A long-running feud exists between Lane and I, and I am claiming neither guilt nor innocence as matters such as these are incredibly complex. Rather, I merely present the facts of a marriage, black and white, you decide.
Lane and I graduated high school in 2001. This was a long time ago. All I know is that I met a boy when I was 18-years-old and just like that I find myself standing next to that same boy but now it’s been seventeen years and I’m not quite sure how it happened, all I know is that it did.
From here, we can only move forward, toward each other, the best we can and the best we know how: Together. Compromise and choosing love and sacrifice and choosing love and generosity and choosing to love and choosing to be love and choosing to walk in love, always, seem to be the most important pieces to this.
A theme emerges: Love is a choice. Sometimes we do this well and sometimes we don’t, but we keep going and I’m finding this simple act – not quitting – a critical component to a marriage that lasts.
So here we are, not quitting for thirteen years strong, figuring it out as we go.
That doesn’t sound very romantic, does it?
That makes marriage and faithful, steadfast, forever love sound like work, doesn’t it?
Look at Lane and I on paper, and we make about zero sense at all.
I dream it up and he gets it done.
I’m a “meh-it’s-good-enough” to his perfectionism.
He’s measured, intentional, strategic where I’m off-the-cuff, emotional, spontaneous.
I color outside the lines, he color-codes and creates a key.
But we feel the same about guacamole and we both love a good adventure and people and the Colorado mountains and we both find wholeness and purpose and life in the ways of Jesus and we find these are the glue that binds the rest together.
However, he’s a hoarder where I’m a purger and I’m just not sure we’ll ever reconcile these differences.
Turns out, drama is what takes us back to high school. His side of the dresser contains an entire drawer full of t-shirts left over from those glory years- soccer and lacrosse and green and old and perfect, he would say. Soft and comfortable, he would say.
I say a drawer-full is too many. I say an additional box under our bed, stored for safe-keeping (what if I want to wear it again? he says), is too many.
But I notice the t-shirts and I think about the t-shirts and I pay attention to how frequently he wears the t-shirts. I become frustrated about the t-shirts and treat Lane differently because of the t-shirts and know that when they’re out of the house, it will fix all our problems.
So he leaves for a trip this one time, and in his prolonged absence, I decide that this is when I’m going to get rid of all of the extra junk in our house, strategically chosen so he can’t stop me. I go through the piles, save some of his favorites and toss most of the rest into our donate bins, the house is light and fresh once again, hallelujah.
He doesn’t notice when he gets back home, he doesn’t notice for the next month. He doesn’t notice until, of course, he does.
This does not go well.
If tossing t-shirts circa 2000 was grounds for divorce, I kid you not, he would have thought about it.
Of course, we have had bigger revelations and more wounding conversations and harder things to trudge through in our years together, but The T-shirt Incident of 2012 is the one he brings up the most when he has to go away again, the one that has followed me, the one that lost me a decent amount of trust.
I begged forgiveness and we worked through it.
But also? I’m a little bit glad I don’t have to see that one shirt with the buffalo on it again.
It’s been a few years now, since The Great T-Shirt Debacle, and Lane’s gone with work again. I miss him so desperately I physically ache sometimes. I just never get used to it, honestly- the unsteady ground, the him home sometimes and gone others- and I’m not sure it’s something I want to get used to, anyway. A major piece of me is missing and feeling that ache reminds me of how much I love us. I find myself going to sleep at night diagonally, taking up as much of the bed space as I can, not letting it feel too big, too empty, trying to touch his side with my toes as if that will make me feel like I’m touching him.
Do you know the only thing lately that I’ve been able to find physical comfort in?
Wearing his old t-shirts to bed.
What do you propose we do with that?
The t-shirts, sure; my absolute hypocrisy, sure.
But also, marriage. Because here’s what I see when I look at marriage- two people, idiosyncrasies intact, with preferences and selfish tendencies and expectations, and ask them to love the other above themselves, consider the other above themselves, care for the other above themselves and it seems like the work of love is just so hard.
We sit in the middle of our thirties and have already seen so many marriages crumble, and I wonder if this big little thing might actually be at the center of the collapse.
Love another above yourself? No way. Too hard. Too risky. Me first.
I see this struggle in the big things like life dreams and I see it in the small things like a dispute over old t-shirts. I see it in the mundane things like where to put the dirty dishes and I see it in the significant things like choosing to remain faithful and committed and one. I see it when I notice the ways he’s wronged me, I see it when I don’t, can’t, won’t forgive him.
Know what all of that sounds like?
My default setting: All eyes on me.
Here’s what love is: Then remembering wait- it’s not about me at all.
I have a feeling this is how it actually works, then. This is how marriages actually last for the long-haul.
About as hard as it comes, that right there. I notice how hard it really, actually is when I pay attention to what I’m paying attention to.
Want to transform your marriage? Pay attention to what you’re paying attention to, that will be a shock to the system, I’ll nearly guarantee you that.
Do I see the old t-shirt he’s wearing or do I see the way he cleaned up the kitchen before he left? Do I see the day he didn’t text me or do I see the time he did? Do I dwell on the wrong he committed or do I own what I need to own and move on? If love for the long haul takes work, the work begins with me.
Love takes work and love takes work and love takes work.
What I’m saying?
The work begins with sacrifice.
Will I choose him before I choose me? Can I love him first, most, always? Can I love him with servant-minded, selfless love, wanting his best before wanting my own?
If both people approach a marriage this way: Transformation.
This, we’re finding, is at the center of love and marriage and it’s true: This is the actual way to build a love for the long-haul.
Turns out, everything about us still surprises me and here we are, thirteen years into this race and we’re still finding love in the most unexpected of places:
In choosing each other,
in the work,
and of course,
in finally appreciating old t-shirts.
Looking for more encouragement in your marriage? I’ll drop a little note in your inbox once a month but to get you started, here are five ways that have helped strengthen our marriage.