. I just ran in a 10k, a goal I set for myself, a challenge I wanted to take on. Lane wasn’t interested in the actual race, but he made sure to train with me and spur me on when I didn’t want to go any further. Voice these goals and these dreams to your spouse. Become each other’s biggest cheerleader, celebrating successes and spurring the other on when the path gets difficult. You are part of a bigger story that God is writing for your life and you are part of a bigger story of interacting with this world. Marriage will refine you, marriage will teach you, marriage will train you. Use this to step into the world and step into other people’s lives. Use this home base of safety and comfort to be love and to spread love and to show love.
* be okay with the fact that sometimes marriage is challenging. When two people who aren’t perfect live together, there are inherently going to be imperfections. That is okay and that is normal. Marriage combines two very different people with very different family systems and childhoods and experiences and emotions. There are going to be moments or seasons of marriage where that conflicts. Not all bumps in the road are grounds for getting out. Sometimes, the late-night talks, the tension in the conversations, the dedication to working it out is worth it. Sometimes, going through something difficult together can actually be a process of becoming closer. Sometimes, digging deep and leaning in can be a method of growth and refinement and experiencing grace. Yes, marriage is fun, but yes it can absolutely be hard. That does not mean that it will fall apart. Stick with it.
* learn how to communicate well. This has been a central and consistent value in our marriage. Communication actually is key. This does not come naturally, this is something that we have to work on. Authentic, transparent, honest. Yes, sometimes it can be difficult to take that breath and share what you have to share, but we believe in getting everything on the table. We believe in talking things through, whether it involves differences in dishwashing tactics or differences in life dreams. We cling to authenticity above perfection. Easy to say, hard to do. But do it. It will breathe intimacy and closeness. It will bind your heart together and it will develop selfless love, patience, and grace.
* marriage is fun. This is life plus best friend. This is good. It is not the ol’ ball and chain, it’s not a life-sentence. It’s an adventure-filled, late-night talk when you need, coffee-drinking, party-hosting, experiencing new things, cheering-the-other-on, supporting-dreams, raise tiny-humans kind of fun. It is full. It is good.
* it’s not always going to be sexy. When you dive into marriage, you dive into life with somebody else. Your true colors are going to come out eventually: How strong are you when you get sick? Are you actually really picky about how the bed is made? When you put the dishes away, do you put the glasses facing up or facing down? Do you have a certain routine that you love to spend your Saturday mornings doing? The beauty of marriage is that it involves every ounce of you and every ounce of them and every facet of life together; you truly become one. The difficulty of marriage is that it involves every ounce of you and every ounce of them and every facet of life. The sweet spot is where the two of you learn to navigate those seemingly simple and mundane aspects of life together and make your own family systems and your own routines. A lot of figuring it all out, a lot of conversations, a lot of embracing real life.
* voice appreciation and encouragement. When you think that positive and encouraging and funny thing about them? Say it. When they did something well? Say it. When you’re having fun with them? Say it. Let your ratio of positive affirmation outweigh criticism. Be an example to your kids and/or to others of what love and grace and delight looks like when it is lived out.
* the two of you are going to change. The man that I married is not the man that I am married to now. We were 22 years old when we said I do. We have lived a lot of life together since then. We have moved across the country multiple times developing new friendships and new lives, he went to war three times, I had a teaching career, we now navigate parenthood. We have lived a lot of life in our nine years. We have changed. Being able to recognize and embrace our experiences and how they have developed and grown us without resenting or wishing for what we used to have has opened us up to grow together rather than apart.
* connect at the foundations. Everything is spiritual. Increase your awareness of the work of God in your life and in your world and talk about it together. Get involved in your community. Go to church together and then talk about what connected with you. Talk about ways you want to be better. Brainstorm ways you can step into this world more fully and what it might look like to partner with God in bringing more justice more compassion more transformation…together. When you connect at the core of your being and at the most foundational levels of your heart, your connection on every other level deepens as well. The love of God, the grace of God, the pull of God into something bigger and deeper and more full will fill in the cracks of life. You will begin to see the shadows of hope and the whispers of love and the purpose of partnership overflow into every corner of your world.
* love is a choice. We don’t feel in love every single day. I am not easy to love every single day. There have been seasons in our marriage when we have had to choose to love the other because we weren’t necessarily feeling the butterflies-in-the-stomach-I-want-to-spend-every-second-with-you kind of love and we might have gotten out if we could have. Sometimes it is just plain hard. But even then… especially then, it is worth it to choose love. Lean in, remember that love is a choice. If navigated well, those difficult seasons have the potential to draw you closer rather than drive you apart. Choose love.
* the best is yet to come. I am more in love with this man today than I am the day that I married him. We still laugh together, we still enjoy each other’s company, we still love to kiss, we still have things to talk about, we’re still growing. We haven’t reached a peak, and I’m not convinced that there is one out there. It keeps getting better the closer we get to each other, the more comfortable we get in our own skin and the more comfortable we get in our marital identity. As Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” We are raising our family, taking leaps of faith, holding each other up so that they can see their dreams more completely. This daring adventure, this sacrificial and others-first and patient and grace-saturated and full-of-fun journey is only just beginning. We’re nine years in, but we’ve got a whole lot of life ahead of us.