On Being Married
This post was originally published on the Integrity Blog.
Marriage is really good thing. I’m convinced that it’s probably, in fact, the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Let me tell you why.
I am not a “feeler”, by definition. I have a big head and a smaller heart. I’ve found that I thrive on hard work and challenges. That means that I get up early, I drink black coffee and feel cool about it, I plan my life down to the extreme details, and I read things like metaphysics for fun. It means that, while I always get shit done, my heart strings are a bit...well, rusty. And short. And hard to reach. I am not compassionate, sensitive, or gentle.
But I want to be all of those things. And I married a man with a heart of magnanimity; a heart filled with virtues and goodness and love and everything gold. Loving comes so easy to him. Yes yes yes. I saw that great and heavy heart of his and I knew that my cold, meticulous, intellectual soul needed him.
When I married him, I knew that Garrett was filled with the wonderful qualities that I lacked. Everyone told me: “Your spouse has what you do not; what you need.” Kind of like missing puzzle pieces. I knew this going in. I stood at the altar and thought: Please, let your goodness and kindness and virtue pour into my soul. Teach me the virtue I don’t possess, give me the love I struggle to give myself. Pour the gold of your heart over my mine and set it ablaze.
I’ve been married for three weeks now. Growing a heart is not so simple. It’s not easy. It’s certainly not like having virtue and goodness just smoothly poured into the caverns of my barren heart.
Guess what? Your spouse is not magic, growth is not automatic, and authentic, deep, sanctifying complementarity in a marriage looks a lot like….hard work. Effort. Dying to self. It’s not glorious, not satisfying, and not smooth.
Growing a heart means biting my lip when Garrett gently reminds me that hours of talking does not make him feel better the way it fixes all of my problems. It means confronting my self esteem issues and learning to accept my flaws, crooked teeth and bad skin included, because complaining endlessly about my appearance is not respectful or mature. It means letting my carefully crafted plans be put on hold while I listen to the latest music creation that I’ve heard fifteen times, because it is important and valuable to him. It means letting myself be picked up and thrown in the air at the end of a work day, because Garrett is fun and goofy and I need to learn how to not take myself seriously. It means being physical touch and giving back rubs when I really don’t feel like, because that is what good spouses do for each other.
And it’s not all one sided. Garrett has had to learn how to go to bed at a decent adult hour, how to clean up food in the kitchen like a civilized person, how to communicate his feelings into words at the speed that I need (which is immediately, by the way). He is learning how to write plans out in a calendar, put dirty clothes in a hamper, and get up early to help make food together. Are my intellectual efficiency and logic magically being transferred into his character?
Becoming truly complimentary in marriage looks like concrete work and intentionally formed habits. You marry the person that will challenge you to stretch and improve yourself, not the person who will simply hand you a bag filled with the qualities and virtues you lack.
Marriage is not like simply putting together two puzzle pieces. It’s like finding a cute person to work on the 200,00 piece puzzle with. And you bring chips and wine and you kiss a lot and get frustrated together and share the joy of putting together one small section at a time. Our sections have been paying car repairs, figuring out how to make pancakes, and learning how to compromise between running no air conditioning at night and sleeping in a frozen tundra.
What can I say? I’ve been married three weeks, so I’m still new at all this spouse thing. But I married Garrett because I saw a heart that I knew I needed to imitate. And while learning how to have a heart is difficult, it’s incredibly fulfilling to know that this marriage is already making me the person I am supposed to be.
Photography credits to Corynne Olivia Photography.