Marriage: The Joy Is In The Struggle

 In the first few months of our marriage, John and I had a fight.

It was loud.

It was passionate and I haven’t the faintest recollection of what it was even about.

I remember being so angry, I got in our newly purchased SUV and drove off.

This is it,

I thought.

I’m leaving him

.

But I had nowhere to go.

We lived seven hundred miles from my mom and dad and I couldn’t crash in my younger sister’s dorm room apartment.

So after an hour or two of stewing and driving, I drove back home.

It was the first of at least one thousand fights (both big and small) we were forced to work out.

We’ve been working it out ever since.

When you’re a twitter-patted, starry-eyed singleton staring into the eyes of your beloved, it’s impossible to believe marriage is hard.

There is simply too much love and way too many hormones coursing through the bodies of dating men and women to accept potential marital difficulties.

I recall sitting through pre-Cana classes on communication, sex and money while nursing smug thoughts like, “

Really?

Well, you’re not us

” or “

That will never happen

.” It just seemed impossible that I would ever feel anything but pure, unadulterated joy and affection for John.

But then life happened.

We bought a house, we had a few kids, and one of those kids became ill.

There was still love and joy and happiness.

There has always been that, but there was more.

There was stress, personality differences, past wounds, financial strain, and different approaches to childrearing. Suddenly, I wasn’t a carefree, wild-eyed, love-crazed newlywed but I was someone’s wife, someone’s mother and I was supposed to know how to do it.

I was on unchartered territory and it was hard.

I buckled under the pressure and so did John.

We took it out on each other.

When I was engaged, I remember asking an older man I worked with and respected if he loved his wife the same as when he married her.

Without hesitation, he responded,

“More.

I love her more.”

His response bowled me over.

More?

He loves her more?

How?

Twelve years and six kids later, I have a little insight into the how part.

Now I know you love your spouse more than when you first marry because of the work you put in.

Marriage is hard and if it’s going to be good (and sometimes just bearable) you have to work together, be flexible, and develop a whole host of skills you don’t otherwise naturally possess.

Marriage forces you to stay put when you want to leave, it keeps you connected even when you’re too mad to speak or too devastated by some life-event to get out of bed.

Marriage is the life you create and experience together--the six beautiful children, the miscarriages, a deathly ill toddler, new houses, moves across country, career successes and failures, and the joys and challenges of raising a small tribe of unique individuals together.

My love for John is deep.

It’s real.

Although we have our issues (and let’s face it,

everyone

does), I think we have a solid marriage.

But it’s not because our marriage is easy.

What that wise co-worker of mine told me long ago is true--I love John way more than when we first met but that depth didn’t just come from the good stuff of life.

It also came from pain, from working through difficulties even when I didn’t want to, from agreeing to disagree (even when convinced I was right), from accepting him as he is not who I want him to be, and from denying myself something in order to meet one of his needs.

The depth of my love for John came from turning around and driving home when I wanted to keep going.

This is what marriage has been for me.

It’s been hard but it’s been good. And anything good is usually worth fighting for.

“ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

Genesis 2: 24

“Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." Mark 10:9