It was a slow night at work and my young co-worker told me she thought she’d found the right guy. You know, The One. She asked me how long I’d been married and if we’d had any struggles. I laughed out loud. I told her that my husband and I were going on twenty-eight years and “Yes, we’d had our share of struggles! Every marriage has struggles!” She began to shoot questions at me about how to know she could make marriage be successful too.
The first time I saw Pete was on a Sunday morning in church. I looked across the room and there he sat. I couldn’t concentrate. I just kept staring. He was wearing a black pair of trousers, a charcoal gray tweed suit coat, and a burgundy tie. He had just graduated from University, and that was his suit for the event, something that I would rarely see again. But, no matter, he had caught my eye. He caught my attention again when I saw him driving his motorcycle; it gave him a bit of a rebel edge. Admittedly, I was attracted to him for surface appearances, but once we started spending time together, I wanted to be with him all the time because of who he was. He made me laugh and feel silly. His eyes, well… I lost track of time. He made me feel special and secure, and we had real conversations about what we believed and why. Pete questioned my ideas and dared me to think deeper. I liked that. I wasn’t used to conversations like that. No one had ever asked for my opinions.
I married Pete in November of 1986. We promised for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part. I promised. He promised. I vowed to be faithful to this man that I loved, not knowing what I was really pledging.
In time, I would realize that I was promising to cherish him, even though he insisted I never mow the lawn. (I wanted to mow the lawn.) He was promising to cherish me even when my experimental cooking went wrong, and when I did get it right, the kitchen was still a mess! I blindly promised to love him when he was grouchy and harsh with his words. He promised to love me, when I over-committed at church and the kid’s school activities, pulling me away from time with him. We promised to uphold each other through it all. Through his decision to leave a successful job and take a five month break, making me nervous about finances. Pete loved me through my insecure frumpy stage when I was learning that “sexy” and “Christian” can go together. We promised to persevere through our stubbornness, independence, and selfishness. We promised to cherish each other through our strengths and weaknesses.
She asked, “How can I know I can make it to twenty-eight years in marriage?”
Honestly, it takes work.
There are moments of bliss. There are seasons of red hot passion and meaningful friendship. But in between those moments and seasons, there is still laundry and dishes, bills and boredom, anger, heartache, and the worries of life.
In our first year of marriage, I found myself thinking, “This is not how I thought it would be!” Pete hurt my feelings so many times. He had lived independently before we married, and I had not. Looking back, he admits to thinking it wasn’t how he thought it would be either. But, we had seen marriages fall apart around us and that was motivation to make sure that we did not give up.
When Pete had a heart attack last January, the possibility that I might lose him became all too real. For a time, we lived in a bit of a bubble of joy, knowing we’d dodged a bullet, and then, life began to return to normal. Once again, he said something insensitive or I did something selfish. We are who we are. We are two flawed people who chose to grow old together, commit our lives to one another, aiming in the same direction. We share similar interests, dreams, and values. He knows what will make me fume and what will melt my heart and I do him, too.
On our wedding day we promised to “love and cherish” for the rest of our lives. It was an easy promise to make; we were young and hopeful. But those words are daily promises to strive toward unity.
We are no longer young, but we are still hopeful. I still get lost in his eyes and he can still make me lose track of time. The only way to make it to year twenty-eight, twenty-nine, and thirty is to move forward, forgive, be nice, have fun, and commit to making it work.