Tonight I'm not feeling wise or witty. Like a sponge I've spent the day absorbing all that was spilled around me. My family's pain, the result of my brother's impending divorce, is excruciating. And I feel it daily. Even though it is not my life, I hurt.
My life, the one I'm creating with my husband, is lovely. We laugh a lot. Talk more. Kiss and hold hands and order takeout and book our weekends until they are solid.
It's something I'm proud of, this fledgling marriage we're caring for. Yet, it's hard not to feel guilty even in the midst of our success. What if someone else, someone who tried and couldn't quite pull through, is hurt by our love? Does that matter? Should I worry about flaunting it? Or should I just keep enjoying what we've been doing?
And what about thinking about this situation another way...?
Of the seven young couples I know (us included) who have been married in the last three years, three have fallen on hard times. One has ended, flat lined. My brother's is ending. Has anyone learned anything? Is there something Jon and I are supposed to be learning?
So far, and perhaps predictably, I have been the one most emotionally affected by these things. Jonathan keeps his head up and his feet on the ground, one arm around my shoulders, affectionately.
"These things," he whispers in my ear, "have nothing to do with us."
We cook pasta, pay bills, put off vacuuming until the last possible minute, buy little presents for each other, snuggle.
As Christians we're taught early on that marriage is not exactly optional. Unless we plan to be celibate, we shall each find a spouse and wed. That's the hand we're dealt; part of the game. No debate. And while finding that mate, we're taught that dating isn't good, sex before marriage is worse and don't even get me started about praying with members of the opposite sex!
How will we know if his socks smell particularly gag-worthy at night in a heap behind the bedroom door? Or whether he keeps an ant farm in the kitchen (unintentionally)? Or how many times he talks in his sleep? Or whether our inner clocks will even allow us to go to bed at the same time? What if he has a No Talking In the House policy we're not aware of? Or if he spends his first two hours at home after work in the bathroom? Or whether he always pays his monthly bills in pennies so as to stick it to "the man"?
I'm fortunate. None of that happened to me. Aside from the smelly socks thing, the worst thing I had to deal with off the bad was his desire to keep the bread in the refrigerator. Oh dear gawd. Not a travesty, exactly, but it rocked my world somewhere around the second month of our marriage. In return, I hate to do dishes. If something molds on a plate or in a Tupperware container, I would rather chuck the whole thing that touch the nasty stuff. That drives him crazy.
I leave for work every morning at 7:15. Jon is still in bed.
When I do laundry, things shrink.
My hair gets stuck in the shower drain at a surprising rate.
I'm picky, picky, picky about toothpaste.
Occasionally, and without telling me, Jon will snipe my toothbrush.
I'm too cold. Jon is, simultaneously, too warm.
If a new geocache alert comes in at midnight, there's the possibility that Jon will get dressed and go hunting, even on a weeknight.
Jonathan won't let me use the overhead light in our bedroom. He'll switch it off violently if I dare to use it when he's not there to sanction my room-lighting actions.
We worked through these things. But imagine if one of us had a gambling problem... or a drinking problem... or couldn't keep a job... or wanted a million babies right away... or was racist or sexist or homophobic...
Wouldn't it be better for everyone concerned if the Church stopped frowning at "shacking up" so hard? I mean, with Its big, scary brow furrowed in the general direction of "living in sin" isn't it possible that a bigger problem is being overlooked? We're unprepared. We, the youth of the world, especially the ones who want to follow the Lord, are not ready for marriage. We're just as uncertain of the consequences of grafting individual lives together as we are dead certain that marriage is merely a step along the way, an inevitable, grown-up step. We take it and then ask questions. That could be why 1 out of 2 marriages in the United States ends in divorce, and why that statistic isn't any less staggering when it comes to Christians.
Call me crazy, but I'd rather young people made a few mistakes and had an easy way out of them rather than allowing those same young people to marry too soon, make a few important discoveries about their spouses and then break sacred marriage vows. I hear people bemoan the way the sanctity of the institution of marriage has become so watered down over the decades. Who should we blame? The young folks who didn't know any better? Or the old folks who forgot to give the young folks the "heads up" memo? Let's save marriage, the sacred bond Christ encourages between one man and one woman, for the relationships that stand the best chance at survival: those that were tested by fire and questions and time before jumping into the white dress and shoutin "I do!"
Thankfully, I was fortunate enough to wind up with a guy who was slightly more prepared (read: older) than me. And he's thoughtful and good natured and handy around the house. So, beyond trusting and cherishing and loving in sickness and in health, we're navigating our way through and to our own definition of marriage.
It's lessons even when you're too tired to learn. It's praying that your folks don't pop in unexpectedly before you tidy up. It's coming up with your own home remedies for illness, yours and his, because there is no Mommy anymore. It's considering her feelings and desires above your own. It's staying out in the heat while he climbs rocks for fun and you have only a camera to keep you company. It's promising to take her to a volleyball event for an entire day just to make her smile! It's scrubbing those gleaming, leaning towers of grimy dishes before she gets home because you know she's had a rough day. It's pulling pens from the pockets of his jeans before doing laundry and only sighing a little bit because he doesn't do that himself.
It's learning to like wool socks and classic movies and Slashdot and meatloaf... all because this is supposed to be two lives blended as one.