Twenty two years! Handsome is off work for a nice stretch while we celebrate our anniversary, and we are hitting the reset button HARD. Last night, just two days deep into the appointed retreat, we both commented on how much better we already feel. It seems like we have been “off” for much longer, and that is a luscious feeling.
I have been reflecting on these many milestones in our life and on the pillars or qualities that seem to uphold them. Every marriage is unique. I love to look around at our friends and family and see the different ways people thrive. It’s beautiful. It all inspires and challenges me. So what follows is not meant as a how-to or should-be post. I am very aware that what works for us may spell disaster for another couple, ha!
One thing I see is that while some couples start with the machinery or on-paper compatibility of the two people then build up their chemistry (like an arranged marriage or people who meet on a compatibility app), others do exactly the opposite (maybe they start with how they feel around each other then see what they can do to survive). We are in the latter camp. We started with chemistry and have discovered and worked on the machinery of really good living along the way.
We kind of launched straight into the deep end with big, choppy waves. Now we are at such a smooth operating level that it almost feels like we planned it this way.
We absolutely did not, ha!
We have just loved each other on purpose and lived with intention as often as possible. For us, the chemistry has made it fun and possible. The machinery and structure have built up steadily over time, with lots and lots of mistakes and restarts along the way.
How wonderful that grace and time have been on our side. That Love has been here all along.
Again, I have no idea which approach is better, easier, longer lasting, more fun, more sensible, etc… I don’t even think that is answerable. Life seems to offer up infinite ways to be happy and fulfilled! I would never say to anyone or any couple that their approach is wrong. I will just say that for us, our approach has been rich with lessons and deeply textured memories. Our love story has been messy, chaotic, restful, growth oriented, fun, wild, sweet, hilarious, bitter, scary, and sweet again. As so many poems and love songs declare, I would not trade any of it because it all brought us to this moment.
One day soon I will share an experience we had last winter in our friend Dr. Kelly Roberts’ college classroom. We sat for her students so they could practice a therapy modality that kind of visually maps your family tree and shared history. It was fascinating. And a great way to reflect on how you are operating as a couple.
Another note on seeing how other couples thrive and build their happiness: I do heartily endorse surrounding your marriage with a variety of personalities and histories, but yes, the happier and livelier the better. We create environments for our relationships, you know? Our relationships breath in the air we give them, feed on the nutrients available. And gosh I want ours to be well fed. I want ours to be energized for longevity and vitality. Chosen friends do this. Solid family marriages do this. Whether brand new or well aged, all kinds of unions can lend to the environments that feed us. I think it’s wise to keep an eye on this ever shifting part of life.
When we renewed our vows two summers ago, we repeated the original promises then each made new ones. We did not orchestrate it ahead of time.
Handsome promised to continue surprising me, which he certainly does all the time. He always has. Since the very beginning of our love story, he has surprised me with huge and momentary gifts. What’s interesting is that once he promised to do that, I started noticing more. For these past two years I have been paying better attention and can see the effort he makes to be full of surprises. It’s pretty magical, to see such a hard working, analytical, foundation-and-fortress kind of guy make such an effort to also be full of surprises. Of course, this necessarily means lots and lots and lots of jump scares and screams. But. I’ll take it.
My new promise at our twentieth vow renewal was to stop seeing him as my competition and to embrace him as my teammate, which has meant I have had to show as his teammate more. Back to fortifying the machinery, you know? Friends, let me tell you, this has been a steep climb for me, but also of course a source of serious growth and great joy. He is a hard act to follow, and our God given gifts are very different. Trying to match his every step and measuring myself against his unique contributions was keeping me in a state of frustration and staleness. It took a series of reminders and lessons about individuality for me to really get that we are different people and are meant to contribute differently to our shared life. Anyway. That is a work in progress but is going well.
Just a little encouragement, to take a deep breath and dive into whatever area of your relationship you feel you could improve upon. I will write more, soon, on the immense value of strength-based harmony. This internal adjustment on my part has yielded lots of peace and smoother waters for us. It also seems to afford him more space for surprises, which is cool.
These are good changes.
But lots is the same twenty two years in.
We still write secret grievances throughout the year and read them to each other on New Year’s Day. We still have simple, regular weekly meals and several daily rituals that ground us and tether us, no matter what is happening outside the farm. Though church is not part of life right now, we still try to pray together regularly, holding hands and giving thanks for blessings big and small. We still cling to promises about our family and the future, still remind each other what is true and lasting. We still check in with each other about where we are headed, knowing that mindset matters. We still fiercely protect our time off together then dive into hospitality as often as possible. We still allow each other time and space to do the things we enjoy individually, like gardening and book discussions and car collecting and costumes, though we also help each other and participate in each other’s hobbies plenty.
We have gotten much better at resolving little conflicts and about directly addressing big ones.
As Jessica and Alex approach their second wedding anniversary, we are more aware than ever of how we might be modeling marriage. At the same time, because life is amazing, my parents are approaching their fiftieth wedding anniversary, and we are humbled by the scope of life and survival and the depth of love available to people.
Okay, friends. If you have made it this far, gold star, ha! Thank you for reading. I could write all day and all night about the beauty and intricacies of life with this man. I am so grateful for the ongoing adventure, for the ever increasing sense of safety, and for all the surprises. I could write volumes about the benefits of showing up as his teammate, not his competition. Mostly, I am just so happy that we get to continue writing our own love story. I hope you are writing yours, too.
Happy anniversary, Handsome.
I love you always, now and forever.