Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Five Year Anniversary

This month we are celebrating five years of marriage.
Five years.
1,825 days.
May 13, 2012.

Regularly, I am struck by the struggle to reconcile how much time has actually passed and how much time I think has passed. I'm always wrong. It never feels like the right amount of time. Will it ever feel like the right amount of time?

Consider that my existential crisis.
There's usually one in each blog.

In celebration of five years, I'm offering five things I've learned in my marriage. Not your marriage. Not marriage in general. Just our experience. Five things I can share that have been helpful to me.

#1. Resentment is a Choice
Marriage provides endless fodder to be upset, disappointed, and let down. Most of that has less to do with anybody's performance and more to do with our expectation of it. What we thought was reasonable. What we expected might happen. What we assumed the other person would say or do. And it's really easy to make it about them, when really it's about us. Some of the most important questions I've asked myself in the past five years are:
-Why did I have that expectation?
-What does that say about me?
-How can I have lower/more neutral expectations?

#2. Jeremy Will Always Run on Jeremy Time
Opposites attract and in this area, we are diametrically opposed. I am not, like, always on time to every event, but we each have a markedly different awareness of time. For example, Jeremy and I have this game where we will be laying around on a lazy afternoon or out in the middle of nowhere on a hike and he will ask me, "What time is it?" and 90% of the time, I am within 5 minutes (data based on estimates). Call it my spiritual gift. If I ask Jeremy, "How long do you think you've been on Instagram?" He's 90% wrong, 90% percent of the time. I once thought to myself shortly after we were married--feeling pretty resentful, "I am going to spend the rest of my life waiting for Jeremy."

And while it was an exasperated generalization it's also pretty true. I've stopped getting upset about it. I've stopped fixating on it. I've accepted it. But what I've learned from waiting for Jeremy is how much I've been missing the rest of the time. I'm really good at getting shit done, but there's a time and a place for doing absolutely nothing. And that's what Jeremy's gift is: being present, observing people and things, noticing details, and being completely oblivious to time. But you can't have one without the other. I can't be both frustrated and blessed by how he's changing me. And I thank God for his capacity to move slowly. Because he'll probably add years to my life, the same years that I thought I had lost...just waiting.

#3. "Thank you" Never Gets Old
We thank each other a lot. For most anything. And everything. Because we can. Because it feels good to be appreciated. It also shifts my focus to what's going well. What little thing did he do that was unexpected and helpful and intuitive? But also, what things does he do all the time that it would be easy to just begin to expect and stop appreciating him for? These things matter.

#4. Sit. Together. Even for Two Minutes.
We've noticed that, at the end of any day, it's easy to get home and just keep going. To empty out our backpacks. To do dishes. To start dinner. To get lost online. And completely miss each other for the entire evening and then wonder: We just spent the whole evening together, why don't we feel connected? So we've made it a rule that within ten minutes of getting home, we always sit down together, look each other in the eyes, and catch up on our days. Even for two minutes, but usually much longer. Just to check-in. Reconnect. See each other fully.

#5. Ask Five Questions Weekly
Before we were married, I followed a blogger who mentioned that in her own marriage, they would weekly ask each other the following questions:
#1. How was your week?
#2. What does your upcoming week look like?
#3. How can I support and encourage you this coming week?
#4. How can I pursue you intimately this coming week?
#5. How can I pray for you?

We've been doing this on the weekends ever since. Sometimes on a drive up to the mountains. Sometimes laying in bed on a Sunday morning. Sometimes walking hand-in-hand at the park. It's just an intentional way of checking in on--what Rob Bell calls--the space between us. How is that space? Is it tense/disconnected/fraught? Is it empty/mindless/unexamined? Is it energetic/dynamic/purposeful? It's a big deal when you've decided to fuse your life together to take some time asking: How are we doing?

This also plays into another lesson I've learned: our marriage is nothing like the movies. 

Ours is bumpy and jolty and awkward.
Ours involves false-starts and misunderstandings and silly arguments.
Ours is littered with land mines we didn't even know we had.
With irritants and opinions and hurt feelings we didn't know we possessed.

But it's also the most fun I've ever had.
The most meaningful relationship I've ever known.
It's unpredictable and exciting and momentous.
It's interesting and educational and motivating.
Our marriage will never involve a hot-air balloon proposal with rings delivered via drone.
Perfect music/lighting/clothing/photography.
Or likely lots of money.

But this has been the greatest journey of my life.
And there's no one I'd rather journey with than him.

This year, on our anniversary, Jeremy gave me a lovely, vintage ring with five stones. He crafted a beautiful wooden box to put it in, got down on one knee, and proposed. Again. Just to be sure.

This past year, I watched one of my favorite marriages break apart. It's been one of the hardest experiences of my life. He was cheating. She had no idea. "Heart-breaking" doesn't cut it. But I don't know a word that's more painful or emotive than heart-breaking. Soul-crushing? Yeah.

So Jeremy proposing again, meant a lot to me. Not because I necessarily needed him to. But after watching someone I respected flippantly stomp on the heart of someone I loved, how I view my own marriage has changed. And the two of us re-comitting to keep at this thing, seems more important than ever. Checking in regularly becomes of vital importance. I find myself more suspicious than usual. I recently read his text messages. And felt awful. And apologized. But this is what it is. This is how we've been scarred. Trust doesn't come so easily anymore. It makes you question everything. (And let me be clear: there is absolutely nothing she could have done to prevent him from cheating. That was a decision he made. And no amount of "checking in" would've changed his mind.)

And so Jeremy and I move forward with a gentle, grief-filled, humble acknowledgement that marriage is sacred and fragile. This space between us is holy and delicate. If couples on their 50th wedding anniversary are still learning new things about each other, let's not assume we have this quite figured out yet.

We move forward with shaky legs, but steady hearts.
To five more years.

Thanks to Rosie and Megan for taking these pictures!