We bought a house that was a flip. It was built in the 1970’s but a builder came in and gutted it and made everything shiny and new. We walked in and it and fell in love. It had all the things we needed plus it was so new, fresh, and clean (AKA no children had lived in it). Ben turned to me after we walked through it and said “I could get my Saturday’s back.” We loved our old house but every Saturday was filled with maintenance, kind of killing the Saturday morning family vibe I was so aggressively trying to implement. We decided it was the one (and yes choosing a house feels similar to finding a spouse) and fast forward over the next craziest weeks of our life, sold the house we were living in, closed on the new and started moving our crap in last week. I used to call it stuff until I had to pack it up and move it… then it became crap.
The problem with shiny and new is that it never stays that way. My fridge now has fingerprints where little people have opened and closed it over and over and over and over again telling me they are starving (five minutes after eating). The walls have been scuffed up by oversized furniture being moved up narrow stairs and the once sparkly bathtubs are now filled with kid’s toys. And we have only been in the house two weeks.
My point is nothing stays new. Life takes a toll on even the shiniest of things.
I don’t talk a lot about my marriage in my writing because I see it as sacred, whereas motherhood and ministry feel like something we are all trekking through together. Marriage though, it’s my safe space- my safe person. It’s a place I’m careful about who I let in, so while I’m very open with my people, I’m not open with all people. The rest of my life though I’d tell the cashier at target about… because we are there so much I know them all by name and when they got a haircut. Then I was talking to some friends the other night who aren’t married yet and they were asking what marriage is really like, is it wonderful? Is it hard? Is it beautiful? Is it boring? Is it exciting? Is it disappointing? Is it everything you dreamed of? Is it challenging?
All of it.
Yes. Marriage and mothering are the only things in my life where my selfishness will actually ruin someone else’s life. Marriage is the hardest and best thing I have ever done. It’s what has taught me the most and grown me in ways I didn’t know I needed to grow. It’s softened me, changed me, and pushed me closer to the God who made me. Most of us read 1 Corinthians at our wedding but don’t really understanding those verses until we have to live them. Real love is living out what I said I’d do when I least feel like it. Real love doesn’t fully come until you chose to love even when you feel justified (and most likely are) in your frustration, sadness, anger, exhaustion or whatever else. God asked us to do this for others and then he demonstrated it through Jesus so that we could always know what real love looked like (John 15:9,12).
Marriage is a lot like a new house. It starts off so shiny, so new, and you move your stuff in and scuff it up along the way. You bring your baggage and expectations and make it yours and the shiny wears off but in its place is left something great… home. It’s where you breathe, where you let your guard down, and where you can be really bare… in every sense. It seems like there are really only two choices, find something else or someone else shiny and new or see your spouse as the gift they are. If I moved every time my house got a little messed up we’d live in a perpetual state of moving and unhappiness.
The reality is it takes maintenance, like keeping a house clean, it doesn’t stay shiny on its own. Ben and I check in every Sunday to see how we are doing (while we fold approximately 50 lbs of laundry), we cover fun topics like budget, relational ups, and downs, parenting, upcoming week etc. We do date nights every other week (side note- we are incredibly blessed with in-laws who live in our neighborhood and love our kids and us SO well making this possible). When we go on dates, I make a real effort to only talk about the kids on the way to dinner and then shut down the kid talk. We have so much more to connect on than just our kids. I think of this like sweeping the floors or wiping down counters… it’s part of keeping things in order so that we can focus on what matters.
We are coming up on nine years of marriage, it isn’t anywhere close to a lifetime but we both really care about not just staying together but about being for each other. Yes, my marriage is important for my kids, but also because Ben is worth fighting for, so even when life gets hard or we are knee deep in babies I’ll choose him. That’s living the love we talked about at our wedding and it’s so worth it. I think the greatest and easiest lie to believe in marriage is that you married the wrong person or that someone else would understand you better, love you better, and they might but they’d do something else worse. We all have our flaws, every relationship gets a little scuffed up like tiny fingerprints on a fresh wall but it’s the mark of something personal. It’s yours.