Milk, messes, and marriage

Somehow marriage can tend to get a little lost in the midst of parenting.

And by somehow I mean at the end of the day when those keys jingle at the door and a big hug and warm greeting turns into “here— take him!”

Or when a conversation ends in one big “never mind!” because it couldn’t have possibly been important enough to continue after 6 times of being interrupted.

Or when watching a movie together actually means crashing on the couch.

And alas, when you do find yourself sitting across from each other at a fancy restaurant— surrounded by grown up people having grown up conversations— you somehow also find yourselves singing the praises of, or sharing concerns about, (wouldn’t you guess!) the kids.

While many can speak to this topic with much more experience and expertise than I, I wanted to share three words that have the potential and power to bring some meaning in the mundane and some calm in the chaos. And mostly they have a way of re-connecting two people who are already one, but may feel miles apart.

The words can be shown: making sure to give a quick goodbye kiss before rushing out the door, or meeting eyes and offering a quiet wink in a loud moment, or complimenting their looks on just an ordinary day. The words can also be uttered. Right there in the middle of the madness, three small words.

I see you…

Behind the work clothes you put on every morning and behind that spit up filled t-shirt. I see you.

Underneath loads of laundry and stacked up dishes. I see you.

With a greeting at the door after a long day. I see you.

When you watch with pride or cower in fear. I see you.

Having a dance party in the kitchen or disciplining in the back room. I see you.

With tired or tear filled eyes.

With stretched or scarred skin.

With a heavy or happy heart.

I see you.

Not just the ways you give and the things you do. But you. A person. My person.

The one I used to lay under the stars with. The one I danced with and dreamed with.

My favorite laugh, my greatest confidant, and my forever adventure partner.

Still the one.

Plus so much more that these years have given to you and made of you.

And when the kids are grown up and gone, it will still be you. The same you I’ve been seeing, or missing, all this time.

[Quote from one of my favorite shows, This Is Us, that captures this reality well]

You want to know why my marriage ended, Jack, hmm? Okay, for as long as I can remember I’ve woken up at 6:30 everyday and made Shelly coffee. Splash of milk, two sugars. I would make it, and bring it to her in bed. And she says that her day doesn’t even start until she’s got caffeine in her veins. And then one day, woke up, 6:30, like always. I made myself one, I just didn’t feel like making Shelly one. And the worst part is, she didn’t even notice. We stopped noticing each other, Jack. We stopped trying to make each other happy.

So we fight to keep noticing.
And trying.

Because marriage really is made up of these moments.

3 years, 8 lessons

As some of you might remember, last year I did a list of 13 lessons from year 2 of marriage. Once again this is not a list of things “mastered” but more things we are seeking to grow in or maybe have just failed miserably at.

After reflecting on another year (which is always such a sweet and good thing to do), here are 8 lessons that continued to stick out and come to mind:

1. We’re both broken

This year Kyle and I realized in new, humbling, and even liberating ways that we are both indeed, broken people. We have learned this reality should be met with confession and not concealment. We have also learned that we both have needs that are good and right and often even the same. But, in our brokenness, we start grasping for them to be met in our own selfish and side-ways ways. This should lead us primarily to empathy and understanding and not judgement or isolation.

2. We’re both redeemed

Even though we’re still broken beings, redemption in Christ changes everything. Including marriage. When I truly understand that God loves my husband, I can look at him and say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there I will look at your magnificence and say ‘I always knew you could be like this, I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!'” (Tim Keller)

3. Time matters

We have discovered that quality time typically doesn’t just happen on its own. The truth is, with or without kids, it is more about seizing the time than finding it. The time, in some form, is there. Whether early mornings or late nights, it’s there. Sometimes after a long day, it’s choosing to unwind and be mindless, together. Watch a show together, play cards together, or just sit and be together. 

4. Get inside each other’s worlds

Instead of resenting the thing that takes much of our spouses attention or time, we should let it have ours as well. We should ask them to teach us about it. Maybe this will mean their sports team becomes our sports team. Or maybe this will mean they sit down with us at our favorite coffee shop. Whatever the case, we don’t have to be clueless outsiders to their jobs and interests and hobbies.

5. God’s way is best

While these words might sound simplistically obvious to Christians or outdated and rigid to non Christians, when our friend spoke them to us this year, they were exactly the words we needed to hear in the moment we heard them. These words have continued to ring true time and time again when we have sat in the utter mess of trying to do marriage our own way.

6. Remember your spouse is for you

Walking with the confidence that your spouse is “for you” promotes trust and security. It is life giving and nourishing. A silly and simple example of this is that I love to take notes at church; but 99% of the time forget a pen. One Sunday, as if I was surprised by myself, I was aimlessly looking around for a pen. I looked over at Kyle who was holding one out for me and said he brought it for me. It hit me: he knows me. He brought a pen for me. He is for me. In both the big and seemingly insignificant moments we have to look for evidences of this truth.

7. Be for your spouse

Because we are human, we are not always going to perfectly be  for someone else. While it will not be perfectly or unfailingly, it can and should be strivingly. Without giving and receiving this powerful ingredient in marriage, we subtly start to see the other person as actually against us. We, then, naturally resort to guarding and defending ourselves. But a unique beauty of marriage is seen in being remembered by the very person we are forgetting ourselves for. We don’t have to watch our backs because the other person has them.

8. Listening to hear

This seems super simple. After all, the point of listening to someone else is to really hear them, right? Yet we have seen how easy it becomes to “listen” mostly for the sake of responding or assuming. Recently, Kyle and I had a conversation where the listener had to repeat back to the sharer what they heard them saying until the sharer felt they were accurately heard. There is freedom found here. Here, not where our spouse agrees with everything we say, but rather where we are heard and understood.

2 years, 13 lessons

1. Stop comparing:
The reality is, the scales will never be perfectly “even.” It is impossible. A marriage is sharing the same load but often carrying different things. It takes time to figure out your different roles and responsibilities; but if your goal is for everything to be “even” you will end up exhausted, discontent, and resentful.

2. Be best friends:
For some this comes naturally. For others, it might take more work and intentionality. On one hand, don’t be too serious. Laugh, smile, and enjoy. Do things together that you can say “that was fun!” about. But also sit down and talk. Wrestle through your thoughts, desires, dreams, and concerns together. Be open and honest. Share your heart as well as your experiences.

3. Don’t get “too close”:
This one might seem a little strange, but there is a difference in a spouse and a college roommate. Boundaries, even in marriage, are not always bad. I am just going to get real- some people do not want you to pop their zits or be in the bathroom while they are pooping. Lack of space can subtly lead to lack of respect. Let your spouse be their own person. Let them get away (in their own way) to refresh and recoop. It is a healthy thing to still see them as an individual and respect them from “afar,” too.

4. Appreciate differences:
This kind of goes back to #1, but this has been a theme for us this year because of how hard it has been to do. Celebrate your differences, do not resent them. Be glad you are not married to someone just like you. Sometimes it is good and funny to just sit back and appreciate that another person could possibly think so differently than the way you do.

5. Expectations!
I do not even know what describing word to use before this one because there is just so much to say about it. Be aware that 99.9% of the time you will be coming at things with two totally separate, yet assumed and unspoken, expectations. Be willing to share them and also adjust them. Do not let unmet expectations ruin what could be.

6. Protect your marriage:
Treat others the same way you do when your husband or wife are around. Live with a healthy fear of hurting your spouse. Assure them they have the upper hand against another person or thing, always. Do not let them feel like they have to compete in any capacity against another guy/girl, your phone, a video game, a football game, your friend or family. They already won. Make sure they are secure in that.

7. Invite other people in:
Do not try to do marriage alone. Find someone who is the type person who tells you what you are doing wrong and not what your spouse is doing wrong. Seek out someone older and wiser who can see from a different perspective and who can speak from more experience. Listen to them. Let them help you.

8. Know and be known, today:
I have heard it said that one day you basically wake up to a stranger. This thought has scared me… what if we do not like who each other becomes? But that is missing the beauty of it. As Dale Partridge says,

      ” I fell in love with a 19-year-old rock climber, married a 20-year-old animal lover, started a family with a 24-year-old mother, then built a farm with a 25-year-old homemaker, and today I’m married to a 27-year-old woman of wisdom.”

I do not think we should spend our marriages trying to “get back what we once had” but rather use what we had as a foundation to keep building on. And instead of “remembering what we loved about them,” finding something new we love about them, today.

9. Forward is easier than backwards:
 Be careful what lines you cross. For example if you let yourselves raise your voice for an argument (or throw things or slam doors, etc) that is likely the level your arguments will always go to. Draw lines and do not cross them; then you will not have to worry about going back.

10. Stop nit picking:
You do not HAVE to state every single thing that bugs you. Pick your battles wisely and ask, “is this really something that matters past this one second of life or am I just being a control freak?” Correction is easier to take when it is not all you hear. I think the philosophy for kids applies to the marriage relationship too; for every put down do three pick ups. Words have the ability to empower or drain.

11. Say “I’m sorry”:
 For a specific thing. Verbally. Not just when something blows up and you “have to” in order to “move on.” Initiaite apologies, do not wait for them to be required of you. It has softened my heart every single time Kyle has said “I am sorry for…” Period. With no “buts.” Grace and humility have a way of beckoning grace and humility in return.  There is a vital difference between conversations that say “well you did this, and you should be sorry” and ones that say “I did this, and I’m sorry.”

12. Be vulnerable:
I think vulnerbility means actually choosing to expose. I realized recently that the embarassing things we struggle with (like the ugly motives that lie deep in our hearts) are the things we should invite our spouses to see and help with. Welcome and praise this sort of honesty. Do not let your spouse fear coming to you.

13. Take advantage of them:
 Marriage is common yet rare and unique. No two marriages are the same because no two people are the same. Sometimes we need to take a step back and remember this special bond we share with another person that no one else gets to. It really is a once in a life time kind of love, so make the most of it.