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Why Marriage is Hard

I feel like starting this off with a title such as that makes it seem like 1) this is going to be a depressing post (it’s not) and 2) I’m somehow going to write about ALL the reasons why marriage isn’t always a skip through the park (I’m not). My desire for this post is that, by being vulnerable and open with all of you, you’ll find some humor +  honest encouragement + “I’m not alone” feelings from our story. While sharing these situations with a couple of my girlfriends over the past week-ish, I was reminded when they shared similar moments with me that these experiences are, for the most part, universal to all marriages, so I’m betting y’all can relate to what’s coming 😉

Let me just preface these next bits by saying that Luke and I had already talked a lot pre-marriage about how we understood that communication and staying vigilant to fight against selfishness would always be an area to work on because, we’re humans. And also because we’re so different and don’t think alike and blah blah blah. I had almost zero idea what we were in for.

For example, last week, Luke was gone up to Atlanta for an overnight work trip. While he was gone, I got our two new box springs all put together, drug the HEAVY new Casper mattress across the house from the guest room into our room, and did a whole host of other exciting house chores. By the time he got back late Wednesday night, well after 1am, I was pooped and lying down on the couch and already engrossed in Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please”, so I thought to myself that I’d just keep lying there when he walked through the door, and he could just come over and give me a kiss and I’d be really excited to see him from there (which I was).

His return went pretty much just like that actually (except for the little catch in my spirit that I tried to shush), and while he unpacked his tiny travel toothpaste and dirty clothes afterwards, I followed him around regaling him with stories about all the things that I’d done around the house that day, since he hadn’t commented on that yet and I wanted him to notice all the things. He said how great the house looked and was awfully sweet about it all. (Poor guy had had a crazy schedule the past two days, had been stuck at the airport for HOURS, and had just walked in the door exhausted and already ready for bed.)

When we got in bed that night, he mentioned briefly that it felt a little weird to him that I hadn’t gotten up to say hi when I knew he’d pulled in and was headed towards the front door. And my heart sunk, because it hit me just then that the little catch in my spirit from earlier was probably something Someone I should have paid more attention to listening to instead of shushing. Inside my head, where it’s a perfect world and I’m not selfish at all (HA!), I want to always let Luke know that I love, respect, and cherish him, and that I’m always excited to see him because he has tremendous value in my life. What my actions said that night he came home, though, despite it being a seemingly innocuous-ish choice in the moment, was that I cared more about myself (which was sadly true) and what I was doing (reading a book! doing things!) than conveying to him how excited I was that he was home and we were back together. Wife fail.

On top of that, I also realized (and am still realizing) that there was some significant selfishness swirling around when I  recounted my list of household accomplishments to him, because what I was really looking for, deep down, was for him to recognize how much I was doing (all the things, obviously) and to feel really thankful that for that. URGH, who am I?!

(Guys, please don’t judge me. I told you ahead of time that I was going to be all kinds of vulnerable.)

In case that last question created any amount of suspense in your mind, here’s the answer, plain and simple: who I am is a selfish sinner who most often, without Jesus, would rather care about myself and do the things that want to do rather than learn to be a Christ-lead wife and serve my husband in any way that I can.

* A tiny caveat here: I realize that, in action alone, staying on the couch vs getting up when Luke came home is a tiny issue. What I’m trying to get across is my giant heart issue behind it. It’s real big.

* A tiny second caveat here: Luke has read this entire post, from beginning to end, and he’s 100% on board with what it says and the level of details it does or doesn’t include, just so y’all know I didn’t go all crazy wife on him and share too much 😉

When we woke up the next morning, I was feeling pretty disappointed in myself and ashamed of how selfish I knew I’d been, coupled with sensing a bit of distance and weirdness between Luke and I. Plus, I didn’t feel great about the idea of him leaving for work with how yucky things seemed. I also remember hearing tiny little contradicting lies buzz around my ears that morning: It isn’t that big of a deal. It’s a huge deal and this is complicated. Everything feels strange now and this distance is awkward and won’t just disappear, etc. Lies. Lies. Lies.

Thankfully, it all came to a point when we sat down on the couch together and I started blabbering about my jumbled feelings and saying things like I was sorry and really selfish and didn’t understand or even know all my own racing thoughts. From there, we made the time to sit down together, face to face, and start untangling all the parts of the night before that had left us both feeling a little off. In fact, Luke ended up leaving for work much later than he’d originally planned because he invested that time into our marriage, listening, sharing, and infusing our conversation with gentleness and lots of love, until all the weird feelings were gone and we were standing on the other side of it all holding hands, feeling like we’d done the real, tough work of fighting for our marriage and forgiving and being vulnerable and re-connecting.

Why am I sharing all this with you??? Because I think it’s so important that couples share their real, honest, “behind closed doors” lives with other people so that light and truth and healing and courage can start sprouting up in their lives, too! I think something incredible happens when we realize that we’re not alone and that, whether it’s during seemingly silly moments or right in the middle of a terrible crisis, ALL couples experience breakdowns in communication and surprising amounts of deep-rooted selfishness. And by surprising, I mean that I think selfishness isn’t always so obvious when we’re by ourselves and no one is there to call us out on it or be hurt by it or pray for us as we wrestle with it.

Marriage IS hard! It’s a daily, sometimes minute by minute, surrendering of self and sanding down of rough edges and tears and you before me and I’m sorry and I forgive you and let’s try again. But do you know what else it is? It’s knowing and being known and laughter and inside jokes and late night drives and I’m your biggest fan and I’m totally committed to you no matter what and you’re pretty and let’s make out and I love you and thanks for doing the dishes and surprise flowers.

More than all those things though (and they are already really wonderful), marriage is a stunning and humbling reflection of the Gospel! It’s a tiny glimpse of the relationship we enter into with Christ when we say yes to His pull on our hearts. Marriage reminds us that Jesus is our tender Groom and we are His restored bride. HE set the standard for marriage by doing all of the things He asks us to do for our spouses! Jesus fought for His bride (you and me and the church) by pursuing us at our most unlovely moments, laying down His whole self for us, continually forgiving us when our selfishness rears it’s ugly head, and erasing ALL of the distance and shame and disappointment that separate us from Him. He showers us in forgiveness and grace, and loves us with a deep, abiding, never ending, because-I-promised-to love, when the easiest, most convenient thing to do would be to walk away and give up on us. 

Yes, marriage is hard. Really hard, sometimes. But it is also gloriously life-giving because it reminds us of our value in God’s eyes and as a result, gives us the opportunity to love and cherish our spouses in the same, sometimes difficult ways. Luke did this for me last Thursday morning sitting next to me on our couch. He showed me that I have great value and worth, no matter how ashamed or disappointed in myself I was. Because he is committed to the covenant we made, he stayed present to do the hard work of pursuing me in conversation and healing, even though I felt prickly and overwhelmed and ewwwww I’m gross. That morning, he treated me like Jesus does, and reminded me again that marriage is totally, completely, always, worth it ♥

ADDENDUM

Because it’s usually more fun to end on a light hearted note, yes? ….. When we were on the couch talking through my Proclamation of All The Things, Luke reminded me again that as a guy, he really, truly just doesn’t passively notice a lot of those kinds of things (around the house or sometimes in life in general), and he has to actively, intentionally work at being more observant. Women, please back me up here: this is COMPLETELY FOREIGN to us, no?? As a woman (at least I think that’s why), I am acutely aware of all the details and intricacies of our home, and usually, most all other parts of my life, too. And usually all at the same time! ? I am simultaneously aware of: Where all the clumps of dog hair are (how the heck does she shed so much??). That I haven’t scrubbed the shower in…a while. That Luke and I haven’t really talked talked in ____ days. That I still need to mop, because, look at the floor. That there are “weird feels” between me and so and so. That it was super sweet of him to clean up the kitchen before he left for work. That the recycling is piling up and the pet’s water bowl is empty. That I need to be less critical. That it’s such a pretty day out. ETC ETC ETC. Phew, women’s minds are a crazy place sometimes!

Anyways, this difference in thinking was hilariously obvious that morning when Luke got down a cast iron pan from the cupboard to make eggs, and I asked why he wasn’t using the one that was already.on.the.stove, not five inches from where he’d put the other one. And do you know what he told me?? “I didn’t even notice the other pan! I was wondering where it’d ended up”. ????

Our Wedding Photo | Jaclyn Schmitz Photography

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10 Comments

  • Erin Simpson

    Reply

    I’m in tears! Thank you for your honesty, Sissy. Almost 12 years into this dream journey with David (and our sweet cheek kiddies) and I still fall short. I still look at him with the “what on earth?!? ” look and realize that even though we are getting to a point of thinking and saying the same thing more and more, we still run our different “processors” quite often. 🙂 FYI…you and I speak the same language of “awareness of all things”. 🙂 <3

    April 28, 2016 at 8:17 pm
  • Anna Weigle

    Reply

    Jenny (and Luke), oh my goodness, THANK YOU. Honesty about marriage like this is desperately needed in our broken world. You are right, this post is completely 100% relateable to any married person ever. Thank you for your vulnerability in this.

    April 28, 2016 at 9:37 pm
  • Michelle Hancock

    Reply

    Your transparent real-ness is so inspiring. Love you friend. So proud of you and the incredible woman and wife you are!

    April 28, 2016 at 10:37 pm
  • Kara Witt

    Reply

    Love this post Jenny. If we would all just be real about our marriage struggles and come alongside each other and encourage one another there would be a lot more successful marriages. We need to fight for our marriages and work through the hard times. This was such an encouragement to me to do better!

    April 28, 2016 at 11:18 pm
  • You got me off the couch Jenny! (or should I say off the farm) When he gets home I may scare him when he sees me greeting him at the door! (something I haven’t done in a long time.) I so appreciate your openness, honesty and encouragement! Were all in this together! Love YOU! 🙂

    April 30, 2016 at 12:44 am

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