Sometimes I'm standing at the kitchen sink, rainbow bubbles foaming from an old rag turned wash cloth, water so hot it's almost unbearable; my heart aches. Married life can be fun and fulfilling and joyous. More often it is a struggle, work, a balancing act of keeping quiet when all you want is to yell about your feelings and unmet expectations. It's a journey of learning to be vulnerable and true with another person, while still honoring their beliefs and needs and desires and perceptions. All this, and then figuring out how to still get your needs met while you pour out self to the other. It is growth. It is stretching. It can be pain, strife, bitterness, anguish. It can be connection, joy, loyalty, truth.
I was married under an ancient tree, friends and family looking on, crimson sunset forming in the west, white dress. My best friend watched as I walked down a grassy aisle to him, his face was stoic, serious, fighting tears and joy all at once. We kissed for the first time after profession of vows. I honestly don't remember everything we said to one another, but I know that when we proclaimed this rite, we proclaimed it forever. And we meant it. The sincerity between us and in front of God and fellows has brought me peace in these nine years, knowing there will never be an option in either of our eyes to not work, to not give it our all and fight for connection. I am deeply thankful for that as a woman who comes from a family wrought with divorce and brokenness. We will start a new story, a new path and example.
When we first got married, I remember saying that I thought it was silly for husbands to buy flowers for their wives. A waste of money on something that would quickly erode. So desperate was I to be a desirable wife. I see now how deep in my core is the need to be seen as beautiful, to be surrounded by beauty, to create it in my own space and to be showered with simple affections. I love flowers.
I think there are some truths that have taken me a long time to learn, and some prior thought truths that I now need to unlearn. As a Christ follower I created an ideal of constant pouring out, unceasing selflessness with an expectation that it would be returned naturally, that I wouldn't have to communicate my needs. I feared being a nag. I thought my desires for thoughtfulness, for giving and concern were obvious and would be met out of a natural response to my own giving. These years have taught me that unmet expectations that were never voiced are unfair weapons. The daggers of my tears over feeling unseen are only valid if I have communicated a desire to be noticed, and, specifically, what that best looks like for me. If I want my husband to act or serve, I should tell him that it is a need, of great value.
Today, if some one were to ask me what I think the number one most important thing in a marriage might be, I would answer with "communication." Any two people who are willing to bend and flex for one another can succeed in marriage, but they must work diligently to learn how to best communicate their wants and needs and hopes and dreams to the other. I am just this year really learning this, and wish I had known so long ago that being a "good" wife doesn't mean creating the appearance of not needing anything. All the years of living that way didn't create a bond, it created distance and sometimes, bitterness. All of which was brooding under the surface, hidden from the heart of the one who wants me to be happy, and who wants to share in that happiness.
Each day now is a challenge to be fully seen by the one my heart loves. To not be a false picture of contentment, but to be a connector of hearts, even if that means conflict or hard times have to be fought through. Those difficult times are worth it, they wash away the scabs of the fallen and heal with the balm of new a beginning.