I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible. GK Chesterton, What's Wrong With the World
|July 20, 2012 Our 10 Year Anniversary|
I beg to differ. If you were to stack up the similarities between me and that handsome man above, you might find five, maybe ten now that we've been married longer. I mean, just start with our major strengths. The husband is a math savant. I, on the other hand, am a wordsmith (ha!). Two very different people at the core. We're technically incompatible. Yet we still work and we work well; really well.
In a world of failing marriages, it's no wonder people are grasping at anything to figure out how to make a marriage work. Many people aren't learning what true love is from their own families so, they feel they've got to figure it out for themselves. And the lie of compatibility has so pervaded our culture that it's easy to latch on to it believing that if you can just find that one person that fits you like a glove, well then love will be easy. You won't have to work at it. You'll just be compatible and all will be well.
This is just not the case.
I'm not an expert on marriage. I've only been married ten years. And in our marriage we've had some hard times but we haven't faced any biggies yet, although I know we will. It's inevitable. Our trials have been pretty trivial. But there are some things that I have learned so far and this is an important one:
Love isn't about being perfectly matched. It's about striving.
Striving? Striving after what?
Let me see if I can explain what I mean. Way back in the day, nearly 12 years ago now, Steve and I had just started dating and the topic of love came up a few times. I was scared to death of it. Steve seemed calm as a cucumber about it (our typical roles even now). He explained to me that he thought love was simply a choice. You choose one person and then you love them, regardless of what comes. Of course you want to be sure you're making a good choice but once you're sure, then it's simple after that.
I understood what he meant. But I'm a romantic. And to me that seemed totally and completely UNromantic (now this was because I was young and stupid). So, I would ask him why he loved me. I wanted to know WHY. What was it about me that he loved (notice the blatant self-centeredness)? Was it because I was beautiful to him (every girl wants to be beautiful to someone-that's innately God-given)? Or was it because I was so clever? Maybe it was because I was funny or perhaps it was simply because I was a hard worker. He'd then respond that although I was those things, they weren't the reason he loved me. It was simply that he'd chosen me and that he'd love me until God chose to part us.
I didn't like it-not one bit. It bothered me for some reason. I wanted to know all of the reasons we were compatible and how I'd made his dreams come true. I wanted to know this because simply put, it was all about me.
Fast forward another year and a half and we were married. Very slowly in those early years, I began to understand what he was talking about. You see, he saw everything. He knew all of my faults. He knew what I looked like without makeup or what I was like when I was sick. He also knew bigger things like the deepest things in my heart, my sins, my shortcomings and my failures. I couldn't just put my best foot forward and hide the rest. No, he knew it all. And the longer we were married the more thankful I was that he had simply chosen me. For many things in life are fleeting-beauty, youth, accomplishments, money. But a promise, a promise lasts forever. And he'd simply promised to love me no matter what.
It wasn't about him. It was about loving me. By his example, I started to learn the same thing. It wasn't about me. It was about loving him. Wanting to be everything he dreamed of was about my own pride. And pride is one of the main barriers to a good marriage (among many other things). But love is striving for the other. It's fighting whatever gets in the way to love that person. It's not an end. It's a means. It's the striving for another that ends in love.
And that my friends is extremely romantic.
I see it now.
The commitment to love over the years is what produces romance. You can't simply be romantic. It happens over time. It's a byproduct of putting your own needs to the side, choosing to love someone and then living life with their best interest in mind. This produces the best stories. This is the stuff dreams are made of.
Romantic to me now is him still loving me after five children have stretched my body into so many contortions I don't even know it myself anymore. Romantic to me now is him reaching for my hand in the dark while we sleep or him dreamily telling me he loves me while I'm nursing the baby at 4 am. Romantic to me now is him working every single day for our family so that we can have every comfort and all we need. Romantic to me now is him gently pointing out when I'm wrong and encouraging me to do what's right, yet still loving me regardless.
This is romance. It takes time. And it's built on a commitment that has no strings attached. It's not based on chemistry or compatibility. Nor is it something that comes easily. It must be worked at. And it starts with a choice.
I'm not that same girl I was twelve years ago (thank God). And if Steve had loved me based on what I was then, well we'd be up a creek. I'm older and have more gray hair! We're not together now because both of us thought we were the best match or that either person was perfect. Rather we're together because we must make it work. There isn't another choice. His faults and my faults regardless. We've chosen one another.
So there's just simply no other way.
But here's the caveat that all of this is based on-Christ. We both have submitted to a higher authority than ourselves and that's what makes our foundation sure. God tells us to love each other for life. So we choose, we commit and then we trust that God will help us. The minute our incompatibility becomes apparent, we fight it and in doing so, over time, no matter the circumstances, because of our steadfastness, our story grows lovelier and more beautiful over time.
This process is the oldest story ever told. It's called redemption. God takes even the ugliest things that seem beyond repair and restores them, making them beautiful. Every good marriage is an incredible redemption story that preaches to the world. But it's not perfection that it preaches, it's the Good News of the gospel. God's redemption of mankind. The ultimate romance story.
Christ saving His Bride, the Church, is the most amazing love story of all.
Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:31,32