This post, just like this one, is a part of the Synchroblog series, a group of diverse bloggers exploring through words what matters. This month’s prompt: If I could go back in time and tell myself something I wish I knew…
This month marks the 12th(!) marriage anniversary for my best friend and I. And like all relationships, ours was born of a certain context which defined the paradigms of “us.” Our marriage nearly ended after it begun; some of those paradigms created the toxic battle ground on which we almost imploded. So if I could, I would go back and redefine some of those paradigms.
Paradigm #1 Redefined–The only role you should adhere to is the one that works for you, for him, and for the both of you. Spending my formative years in a radical, conservative church meant that I was designated, as the woman, to be the “helper.” I was not to lead; I was to follow. I was to be subdued, with a gentle and quiet spirit, beside my man, nodding gracefully as he made the decisions. This fostered so much disharmony in me. I was a natural, dynamic leader…who needed a man to get anything great done.(?) Nothing in me was quiet and gentle. These innate abilities led me to question God frequently and doubt my role in His Kingdom. “Why would you make me like this, if I just have to diminish it, if I can’t really use it unless there is a man in the picture?” As one could imagine, all these predefined roles and the oppressive weight they carried walked down the aisle with Dave and I. Our natural personalities, obviously oversimplified, were: me, loud and obnoxious, the life of the party. Dave: quiet and pensive, the servant behind the scenes. And always I felt condemned by “the Biblical role,” for those roles were opposite what they were supposed to be!
After much struggle and maneuvering and talking, Dave and I have found our path away from those traditional, predefined roles. We just are. We just make it work. We navigate roles like some form of relationship code-switching. We are a true partnership.
Paradigm #2 Redefined–Let go of expectations. This naturally follows the first. What almost destroyed our marriage were the “supposed tos”. He was supposed to lead. I was supposed to follow. He was supposed to make decisions. I was supposed to submit. He was supposed to come home to a warm dinner that I was supposed to have prepared. He was supposed to plan romantic date nights and I was supposed to give it up. We were supposed to have passionate, active sex lives. He was supposed to initiate and I was supposed to respond. He was supposed to seek leadership opportunities while I was supposed to stand behind him. We were supposed to have deep friendships. We were supposed to balance the art and science of being newlyweds while devoting exorbitant amounts of time to the church. He was supposed to do this and this and this as a model Christian, while I was supposed to do that and that and that. Dave and I were so consumed with what we were “supposed to be like” the first years of our marriage, we lost all track of what was actually happening and how it should be addressed. Most of our fights centered around:”well it should be like this, or I should feel this way, or you should be doing this…” The landmines of a marriage: should ofs and supposed tos.
The place we have come to now, thank God, is something along the lines of old adage: “we make the road by walking.” We needed to let go of expectations of what the road should be like and just be present together, carving it, stopping and rerouting after a good old-fashioned fight, napping along the way, noticing other roads without judgment, making and remaking companions, maybe pausing for fireworks–or let’s face it, just sparklers.
In the end, what I wish I would have known, is there is no such thing as a perfect marriage, or even an ideal marriage. The only thing that matters is two present people stubbornly committed to the messy motto of: keep on keeping on.
For other voices writing to the same prompt…
- Justin Steckbauer – What Do You Wish You Knew 10 or 20 years ago?
- Michael Donahoe – What I Wish I had Known
- Mary – What I Wish I Would Have Known as a Newlywed
- Heather Wheat – As a Young Mother, I Wish I Had Known…
- Michelle – Ten Years of Wisdom
- Michelle – Twenty Years of Wisdom
- Wesley Rostoll – If I Could Speak to a Younger Version of Me
- Peggy – From Peggy … To Peggy
- Glenn Hager – The Reluctant Time Lord
- Carol Kuniholm – Life Lessons from Lydia
- Edwin Adrich – A Note to My Younger Self
- Paul Metler – A Note to my 20 Year Ago Self
- Liz Dyer – Dear Me
- Kathy Escobar – Never Say Never
- Jeremy Myers – A Letter to the “Me” of 15 Years Ago