As I talked to someone about marriage the other day, I remembered a guy from high school that scoffingly reacted to my beliefs about “casual” sex with “So, you’re literally only going to be with one person your whole life?” That attitude is the norm these days and it worries me for so many people who are struggling in their marriages because it gives them the idea that there isn’t anything worth fighting for anyway.
Statistics say that sex in a healthy marriage is better than casual sex…. although I’m not sure how they prove that. I can attest to the fact that if you learn to deal with stress, make your relationship a priority, work through issues and get your hormones fixed when they’re out of wack (Thank you, Lord, for Dr. Fein!!) – sex can be exciting and new and wonderful and better than ever even after 27 years. (I’ll leave it at that or my kids may spontaneously combust.)
This whole idea started me thinking about all the wonderful things that go along with being married and sticking with someone over the long haul. I mean, how great is it that Steve doesn’t mind waking up next to me with morning breath? He isn’t turned off when I’m sick and he’s never made fun of me for drooling in my sleep or snorting myself awake. (Well, maybe he’s made fun of the snorting a little…. but it only happened once or twice.) Sharing a history and a life with only one other human who completely understands it all is weirdly wonderful. Watching our kids grow up, worrying about them, praying for them, celebrating with them…. together….is the best thing ever. He has seen me when I’ve been horrible and hateful and chooses to love and forgive me anyway. I’ve seen him at his most hurtful and stubborn and choose to do the same. Realizing that we are both not holding onto our youth anymore and our faces will soon resemble our parents more than what we know of ourselves is scary but knowing that Steve will still tell me I’m the most beautiful girl in the world is so sweet. I even think he’s convinced himself to believe it’s true and that’s completely humbling. On the days that we don’t feel that love, we’ve prayed and committed to figuring it out and, for a girl that always expected people to get tired of her, that’s the most secure feeling in the world. He knows how I like my bath, when I need to go run, what songs I love, every story of every dog I’ve ever owned, where most of them are buried, my routines, my habits, my fears….
He knows me. Probably better than I know myself. I’m sure better than I know him.
Both of us have had moments when this life wasn’t meeting our needs and we could have left. Both of us have been selfish and done hurtful things that pushed the other person to, what seemed like, the other side of the universe. But, somehow, God continues to remind us of what we have and what can be and how much He can heal… and we stay. Because what would life be like if we didn’t. I can’t even go there.
There are so many people that don’t make it to this point and my heart hurts for them. Especially those that desire to work things out but whose partners aren’t able or willing to do the painful and selfless work it takes to get to the other side. I don’t know why that is and I feel a bit of guilt about the fact that I’m not one of them. Marriage never “stops” though. I guess Steve or I could decide tomorrow that we’re bored and need some new excitement in our life. I guess one of us could still disengage to the point of destroying what we have. I know it’s possible because I’ve seen it happen. And I also know how much work it takes to stay happy, so I can only assume that if we stopped working at it, it could all fall apart. But why would I want to trade being known and loved for a series of one night stands with strangers? Why would I want to start all over again with someone if I didn’t absolutely have to? That was the question that made me think about the guy from high school.
I don’t know where he is today and he probably wouldn’t like me any more now than he did then, but I hope he found someone to love. I hope his life is as full and happy and safe as mine. I’ve done plenty of stupid things in my life. Plenty of things I never thought I’d do and would change if I could but I’ve also done one thing pretty well. I tried to build a marriage that would last. It’s not been easy. Just the opposite. It’s been excruciating at times. Even now, after 27 years, we have problems and issues and we butt heads and I get frustrated or disappointed and Steve gets angry or hurt but we’ve tasted how good it can be and won’t ever settle for less. So, I’d have to tell my 18-year-old self to stick to her guns. Life with one person, if it’s a Godly, humble and kind person, is worth it after all.
[On a side note, Steve and I have a book coming out next year about marriage but he has a short e-book available on his webpage that’s really great. It’s totally free and, I think, would be helpful for any married couple. You can find it at http://www.stevelawson.us.]