Our 35th anniversary is in three days, on July 14. In those 35 years we’ve had long stretches where life seemed to just flow along—work, family time, kids, church—and other times when it felt as if we were wading through muck. But even when life is at its hardest, I love being married to Pete. If I had the choice all over again, I would marry him in a heartbeat. However, there are a few things I wish I had known before I said “I do.”
Lest you think I had some sort of unpleasant surprise once Pete and I moved in together, let me assure you that’s not the case. Oh, he has a few bad habits. He leaves sock lint on the carpet and apple cores in the car. He spends too much time helping other people, and not enough time spoiling me. And he puts ketchup on my homemade macaroni and cheese. But all in all, Pete is one terrific guy, and I’m blessed to have him.
The ugly things I learned as a newlywed weren’t about Pete at all. There were about me. You see, I’m not perfect.
I know, it’s a shock.
The first thing I discovered was that I’m quite unreasonable. Pete and I both worked full time, he as a software engineer and me as a high school science teacher. We sat down and divided the chores between us, each taking on the tasks the other hated the most. I cooked and cleaned, he did laundry and vacuumed. I paid the bills, he calculated our taxes. I did the gardening, he took out the trash.
And then one week, he forgot to put the trash can out by the curb. Horrors. From the way I carried on, you’d think he’d gone skydiving without a parachute!
Once I came to my senses, I was totally ashamed at my tantrum. Yeesh, how must he feel being married to such an impossible woman?
Another lesson I learned was that I’m very demanding. You’d think I had hired a maid, not married a husband. Oh Pete, would you rub my back? Sweetie, could you please stop by the market on your way home? Oh dear, I’m thirsty and I’m already all tucked into bed with lotion on my feet. I sure don’t want to track that across the floor….
Remarkably, my long-suffering husband would rub my back, pick up groceries, and pour me a glass of water. I mean really.
Then, I discovered that I’m insufferably selfish. It was Memorial Day, and Pete had an extra day off. He obviously wanted to kick back and relax a bit, perhaps read a book then grill some burgers. But we had recently purchased our first house, and I wanted the entire yard rototilled. Guess what we did? Or, I should say, guess what Pete did while I watched and offered criticism, er, advice. (Here are the results, after adding some landscaping.)
Yes, over the course of that first year I realized that ultimately I’m unreasonable, demanding, and selfish. I’m in it for me. I thought I was mature enough to get married. After all, I was 24 and I’d been a Christian for six years—wasn’t God done with me yet?
Now, 35 years later, I wonder if He’s even begun. I still find myself being unreasonable, demanding, and selfish. It’s a tribute to Pete’s patience and love that we have such a fulfilling marriage.
Living as close to another person as we do in marriage, it’s not a surprise that God uses the opportunity to convict and improve us. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” Pete and I are best friends, and we’ve certainly rubbed off a lot of burrs over the years.
Donald Miller, in his book Father Fiction, writes:
“… relationships, while rewarding, actually make life harder. They will bless your life, but they will bless your life through sacrifice.”
Perhaps that’s one reason God invented marriage in the first place. Living day in and day out with someone else means I can’t focus only on myself. And, since I care for that person, and want them to be happy, I have to submit to God and allow Him to love my spouse through me. It’s easier to be selfish; it hurts to die to oneself.
A quote I heard recently sums it up perfectly:
“Marriage isn’t for our satisfaction, it’s for our sanctification.”
Ain’t it the truth!