Today is our fourteenth wedding anniversary. Last year I shared some married musings in my rainy wedding post and I have a couple of related thoughts to share this year too. As I noted last year, I personally don’t experience my marriage as being hard work or difficult. Though I do understand that this is not everyone’s experience, I have a lot of difficulty understanding or appreciating comments that I see repeated in various Facebook-type locations that come from the, “love is a choice that you make every day” angle. Really?!?! I have trouble getting on board with that, because it sounds like if you don’t make the “love” choice, the alternative is just naturally disliking or not enjoying your spouse? My love for my husband feels similar to the love I feel for my children—it is a constant, it is not choice based. It is deep, abiding, and embedded. It doesn’t feel optional, which is what the word “choice” makes it sound like to me. If you choose to love your family, you can also choose not to love them on a daily basis. This doesn’t reflect my own experience in my relationship or my mothering.
At the beginning of this month, a Facebook friend shared a long quote about marriage from a Christian relationship book that seemed to come from this love is a choice philosophy. I did like this part of what she shared: “There are no lessons to be learned when a husband dominates his wife. There are no inspiring examples to emulate when a wife manipulates a husband. But love unlocks the spiritual secrets of the universe. Love blows open eternity and showers its raindrops on us.” (Perhaps I identify because of that rainy wedding of ours!) When I read this book excerpt and the subsequent comments about marriage being the “hardest work of your life” or a “constant challenge” or about how spouses and ourselves can be so “hard to love,” I shared this with her: today [July 1] is my husband’s 35th birthday, the 18th I’ve spent with him. I’ve never found him hard to love and I’ve never found our marriage to be hard work or our relationship a challenge. Quite the contrary in fact—he’s my safe haven and my soft place to land. Now, parenting I find to be a challenge! And, parenting compatibly together is also sometimes hard. But marriage. Marriage is sweet, comfortable, and home.
I then added: not to say that I don’t understand or appreciate that marriage is a struggle/hard/challenge for some couples. I know that it is and I admire the effort and commitment they put into a strong relationship. I just wanted to offer a different experience I wish the same for you one day!
And, then when my parents’ celebrated their 38th anniversary two weeks ago, I thought it was high time I asked my mom about this whole “hard work” angle. This is what she said: “Not at all! It’s a union of like-minded, harmonious people. It has always felt absolutely right to me. I’m where I’m supposed to be, with a man I love completely! He’s my best friend. It’s not effortless, but it comes naturally to us!”
I do feel like I had an excellent relationship model. My parents are super cute and they like each other a lot and always have. They argue about things sometimes and have the occasional bump, but I’ve never seen them working hard at being married, only delighting in it. Maybe I’m just getting hung up on semantics, but I just have a personal pet peeve about that descriptor and I don’t know that it is the best message to give to people approaching their own marriages. I think about birth, of course: yes, sometimes we give the, “it is hard work, but you can do it and it is SO worth it” message about giving birth and maybe it is the same with the marriage message, but I like to share a, “birth is an awesome, empowering miracle and I hope you love it” opinion and I like to offer other couples the same sentiment about marriage.
And, because I can’t think of anywhere else to put it and yet I want to share, here is a picture of the totally awesome, totally homemade German chocolate cake I made for Mark for his birthday this month. In 14 years of marriage and 18 birthdays with him, I’ve never made him a real one before. I’ve done mixes and canned frosting, but I don’t like coconut. This year I decided to make a homemade one (with add-your-own-coconut-to-the-icing-if-that’s-your-thing) and it was unbelievable. It had 7 eggs in it, weirdly–4 in the icing and 3 in the cake. Who knew?!