I seem to write a lot about expectations. I think you could reasonably say that meeting expectations and sensing expectations and redefining expectations have all been themes of my last decade. Because parenting and homeschooling and adulting and growing up…well…they just haven’t been what I expected.
And then there’s marriage.
How can you know at the start (how can anyone know at the sweet and silly and blissfully hopeful age of 21) what life will be like as a pair, a duo, a forever us?
How can you know if he’ll fight clean or if you’ll be able to swallow pride when it counts?
How can you trust that he won’t just get mean or you might not simply check out?
How do you know that your hearts or your dreams or your hopes won’t wander in opposite directions?
It’s such a gamble really. It’s a crazy, bold, are-you-serious choice to look at someone that you think you know and say, “Yep. You and me. Forever and ever. Amen.”
But that’s just what we did, Garrett and me. In front of God and witnesses, we pledged to love each other and make a life together and honor and cherish and the usual wedding vow stuff.
And now after fourteen years, after seven pregnancies and five births, after living in a home with twenty-three teenage boys, after hospital stays and road trips and funerals, after all the dailyness that piles up to laundry and dishes and “Where would I find some clean underwear?” shouted from the upstairs, after all that and so much more, all I can think is that I am wildly grateful for the man that took my hand and made that leap of faith with me.
He is kind and strong and gracious.
He is honest and direct and humble. He is ever-committed to reconciliation.
As a dad he is tender and fun and deeply respected. His praise is not flippant and must be earned, but he looks for places to give it. His words are weighty, his hugs are limitless, and his heart is so bent to hear and nurture his littles.
And as my partner, as my life’s companion, he is funny and gentle; the best parts of him speak deeply to the best parts of me. He believes in me so fully, dreams bigger dreams for me than I have the courage to dream for myself, and calmly nudges me in the direction that will see those things come about.
He is simply my favorite.
He’s not perfect, of course. But then I’ve found, often through marriage, that I’m a lot farther from perfect than I had thought at the beginning of all this. We’ve learned to rely on the goodness of God and not the goodness of each other.
And so, fourteen years in, I don’t know that I have any earth-shattering marriage advice. Fight often and fight clean. Forgive quickly. Cultivate humility. Be friends. Fight the drift. Laugh. A lot.
Know that it’s a long haul, this marriage business. There is no changing each other, no guarantee that our future selves will be more mature or wiser or easier to live with.
Know that time and loss and growth will change you both, and you have to learn how to love the spouse in front of you- not the one you fell for or the one you hoped they’d grow into.
Know that marriage, like all the good stuff, is just hard at times. That doesn’t mean it isn’t working; it means it’s worth the work.
And if you have the great fortune to find someone who, after fourteen years, still piques your interest and makes you laugh and knows what movie you’re about to quote before you even open your mouth…
If you can tell by the twinkle in his eye that he’s about to attempt to shock you…
If you can share anything and everything and know that all those conversations would end with an accepting grace…
…then you might be the luckiest woman in the world.
Happy anniversary, Garrett Paul.