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Like a Second Honeymoon without the Learning Curve ~ Life:Unmasked

We had two and a half child-free days this weekend, my husband and I. It was glorious. Like a second honeymoon, only without the beach and the newly-married learning curve. We did crazy first-year-of-marriage things like eating out and staying up too late and sleeping in and napping and shopping together. I wasn’t tired (imagine that). We did crazy almost-fourteen-years-of-marriage things too, like eating breakfast without saying much, and reading books separately while in the same space.

Marriage: a long-term every day choosing of the other.

But that quiet sometimes made me uneasy. I had a flash of fear that we were becoming that couple that doesn’t know each other once they finish raising children. I had to melt that fear in the warmth of knowing that we are ok with silence. He is my best friend. We talk when we need to, and we don’t if we don’t.

It got me thinking about us and all the things we have weathered in our almost fourteen years and how we’re still together. Sometimes, I play through scenarios, like what if his bus crashes, and I’m widowed. What would I do? But I never think “what if one of us just walks away.” I can’t imagine starting over. We’ve built something unique together, piece by painstaking piece, that we could never recreate.

Our marriage has been a long-term every day choosing: choosing to remember the good and the true. Choosing to stay and keep building.

In those moments when all is quiet and nothing is new and we slip into taking one another for granted, I choose to remember. I recall the thrill of those early days when a kiss and an “I love you” were risks. I remember how he wrote letters and waited for me to finish school and moved back for me, and especially I remember how he stayed.

He stayed when our baby nearly died and he stayed when she lived. When my breasts were hooked up to a pump like a cow to a milking machine, he still wanted me. He pulled me close and spoke sense into my ears when, in a sleep-deprived fear-induced craze, I lost my shit over losing control of my kitchen and my life. It’s my kitchen! It should be the way I want it to be. I don’t want to need help! I want my life to be normal dammit! He stayed when in a depression and faith crisis, I lost my shit again and the entire family was walking on eggshells around me, fearing the next explosion. He chose me in spite of the slammed doors and desperate words and tears in the midst of kisses and the pounds gained and the skin tightness lost.

I choose him the way he chooses me, instead of the mythic greener grass on the other side. I choose this man with the calm soul, the graying temples, the slow impish grin, the love of old classic cars, and the arms that fit around me just right. I choose the man I can still make to blush when I flirt, with the twinkling blue eyes and the insatiable love of creating. I choose the one person who can make me laugh when circumstances threaten to overwhelm. I choose him even when the dollars don’t add up right and we make a stupid blunder on vacation and when he passes out in my favorite workout class and gets rolled out on a stretcher.

I remember all the moments when he chose me, I remember all the times we’ve smiled together, laughed together, and cried together. And I choose him again today.

***

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Dinnertime Gets Dangerous

“Mom, when you get married, do you just wake up one day with a baby in you?” she asked.

I finished chewing my mouthful of burrito, swallowed hard, and asked, “What do you mean? Are you asking if you wake up with a big belly one morning, or how the baby gets in there?”

She looked at me, her mouth full. I decided to answer the easier question. She’s still seven, still innocent.

Read the rest on A Deeper Story.

P.S. Because of the US holiday this week, I will not be hosting Life:Unmasked tomorrow.

 

On Outside Influences ~ Marriage Letters

Dear Scott,

When I think about outside influences on our marriage, I think of everything outside the two of us. We have had many outside influences, but if I had to identify two of the most significant so far, I would point to Children’s Hospital and the church in which you served as an elder.

ultrasoundWe met our first significant crisis as a couple in a dimly-lit room in the Emergency Department of Children’s. The words “heart defects” were very closely followed by, “This kind of thing is very difficult on relationships. It’s okay to get help.”

We learned how each other handles fear and uncertainty, and how crazy I get when I’m sleep deprived. The nights after her heart surgeries, we squeezed into a twin bed in the ICU sleep rooms just a few dozen yards from her room. You impressed me with your willingness to keep me company while I undertook the incredibly unsexy task of pumping breast milk every 3-4 hours (I think it’s nothing short of a miracle that you are still attracted to me after seeing that). We made charts so we could keep track of who gave which meds, and you cheered me on as I learned how to insert an NG tube into Elli’s nose and down into her stomach. Hardest of all, as the years went on we began to spend evenings discussing how to care for her when we were old and she was full-grown, and how to handle the end of her life.

It turns out that we wouldn’t need formal help until after she died.

The pressure of raising a child who needed frequent long stays at Children’s Hospital changed us. So did the pressure of taking on responsibilities at church. I have written before on how we shared the load, deferring to the one who had the most time or the strongest ability in a given area. We had learned how to work together under hospital pressure – learning foreign tasks, living in uncertainty, making life-or-death decisions. In the church, we learned how to work under a different kind of pressure – the kind that comes with working closely with different kinds of people, various degrees of expectations, and all the communication and coordination that working with people requires. We uncovered weaknesses in ourselves we didn’t know about before, like how deeply hurt and angry I get when you are misunderstood or falsely accused, and how difficult it is to bring yourself to confront someone who is already struggling.

Outside influences can’t change the core of who we are. But they bring who we are to light, in all its beauty or ugliness. Outside influences either soften hard edges and refine impurities away, or they scar and burn and shrivel. We’re a combination of all of this, with plenty of ugly, refinement, scars and softer edges, but I think we fit more tightly today than we did fourteen years ago. That’s one thing I can be thankful for in all of the heartache.

Love,

Joy

We’ve been sharing the real-life ups and downs of marriage in this weekly series in hopes that we can encourage one another to fight hard for our marriages. This week’s writing prompt was “On Outside Influences.” If you joined Scott, Seth, Amber, and I writing this week’s letters, link up at Amber’s place. We plan to take the month of May off from this series, but follow The RunaMuck on Facebook for updates because I suspect we’ll be writing letters again soon. What topics should we write on next?

What have outside influences done for your marriage?