Sunday, May 27, 2012

Three Things I've Learned About Marriage

Today is my wedding anniversary, and as usual, I lugged out the ol' wedding photo album to reminisce about that illustrious day. I look back at that itty baby version of me, so naive about what it takes to make a successful wedding day, let alone an enduring marriage. At this point in my life, my thoughts on those subjects are much more clear and this seems like the perfect day to share what I've learned about what matters.

{1. Invite God into the center of your marriage.}

I grew up completely unchurched. As I was preparing for marriage, I knew almost nothing about the Bible or the value of church rituals and traditions in my life. But something told me that if I wanted a healthy marriage, I better get married in a church...and if I wanted to get married in a church, I probably should be baptized first. 

Just seemed like the natural order of things. So that's what I did.

Looking back, I see this as one of the wisest decisions I made to prepare my heart for marriage. While I didn't quite have these words on the tip of my tongue at the time, I realized that God's presence is essential to a strong marriage, and I had an unspoken intuition that I needed to invite Him in at the very start. 

So glad I did. 

{2. Share your married life with your family, especially your siblings.}

My brothers all took on starring roles in my wedding. Sad, perhaps, that I had no sisters to share my special day with me, but I could not be more proud, then and now, that my bros stood up with me.

Like many families where siblings are close in age, my brothers and I all got married within a few years of each other. This transformation brought a lot of change into our relationships with one another, almost all of it for the good. Right away, I noticed the calming, even civilizing effect that married life brought. We all just seemed to settle down and get along better.

Over the years, I have had glimpses of the important ways that siblings keep watch over each others' marriages. When my brothers and I are all together with our families, we have a special kind of radar with each other. A simple gesture or a meeting of the eyes is enough to send each other feedback about what is going on around us. Wordlessly, we keep each other grounded in what is reasonable, and what is not.

This is one part of my married life that I wish had gone differently. Because I moved three time zones away from my brothers, I've only been able to experience our bond once a year or so, and that is not enough. I love where I live, but I wish I was closer to my brothers.

My siblings remind me of who I am, and help to keep my marriage real.

{3. Friends matter. Hold on to them.}

One of my favorite parts of wedding planning was choosing my bridesmaids. Because I had no sisters, I was able to take a long, careful look at my friends and ask those who meant most to me to stand up in my wedding. Of the four women I asked, three still play a meaningful role in my life. I am glad of that.

Friends make a marriage stronger. My friends are like a banquet of delicious foods; I enjoy the variety and tastiness of each one and they make my life richer and more satisfying. That positive energy feeds into my marriage and makes me a more interesting, vibrant and completed person.

It's so popular now to say, "Oh, my husband/wife is my best friend." I hear that sentiment all the time and I understand that on one level, it's a way of saying that this person enjoys spending time with their beloved. That's fine. But on a deeper level, it reveals to me an unrealistic and potentially dangerous picture of marriage.

Despite what Disney movies tell us, one person cannot make all our dreams come true. We need our friends to add dimension and variety to our lives. If we expect our spouse to satisfy all our needs for companionship, we are asking too much. 

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