I was watching Inside Out the other night for the first time. Oh, the feels. THE FEELS. Literally, figuratively, metaphorically, grammatically. ALL THE FEELS. If you haven't seen it, do it. Right now. If it doesn't move you, I'm 97.9% sure you are a gargoyle. You should see someone about that. I could write a whole book on the lessons and beauty of that movie. But, I'll spare you. One small piece I was struck by while watching, in the tide of emotions, was Riley's imaginary boyfriend. It caught my attention, because, yeah, that was totally a thing when I was eleven.
Heck, it's been a thing my whole life. There's never been a time I didn't love boys and the idea of marriage. Not having a family (no pretend babies in my childhood), but a husband. My first boyfriend was in kindergarten and we would blow kisses to each other from our nap towels. Alas, my first love wasn't meant to be.
In elementary school it was boys with cool hair and who were good at kickball. In middle school it was boys who were rebels and smoked cigarettes behind the school. In high school it was mature older guys who had accents and a job. You work at KFC? That'ts the dream!
And, so on. I dated, I had serious relationships, I feel in "love," and through it all I dreamed of being married. I dreamed about getting flowers everyday and being showered with compliments. I dreamed of starlight picnics and cuddling on the couch. Marriage was going to be the epitome of my life, it was THE DREAM (it did evolve at some point past the guy having a job at a chicken fast food restaurant).
And then, when I was 21, I met John. He was tall and handsome, hard-working, and very funny. We started dating, and then we got engaged, and then got married 6 years ago. There were fairy tale moments (I'll write a post sometime about our engagement story, and you will weep from the beauty of it. WEEP, I tell you) and still are. But.... there's been a lot of shit, too.
I always joke that John and I have not taken the rainbow and butterflies approach to marriage, rather the clawing tooth and nail to make it work approach.
There have been struggles from day one. I remember early in our marriage fighting about something. Whatever the topic was it ended with me saying, "fine, just go." John turned to leave. And I threw a role of paper towels. At his head.
He's hurt my feelings. I've used my words as weapons. We've ignored each other's needs. We've isolated from each other. There's been yelling and tears. The paper towels were not the last thing I threw. It has been ugly. Sometimes REAL ugly.
Eleven year-old me would be horrified.
Oh, the lovely but.
It's all been worth it. Cue the cheeeeeeeese!
Every morning John gets up to let the dogs out (did I mention he's good looking, and a saint?) and when he comes back he shoves into my side of the bed, wraps around me, and steals all my stored up warmth.
He worries about my feelings when I've backed my car into his, not worrying about the unnecessary damage I've done.
He follows me around Comic Con, regardless of what insane outfit I'm wearing.
He tells me not to give up when I feel defeated, reminding me of my giftings and success. His encouragement has, at times, propelled me through grad school when I have had nothing left to give.
Why am I writing all this? Partially so everyone can know how great my husband is, because he does not toot his own horn. I encourage through writing and words, so this is a way for me to show love.
There's the obvious point that marriage probably won't look like you thought it would. And for sure not what you thought it would be as a child.
But, the main point is, no one can tell you what marriage should look like. Some people are able to work solely on butterflies and rainbows in their marriage. Some people fight fiercely, and love equally so. Some people have crap communication but show love in other ways. There's no one way to define intimacy. Priorities are different. Growth is different. Pain is different.
Marriage is hard enough figuring it out between two people - we don't need to make it harder by incorporating other people's views of what is right. Basically, you do you.
Marriage is not at all what I expected it would be. It's not what I was told it would be. There is not a rubric I'm grading it on. Marriage, for me, is the unique, wonderful relationship between me and John. It's constantly evolving, it's high and low, it's painful and healing, it reveals God to me and the ugliness of being human. It's our story, in all its complexity and simplicity.