I was delighted to get this submission from my best friend’s husband. I didn’t realize Michael was a fiction writer, and I’m pleased to tell you that he’s doing just fine for himself in this department. I hope you enjoy this piece of his. – H
I started following Micha Boyett’s blog after I discovered her series on St. Benedict. Her writing has a gentle, incisive graciousness which I find beautiful. This morning I opened my feed reader and found this post on “Marriage and the Easy Yoke.” I love this bit toward the end:
I can’t pretend to know much about marriage. Eight years is only 2nd grade in the education of married life. We’re only just now learning cursive and multiplication. We have a long way to go. But what I’m learning is that … Only grace oils the bitter places so the machine can run, so you can smooth each other out.
Her post is in response to this one on Her.meneutics, and in light of these two other responses to it. Reading those after Micha’s post, I’m bothered by how easily the author of the first post assumes that marriage is easy (without any discussion of hardships she’s walked through to back this up) and we should stop worrying about how hard the first year is supposed to be, etc. Like the first response by Kristin Tennant notes, it’s a bad idea to assume that your story or experience in marriage is the true one and read your experiences into other people’s lives. That said, I feel a little more kinship with the author (Grace) of the second response: who are you to tell me that a good marriage is an easy one?
Kevin and I haven’t had a particularly hard marriage so far, and we’re not very far in yet, so I shouldn’t speak too loudly. We have a lot of time ahead of us before we stop being babies and earn the title of “seasoned.” But that said, in just the last 17 months, we’ve faced unemployment x2, frustrating jobs, evening shift work hours, depression, a move, debt, not having a church home, serious family tensions, a car accident, and more. It’s been intense. Not impossible, but difficult. These external factors have in turn exacerbated various issues in our relationship with each other, and the strain has been really exhausting at times.
We were talking about this yesterday, reflecting on our Saturday bike ride and how, while we had a good time, there were moments of tension based on ongoing issues, and by the end of our ride we were very emotionally worn out. But a little patience with each other’s weariness helped a lot, and we ended up having a quiet evening together, just being together and not asking much of each other.
Kevin commented that, for us, loving each other doesn’t always look like happy feelings and tender romantic moments. We’re both broken people with issues that make us hard to love and be loved. Sometimes, all we have to offer is insecurity, or anxiousness, or frustration. Sometimes we’re just too raw to make much of an effort to do “sweet” and “thoughtful” things. But there’s no one else we’d rather do this marriage thing with. Kevin concluded, “we can worship God with whatever emotion we bring in the door. He accepts us as we are–we don’t need to always put on a mask of happiness in order to be in a relationship with him. And it’s the same way with each other: we should be patient with each other, of course. But we don’t need to only bring the correct and proper emotions to each other. We can bring whatever we are at the moment.”
It’s been true. There is grace to be patient with each other’s broken places, even if I’m not always as tender as I should be when he’s weak (or vice versa). Marriage is the hardest thing either of us has ever attempted, and I want to be careful not to make it sound like it’s been all that awful. It hasn’t–but it hasn’t been hearts and flowers and Disney moments, either. But we’re best friends and I know he is a good-hearted man trying to love me the best he knows how. And I think he knows the same of me.
I doubt that our experience is universal, but I think it’s a pretty common one, too. I am really thankful that I have a good man to work this marriage thing out with and who makes the rough spots worth it all.
If you’re a newlywed, just enjoy your first year. If it’s sweet, don’t borrow trouble by worrying about what-if-it-gets-hard? and just savor the season. If it’s really rough, don’t feel alone. Plunge into community and get counseling, and let yourself enjoy the glowy moments when they come.
I’m pushing through today on ibuprofen and weak coffee
Trying not to register spring’s appearance this morning
for fear of feeling the life-beat vibrating outdoors.
The sunlight shifted yesterday, and the sky removed her dressing gown
If I ignore it, it never happened.
I didn’t notice the smallness of your kiss,
the withdrawing of your body from mine,
the shudder you gave when I touched you.
I want to make this work out so badly.
But when I can’t touch you, I don’t know you at all.
And this hangover of absence makes my eyes burn.
It’s just allergies. Did you see the pollen coating my car?
We’re both suffering from intimacy intolerance, I announce.
ADHD of the heart, addiction to voyeurism and sensations.
You mutter that you hate acadamia
and so we disjoint again, limping in our harness.
You slump into introspection, blue over the pictures you dream
and I push you away because I can’t follow you there.
I was never part of the dream and I am a wounded animal
thrashing when touched too truly.
I’ll go and work it out. I’ll stop crying when I fall asleep.
You stop thinking when you forget to think,
and then your ache wanes; out of sight, out of pain.
Let’s get drunk and go to Jackson, I think. Maybe I’ll see you better there.
But Lent paroles my border, keeping me from pressing the razor into my skin
and letting it all out quickly. So I have to feel the slow fullness of this,
I have to hemorrhage awake. And since I don’t understand it all
The gradual unravelling will tear me apart all the more.
If I want to rebuild our dream-castles, I can’t start at our beginning
and I can’t do it alone. If your eyes become clear again, let’s hold hands
while we go to the quarry and sort through the rubble.
Just touch me, I say, meaning: put me back together again.
Tomorrow Kevin and I regress into the “need” of having an internet connection at home. There’s a lot of good things that will come with this, but I’m trying to steel myself into Wendell Berry-esque curmudgeonry so I don’t forget the real life things that we value more than connectivity and entertainment or feeding our information addictions.
I’m not going to apologize for going AWOL for a bit. My real life has been rich and full. Writing stagnated while other things thrived.
Since I wrote last, we celebrated our first anniversary and dreamed big while spending a long weekend in the Shenandoah Valley. Kevin stopped temping irregularly and started working regularly as a waiter at a snazzy DC restaurant (everyone loves him–he’s great with customer service). We downsized to one car. He’s planning on starting school for music therapy in the fall. I got a UVA hoodie. I finally got around to reading Quivering Daughters (and highly recommend the first 2/3rds of it to anyone who grew up in a conservative Christian home where “courtship,” “gender roles,” and “homemaking” were buzzwords). Nearly the entire department I work in turned over and I’m adjusting to the new strategies and work styles. My dad called a family meeting and we had a Christmas miracle. Kevin and I flew to Oklahoma for my best friend’s wedding. My sister came home from college and is taking charge of her life in healthy ways. We found a church we where feel comfortable and welcomed, and are seeking to get confirmed in the ACNA. Kevin wrote new songs. Old friendships were discovered to have life in them yet, and we started attending a monthly couples’ dinner club + Bible study with new friends.
In the meantime, I need to decide which of my blog post drafts from the last few months to finish first. It’s never too late to post on Advent, right?