Thursday, October 2, 2014

"Some Assembly Required"

A little more than sixteen years ago PJ and I met each other for the first time. Just over a year later we started dating. And nine years ago (plus a couple of weeks) I married my best friend. I can't believe it has been that long already! When we got married, we were very much “in love”. From my point of view, he was (mostly) perfect. We shared the same interests. We shared the same (or very similar) views on important topics such as children, finances, etc. We talked about anything and everything together. There was no one else I would have rather spent my time with. Thinking of spending the rest of my life with him made my heart skip a beat. *Cue wedding music...

Wait. Stop the music. Stop everything. I have a confession to make: I didn't really love my husband at all when we got married. Well... not in the same way that I do now, anyway.

I think that sounds kind of harsh... but I don't intend it that way. It's just that what I called love at the time was really more of an infatuation. A surface type of love. The kind of love I might have for an awfully cute little puppy, before it chews up my favorite pair of shoes. (Oh dear, I don't think that sounds any less harsh...)

Oh sure, I thought I loved him more than anything. He thought he loved me more than anything, too. Then again, we also thought we knew each other pretty well at the time (but we both found out fairly quickly after we said “I do” how little we really did know about each other, right PJ?). Yup, it didn't take me very long at all to figure out that the feeling I had – which I was sure was true love – was really just... puppy love.

The puppy-love/dating stage was fun! But after the wedding, the realities of married life set in and they began pushing puppy love right out of the picture. Everything from toothpaste conflicts (I can't believe he squeezes the tube from the middle and not the end!!! *yes, I'm serious – we really fought about that*) to very real financial troubles. The reality of living with someone with a chronic illness (and the expense associated with it). The dirty laundry on the floor and not in the hamper. The TV-watching when I thought he should be doing something productive (or paying attention to me, at the very least!)... Some couples (or so I've heard) have a “honeymoon period” of their marriage – six months or a year where all they see are the stars in each others eyes (or something like that) before any real kind of tension begins to surface. We, however, did not. I blame a lot of that on our personalities and - perhaps mostly - our immaturity. (It is easy to look back and identify this now! But at the time, I (of course) was impeccably mature and oh so very perfect and it was my man that was the sole perpetrator of any disturbance of our wedded bliss. Ahem.) … And we hit bottom.

Yeah... it turns out that puppy love doesn't carry a relationship very far when things get tough. At some level I guess I bought into the fairytale that living “happily ever-after” was something that just happened – no assembly required. It turns out that love – real love – is nothing like Hollywood. It is gritty and messy and unbelievable. It takes work – and not just a little bit of it! It takes a lot of work! Cultivating real love that lasts in a marriage requires a husband and a wife to make the choice to love each other and to make a commitment to put forth the effort that it takes. Because believe me – it won't just happen on its own.

Rock bottom was a difficult place to be. The idealized picture of marriage I had held in my mind was shattered. I guess that in my planning and dreaming, I kinda forgot that a marriage is made up of two people with different plans and dreams. PJ's ideas were valuable to him – but not so very valuable to me. My ideas were valuable to me – but not so very valuable to PJ. We reached a point in our relationship where “hopeless” is a pretty good descriptor of how we felt towards the idea of reaching any kind of resolution between our differing opinions of how our life together should go.

Thankfully, somewhere down at the bottom, we found that there still existed a foundation for the continued existence of “us”. Getting past the frustrations and disappointments I found in the beginning stages of our marriage for me meant discovering that PJ was still my best friend... and above all I didn't want to lose him! And most importantly, there was the foundation that came for us from our relationship with God and the fact that we had based our marriage upon Him. We invited Him into our lives and into our marriage as a vital part of both. We stood in front of a crowd of witnesses and promised in front of them and God that we would be together “til death do us part” - and that's not something that we took lightly at all. We chose to make it work. We faced our issues. We got help from our pastor and his wife. We leaned on trusted friends for support. We prayed. We relied on God. We chose to love each other. It was a process – it certainly didn't happen overnight – and we faced setbacks along the way. I'd like to say that we've got it all together now... but it seems that being married is not something that you ever totally stop working on. The times I become complacent and think I can stop working at it are the times that problems arise. And because PJ is a human, and – like all humans (myself included) – can sometimes be a little less-than-easy to love, I have to continue to choose to love him every day, even when I don't feel like it.

Marriage licenses should come with a disclaimer: “Some assembly required”. Yup. But guess what? I love this man now more than anything. Yes – I really truly love him! I know that I do, because I have chosen to. We chose to not give up on each other or on our marriage together even when it was difficult. Even when we couldn't go a day without arguing about one thing or another. The hard work was definitely worth it. Puppy love may be gone... but real, deep, lasting love is so much better than that anyway.

PJ – You are the love of my life. I'm so glad we have each other. I'm blessed to have spent the last nine years married to you, and I look forward to many, many more years together. Thanks for working at this marriage thing with me... I don't know what I'd do without you! I love you!

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