Nine years and four days ago I was unpacking plaid boxers and folding them neatly into an empty dresser. This empty dresser was situated in an empty apartment, with empty kitchen cabinets, bare floors, and blank walls. Hector and I were slowly starting to move things into our first place together and I was giddy with excitement. He was about to become my husband and for some crazy reason being allowed to fold and put away his underwear thrilled me. Probably for two reasons 1) We had never lived together before thus leading into 2) We had never slept together. In honest truth we hadn’t even seen each other naked.
I know. I know. CrAZy. INSANE. Unbelievable.
But alas, there I was folding the plaids, the stripes, and the ones with tiny little men lifting weights feeling a bit high. It wasn’t even about the sex (although of course that was on my mind–I am human), but it was really more about the togetherness. The not having to say goodbye at night and getting to place our toothbrushes in the same cabinet togetherness. The sleeping in the same bed, sharing the same laundry basket, and buying groceries together. I was completely and utterly enthralled by the sheer thought that I would get to wake up and he’d just be there. Sleeping right next to me.
It was one of those moments that I’ll never forget–a picture imprinted in my memory–my surroundings, the smells, the light streaming in from the bedroom window. It was when I became fully aware of the life-altering role I was embarking upon–becoming his wife.
Fast forward nine years and I’m still folding his boxers. Thankfully most of those have found their way into the trash, but I did keep those ones with the tiny little weight lifters. I wear them to bed every so often. They help remind me: about that moment, our innocence, and the joy we felt about getting married. They are, oddly enough, a very powerful pair of underwear.
You see marriage isn’t easy. In fact it can and it is one of the ugliest stories of most people’s pasts, presents, and futures. It’s one of those tumultuous relationships that with the same breath can make babies and start wars. I have yet to find a greater hatred that can exist in a human heart than the hate that is born from first loving someone who has then failed you. And this is where the problem starts. This is where our fairytale ends. Where both the glass slippers are shattered and we are left to walk around barefoot with nothing but a pumpkin in our hands wondering what went wrong.
Humans, regardless of gender, are imperfect. We are selfish, needy, hurtful creatures that are completely capable of horrific things. Things we wouldn’t imagine. We are not above any form of wrong doing. Unless you have been placed in every situation of temptation imaginable and proven yourself willing to walk away. Which is impossible. For all of us. This isn’t opinion. It’s truth.
So to enter into marriage thinking that you’ll have it easy, or be spared certain forms of heartache or problems, or that divorce would never be in your vocabulary if you only marry the right man or woman is to swallow a lie. Life isn’t so clean cut. And no one is intrinsically the right person. But everyone could be the right person if you allow them to be. If you allow yourselves to be.
My husband and I aren’t happy because we are perfect together. We are happy because we allow ourselves to find happiness in one another. We allow ourselves the grace to screw up and the patience to forgive and move on. We have many things in common and yet we have nothing in common. But I can look at him–in all his success and failure, in his selfishness and selflessness, in his beauty and in his ugly–and always, always, always find something worthy to love.
I do not think I got lucky when I married him. I do however, think God had a hand in it all and blessed me beyond my wildest dreams. But I’ve seen God have a hand in many marriages that have failed. Why? Because we are human. We are fallible. And more often than not we have unrealistic parameters as to what we expect in a marriage or any relationship for that matter. And we can be greedy with our willingness to forgive. Greedy with our willingness to accept another persons failures. And greedy with our ability to unconditionally love.
When Hector and I were dating I used to make most of his gifts. I’d like to believe that it was due to my creative nature and my heart for art, but I also know a good deal was because of money. One time i printed him a bible verse on a piece of tissue paper and mounted it in-between a clear floating frame. It still hangs on our wall today.
It’s a well known, often overused Bible verse about love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
The part that still strikes me today though is the ending. Ten years ago I had the insight to write: I love you for the man that you were before, for the man that you are today, and for the man that you will someday become.
Of course at the time I had no clue what that love would encompass or the adventures it would take me on, but I find the sentiment beautiful and often overlooked.
Spouses are generally willing to forgive their other half for their pasts or to make acceptances for things done when they didn’t “know them”, but then once we are married we hold them to these unattainable standards. And I hear the threats and the jokes amongst women… “If my husband ever <insert blank> then I’d be gone.” “I’d never put up with <blank>.” “Or can you believe <insert local gossip about a married couple> happened? I’d never marry a man who would do that!”
Are there situations in which actions can break a marriage indefinitely? Obviously. But, how greater will your marriage be, will your love be, and your togetherness be if you can look at your spouse and think… I love you so much that I’m willing to work through anything to be with you. I’m willing to forgive you. That YOU are worth my forgiveness. Instead of the “I don’t deserve this.” or “If he really loved me this wouldn’t have happened.” And it works both ways ladies. For men and women. The shoe fits on both ends.
I guess what I’m saying is that at the end of the day, after nine years of marriage, I can look at my spouse and know within my heart that I love him for who he was, for who he is, and for whatever he might become. And I know in my heart he can look at me and say the same thing. Because we are both so flawed. So overwhelmingly infested with sin and failures and evil doings. Neither one of us deserves each other more or less, but we are committed to finding a way to each other. Even when we are angry or hurt.
We find a way to lay in bed each night and be thankful that the other person’s hand is there, lying next to us, open with palms outstretched saying, “Take me. Here I am. I am yours.”
And not just for a minute. A month. Or a year. But forever.
Happy 9, babe.
xoxo, your wife