How we met

One of the reasons I’ve been thinking about marriage so much is that I was asked to write a guest post on Bethany Eicher‘s blog about “How We Met” – the story of Ryan and I.

So if you’re in the mood for a romantic story, not too sappy I hope, and not without its fumblebumbles, pop over to About My Father’s Business and read it.

Story here.

(Okay, well it is a little sappy I guess.)

What I’ve *not* learned in marriage

This is the finale of a little series on marriage. Start at the beginning here.


  1. How to make firm decisions in his absence
  2. How to enjoy giving him gifts of really-boring-guy-stuff-that-he-knows-he’s-getting-because-he-picked-it-but-he-still-wants-badly
  3. How to stop talking when we’re on a date
  4. How to spend without guilt the money he earned for us
  5. How to make excuses for his family as easily as I do for mine
  6. How to accept his (rare) corrections without excuses, anger, or tears
  7. How to live without him, even for relatively short periods of time
  8. How to graciously allow him to change
  9. Or not change
  10. How to know when the joke is not funny

So yeah, I still have my work cut out for me.

The End

What I’ve learned in marriage: to worship

Confession: It took me a long time to circle around to the most basic marriage secret of all. I don’t mean here on my blog. I mean in actual living.

If my marriage is to be successful (radiant, life-giving, and permanent), I have to believe my husband is the best thing since sliced bread.

NO DUH. That’s why I married him, right? But sometime soon after the honeymoon sea breezes (and sometimes during), there’s an entire boatload of reality checks waiting for both of you. You can’t live for weeks and months and years with another human without plunging deep into the good, the bad, and the ugly.

She doesn’t like to be told what groceries to buy. He can’t stand when she uses his tools. She wishes to goodness that he’d dress up like he did when they were dating, and think about something other than sex. He wonders if she always leaves socks strewn around like this, and what’s to become of the tub with all that hair going down the drain.

Marriage is hard work. Marriage is exactly designed to rub the bloom off the romance and make that lovey dove sit up and face the music. The loud, annoying music at 3 am. (Oh wait, that’s him snoring.) The hardest work of all is to keep believing in love, to keep polishing it fresh and clean and sweet, to keep remembering that you are the luckiest kid in the world to be waking up every morning beside this amazing person with a bedhead.

I’m not trying to be flippant. I know what I’m talking about, and it’s not easy. Our marriage has had times so painful that I didn’t know if we’d make it through, months when love felt like death. I know what it’s like to wish you’d never given your heart to this man to hurt.

One of the best wedding sermons I’ve heard was in Washington state, by a preacher whose name I’ve forgotten. He stood before the bride and groom and talked about the impossibly solemn vows they were about to take – to really do this thing – “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.” It’s CRAZY, he said. It’s the kind of thing you would shiver to bind yourself to under normal circumstances. But while she’s loopy with love and has no idea what she’s getting into, she’ll look into his eyes and giggle, “Of course I’ll do all those things.”

Infatuated feelings of love are like training wheels, he said. They help you learn to drive right.

Those first giddy feelings won’t last the marriage, but after a while you’ll get the hang of this thing. There are entire levels of stunt driving that the newlyweds haven’t dreamed of. We don’t say “it gets better” just to trick them. It really. gets. better. There is nothing so exhilarating and satisfying as living with love for years and years – past the stress points and into the joy again, never giving yourself to another, putting all your eggs in this one basket forever, and being full-on certain that you are safe and known and beloved. It is riotous; there is nothing like it, folks.

But you must keep your balance, and you must keep peddling.

So when the marriage is a little wobbly and you’re not sure you remember how to steer, pretend you’re back in love kindergarten. Lay down all the scorn and the defenses. Meet him at the door with a hug. Take a little time to talk. Change the light bulb yourself. Write a sweet note. Cook his favorite food. Hide a chocolate on his pillow. Give him the better shovel [wink]. Anticipate your evenings together. Brag him up to a mutual friend. Take some extra minutes to iron that shirt. Scent the house with fresh coffee when he comes home. Use less words, more touch. Buy the kind he likes. Make it all about him.

I know, I know what I’m saying and how psychotic it sounds when you’re walking through disillusionment or pain. But someone has to start this process, and Jesus said that when you lay down your life you find it. Fake it till you make it, honey; the happiness will come back.

Once you have given yourself to this man before God and these witnesses, your path to joy lies through reverencing him, and it is best done with your body. I am talking about romantic intimacy, and I am talking about it as a conduit for more, and I would appreciate if you don’t pass out on me. Act out your love in ways both of you can see and feel and taste and hear. Put some sparkle in your eyes. Above all, give him access to you. He needs to know he’s accepted, and enough. You need to know you’re beloved to the core. The more completely you offer yourself to him, the deeper your love can grow.

There is pain that damages intimacy, and for it there are no easy fixes. But lovemaking is an integral marriage-building device. It is the highest act of human devotion, next to worship and inseparable from it, one of the portals where humans access the divine. It requires the mind and spirit to participate in what the body is doing: to give unselfishly, entirely, unequivocally, until death do us part. It heals holes in the heart. It teaches the emotions to dance again. It shows how the abdication of self and the fulfillment of self are one and the same. If you belong to Jesus, every act of love for your husband is an act of worship for Christ.

Love with abandon. And soon you’ll remember why you thought he was amazing. He’ll be that amazing, and you’ll be the luckiest kid in the world.


* If you could not read this post without pain because of loss, betrayal, or loneliness, please x out of this blog and call up a friend you trust to listen well. You don’t have to walk your path alone. xo

* On a lighter note, and just for the record, my man doesn’t snore. The other examples given about groceries, tools, socks, and drains are likewise purely fictitious; any resemblance to real persons either living or dead is highly accidental and probably a figment of your imagination. I would be happy to share our own factual examples with you, but regrettably, they are protected by the Official Secrets Act of 2003. Sorry.

What I’ve learned in marriage: to wait

Confession: The other day I was texting with two friends at once. This is quite a feat for me, a slow texter. Fortunately, we were group messaging. Unfortunately, they were talking circles around me.

We were contemplating whether the rewards of attending a ladies’ seminar together would be worth the gigantic hurdles of a) the spouse permission process, signed in triplicate, b) babysitters, c) meals, d) adequate clothing for appearing in public at a fancy event, and e) how many of us will be pregnant by that time.

Hence the utter poverty of my texting approach, which comes out to roughly two words every fifteen minutes. I pretended I was driving and couldn’t endanger the lives of my children.

(Okay, I was driving. But not the whole time.)

One friend said, So how do you go about broaching this subject with your husband? Sometimes I really wish I could see into how these conversations go for other couples.*

I dodged, because it felt like too much to say:

In our house, it aalllll depends. He likes task lists by email, so he has a visual. He likes big conversations after the kids are in bed, but not just as we’re about to drop off to sleep. He likes to save the little things for when he’s *not working in his office, and the touchy things for when I’m *not simultaneously making supper, balancing a baby on one hip, directing several children in cleaning up the living room, listening to music, and opening the door so the cat can get outside. (This happens at our house.) There is an awful knack to picking the right time and medium.

You know how long that would have taken me to text!

But she persisted. I really want to know.

Okay, I said. Well.

What I do is I mention it sort of casually, like ‘Hey, today I was texting with x and x about whether we should try for Oasis this year or just hit the beach instead. Hahaha.’

(Which, regrettably, is true – but don’t forget the context of hahaha.)

And then I drop it entirely. I used to always follow up by pressing for an answer right away – ‘Well, what do you think about me going?’ – but after a while I realized it’s simply not how his brain works. So I drop the seed and let it go, and by the time I return to the topic a couple of days later, he’s had time to get used to the idea. Sometimes he even has a plan made.

That took just as long to text. But it is also smarter than it appears at first blush.

You know I’m trying to be more direct than in previous years. In saying this now, I’m not undermining being direct; I’m highlighting the fact that being direct does not mean being urgent, pushy, and non-strategic. I don’t know about your man, but mine likes time to think on things. He doesn’t think on things by talking about things. When I keep asking it’s like poking the same spot over and over: he develops a bruise, and winces away. He needs to answer in his own time.

So I lay it out casually (one time), and when it feels ripe I ask (one time) for real.

And then whether he says yes or no, whether he acts on the matter as lightning or as molasses, I try hard to keep my mouth shut.

Sometimes it even works.


P.S. I hope he is not reading this post. That would kind of give everything away, wouldn’t it?

* Unfortunately my phone ate our conversation, so this is not verbatim, but I will not be held responsible for accidents.

What I’ve learned in marriage: to be direct

Confession: Not many years ago, when I was young, I was under the impression that the best way to ask a favor or broach a difficult subject was to sidle up to it gently. I always preferred to drop enough hints about where I was heading that the other person could a) offer the adjustment or favor of their own initiative if they were so inclined, or b) steer the conversation away if they were not. This inclination reflects both how I was raised as a Minnesotan child* and who I am as a person.

It almost made my husband crazy.

Mr. Direct Speech, whom I married by accident while marrying Mr. Handsome, Mr. Intelligent, Mr. Merciful, Mr. Good with Words, and Mr. Great Volleyball Player insisted that I say what I wanted to say, a cruel and unusual punishment, as anyone who shares my dislike of unpleasant conversations will easily see.

“Honey. Um. Honey, I feel like you’re – What is the speed limit through here? Isn’t it forty-five miles an hour? I mean, I don’t want to tell you how to drive, but the baby – !” He prefers that I drop all that and substitute this, which feel impossibly rude and impolitic: “Ryan, you’re driving like Jehu. Please slow down.”

He put a stop to “Do you know what time it is??” and “Are you hoping to get to that project today??” and “Oh shoot, I forgot the salt and pepper…??” (Double question marks in any situation are his abhorrence, and “Do you want to…?” is even worse. Um, no. He doesn’t.) He is teaching me to say, “It’s time to go” and “Would you add this to your task list?” and “Will you please bring salt and pepper to the table?”

Seriously??

It took years to learn. Perhaps I should say it has taken years, and it is still taking years, and it is about to have taken more years, until death do us part. But he will not give up on me.

It’s almost making me crazy.


* I had never factored geography into my makeup until I read this line: “He had been through many of these conversations. He has a calm, reassuring air and a native Minnesotan’s tendency to avoid confrontation or over-intimacy.” It cracked me right up. – Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, Metropolitan Books, 2014, p. 166.

Which brings to mind another quote: “I like that about myself, and I like myself, and I have a lot of other great qualities as well.” – Marcel the Shell