I was home from college for the summer, and I was trying to convince my grandmother to get up and play a game of Skip-bo with me.
“No,” she said. “No, you’ll beat me.”
“Grandma,” I laughed. “I might not. I don’t always win.”
“What have you ever lost at in your life?”
“Well, I don’t run very fast. You could probably beat me in a race.”
“Guess you might have trouble catching a man, then.” She grinned at me. “There was another girl trying to catch your grandpa, but I clipped her wings good. I don’t know if she ever caught herself a man!”
I afraid to ask how she’d “clipped that girl’s wings.” But then she smiled. “Don’t worry about falling in love. When it’s time, you’ll know.”
Grandma was right about the knowing–and there wasn’t that much running involved. Depends on who you ask if I caught him or he caught me, but it’s been sixteen years this summer. When your family tree is filled with golden and diamond anniversary celebrations, sixteen years is only a blink. But here we are, just getting started–and I can’t wait for the journey ahead.
“How to Stay Married.” It was the headline on the cover of my Time magazine this week. And it’s a pretty decent article. It talks about the latest facts and trends about marriage, but it also talks about things like avoiding contempt, finding what makes your partner feel loved, taking time to play together, and dropping the idea of finding a soul mate. One of my favorite lines from the article: “Soul mates tend to be crafted, not found.” That’ll preach.
But the article and the timing got me thinking. How would I answer that question? What would I say to a friend over coffee, or to my twenty-three-year-old self about to walk down the aisle? The best answer I came up with isn’t profound. How do you stay married? You just do.
You just do it. You stay. Because when you say I do, something powerful shifts. You and I become a We. And we together is stronger than the two of us apart. Who’s driving this boat? We are. Who’s facing this challenge? We are. Who’s figuring out how to pay the bills, and where to move, and how to get the kids to sleep through the night, and how to get the dog puke out of the car? We are. Even on the nights we go to bed mad–because let’s be honest here, sometimes we do–we wake up in the morning and face it together. When life is good, you celebrate together. When it’s hard, you face it together. And even when you don’t like each other that much, you keep choosing each other day after day after day because eventually those days add up to a lifetime. Lifetimes of love don’t come easy, but then precious things rarely do.
I know it’s not always that easy. And hear this: if you’re in an abusive situation, get safe. Here’s the number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233). Here’s Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored ministry. But abuse and infidelity are not the only reasons marriages crumble. That decision to stay is made up of a thousand other smaller decisions. The decision to honor and respect one another. The decision to be honest about your wants and needs. The decision to serve instead of being served. The decision to believe the best about one another, and the decision to bring the best out in one another. Those decisions all piled together add up to love.
How do you stay married? You stay. One day–one decision–at a time.
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