Friday, January 2, 2009

Growing Into Marriage

Father was over for dinner the other night, and while I was getting the wound-up, overwrought-from-too-many-late-nights-and-too-much-holiday-excitement children tucked into bed, he and DH had a conversation about vocations. When I came back downstairs, fifteen minutes later, to the relative quiet and another glass of wine, Father told me what they were talking about, and that he had asked DH whether he was happy with his vocation as husband/father.

I made a little joke about all the chaos of bedtime being some great lure for him to leave the priesthood. He laughed, and then said that he's always felt he could never be a good husband, that he had felt "confined" in the relationships he'd had prior to entering the seminary. We were all quiet for a minute, and then I responded. "I think being a good husband -- or a good wife -- is something you grow into, over time."

DH agreed and we shared some examples of the struggles we had in exchanging two "I's" for a "we." DH and I were a little older and more established in our own, separate, adult lives when we met. That may have made the transition harder in some ways, and probably easier in others. It is what it is. But, certainly, getting married and staying married are two separate things. Getting married is fun. It's about planning, dreaming, throwing a party, imagining a new life together. Getting married is a lot about emotion.

Staying married is about action. It's a choice that we make every single day, many times a day. A choice to be the one to get up at 2:30 am to comfort the whining toddler because my spouse has a big day tomorrow and needs to sleep. A choice to give up the tickets to the ball game with the guys because it conflicts with a dance recital. A choice to empty the dishwasher without complaining, or to switch a load of laundry on my way out the door. Over and over and over, marriage is about choosing "us" over "me," about setting aside my selfishness, and choosing to act in love.

Parenthood gets much praise as a surefire way to grow in holiness. And it is, for sure. Children demand attention, time, love, food, clothing, and an endless supply of answers. My children are very good at helping me exercise my patience, kindness, and unselfish muscles. But marriage requires a different type of unselfishness. Because my husband is not a child incapable of getting himself a glass of water, or of washing his own clothes or preparing his own food. Caring for him is not an act of love borne in the biological need to care for my young. It is an act of love that comes completely from my heart.

And, of course, marriage is not without it's incredible rewards. When I turned in my "I," I got so much more than I ever anticipated. I got a best friend who means more to me each day. I got a partner who will happily take all the children out of the house for hours, every single week, so that I can clean, nap, or just have some peace and quiet. I got that reassuring squeeze of my hand at 3am, the tender kiss on my sleeping forehead when he has an early-morning class, the warm embrace every single time I need it (and lots of times when I don't). I got a worldview that extends beyond me, forces me to look beyond myself, to consider another in everything I think and do.

None of this happened overnight. We were happy when we dated, happy during our engagement, and happy newlyweds. But this deep peace, comfort and joy that we have in our marriage now: this took some time, some cultivation, some pruning and growing for each of us. This solid, deeply loving marriage is something we've both grown into.


  1. Thank you so much. I've been reading your blog & haven't commented yet but enjoy every post. Thank you for your insights on marriage. Those of us who are looking to marriage as our vocation need your perspective!