It is a gift to grow up in a happy, healthy marriage. By the time I truly started to pay attention to how my parents interacted with each other, they were closing in on twenty years of marriage. By the time I married, my parents were wrapping up their thirtieth year of marriage. It can be a challenge, beginning marriage, when your reference point is a couple who has three decades worth of growth under their belt. You see the end result, without recognizing the years of work, growth, and maturity that produces the soothing comfort of a happily married couple.
Needless to say, my first year of marriage was not smooth. It was the start of that growth and maturity, dying to self, and learning to accept my spouse. It wasn’t unpleasant, but over a decade in, it is significantly easier. Just learning to live with your spouse, learning to make a life together, and that’s the trick, making it together, not forcing your vision on your spouse, all of it takes time and learning.
And there are growing pains. Looking back at the younger me, I realized how polluted my vision was by Hollywood’s romantic movies. As enjoyable and amusing as these movies are, they often fail to portray men as, well . . . men. Men aren’t always prone to making grand gestures to express their love. Many men, my husband included, consider the act of making you his wife to be grand enough. How do you top that?
My husband settled into married life quickly. He worked hard and wanted to come home, put his feet up and enjoy a quiet evening with his wife. I, on the other hand, had been home for a while, school got out in the early afternoon and I walked back and forth to work. I was home, alone, in a very small town. I had left a big family and college dorm life, and I was not accustomed to the peace and quiet that my husband enjoyed.
I don’t know if God wasn’t interested in altering the man He created to suit my whims, or He just said no to my requests. At least, it appeared so. But in truth, God was working His plan, His vision, and it involved softening my heart. He opened my eyes. He showed me the truth.
It wasn’t about me – well it was – but it wasn’t about ME. It was about how to best pursue my vocation. To become the person I was created to be. To stop trying to make my husband into my image, but rather to make myself into God’s image. To love completely, not for reward, but because love is complete.
And so my prayers changed. I ceased asking that God meld my husband into the man I wanted him to be. I began to ask for the grace to be the wife I was created to be.
By focusing on what I needed to do, instead of what I thought I needed, my attitude changed. I, slowly, stopped thinking about how my husband wasn’t meeting my needs, rather I began to wonder, “Am I being what he needs? Am I the wife he deserves?” I didn’t see the failures, I wasn’t as concerned with what I was missing.
It’s amazing how your life can change when you start thinking about how to give of yourself rather than how someone can help you.
I learned to hear my husband’s love language. Recognized his efforts for what they were, his grand expressions of love. He didn’t say it in poetic toasts, in romantic declarations under the stars, he said it by going to work at three am, the first of two jobs. He said it by celebrating our pregnancies and seeing my maternal body as beautiful. He slayed the dragons as best he knew how. And I had to see it for what it was. Striving to be the wife I was created to be, meant accepting love as my husband knows to give it. Letting him be the husband he was created to be. He was placed in my life for a reason, the man God created, not the man I envisioned.