On Making Marriage Work

Jan 14 2013

Today’s my wedding anniversary. Greg sent me a romantic Facebook message that says,

“Our marriage is now as mature as a college freshman!
Happy 18th Anniversary!” 

My brother said it’s past time for my marriage to pull some legendary pranks on some other marriages.

Personally, I think our marriage should ride around town mooning all the other marriages, but Greg’s usually more mature than me, so don’t worry. You’re probably safe.

The point is, we did it. Again! Another year. BOOYAH, baby!

So.

Can we talk honestly about marriage for a minute? ‘Cause Greg and I’ve made it 18 years, and that makes me an expert. Also, hahahahaha! There are no experts here.

People often ask me how we do it, though. Marriage is hard, they say. And I will tell you what: this marriage gig has not come easy for us, so I believe them. Marriage is hard. But I’ve been married long enough, I think, that I’ve lost the trite answers to the how questions. I’ve stopped giving the magic bullet responses like “marriage takes hard work” or “we’re still together by the grace of God” or “marriage isn’t 50/50, it’s 100/100.”

Now, of course marriage takes hard work. And I do believe in a gracious God. And it’s important to go above and beyond our fair share in any partnership. But to say that our marriage is intact by virtue of our work or God’s grace feels too close to implying others have failed for lack of hard work or that God has somehow withheld a measure of grace, and, well, I just don’t buy either implication. Some of the toughest divorces I’ve witnessed have come on the heels of a whole lot of hard work. God, I believe, gives grace extravagantly, especially when it’s all falling apart.

The truth is, Greg and I work hard on our marriage. That’s a fact. Except when we’re apathetic and worn out.

And Greg and I are consistently tenacious and determined to make our marriage better. Except when we’re exhausted and just kind of done.

And Greg and I are committed to always being available for each other. Except when we’re myopic and selfish and can’t move past our own needs.

Honestly, Greg and I aren’t in a 50/50 marriage very often. Oh, we strive for equality. And we try to bear one another’s burdens. Sometimes we even hold up our ends of the marriage bargain. Sometimes, we rise above the difficulties and each give 100%, which is when the toilets get cleaned and the children are bathed and we don’t forget parent/teacher conferences. But sometimes we fall down on the job, friends. Sometimes, I give 5% and Greg gives 5% and we’re grumpy and petty and we both wonder where the hell the other 90% went.

The real problem with marriage is the fact that we let humans do it. It’s the same problem with parenting, really. And with the church. And with schools. And with government. And with family. As humans, we’re fallible, glorious, well-intentioned, messy creatures who create fallible, glorious, well-intentioned, messy systems and relationships, sometimes all at once.

So how are we still together? After 18 years? I gotta say, I think it’s a crazy cocktail, and while hard work and grace and giving more than our fair share are part of the mix when we can manage them, so, in even measure, are fighting and failure and forgiveness.

After 18 years, Greg and I are learning to accept deep down that we’re imperfect. He’s imperfect. I’m imperfect. We’re not perfect for each other. And we’ve built a beautiful, imperfect life from our tragedies and our triumphs. And from stubbornness, faith, laughter, fears, giving up, trying again, trust and tears.

After all this time, Greg and I are still together because we’re beginning to truly believe that living life to its fullest means embracing the raging mess in the kitchen and in each other and that our deepest act of love comes, not in the absence of mess or the elimination of it, but in relaxing into it together.

 Happy Anniversary, Greg.
I love you love you.

……….