I grew up watching a lot of soap operas. They were on all day at my babysitter’s. I also was very drawn to romance novels when I was a teen. Not the trashy kind, mind you, but the knight-in-shining-armor kind. I think I was drawn to these because they created a picture of love and romance that looked so much more “romantic” than anything I ever saw in my family. My parents were divorced and my step-dad seemed to delight in criticizing and demeaning my mom whenever the chance arose. So, I guess, my little heart created a picture of what a perfect relationship, a perfect marriage, looked like (and in truth, it very closely resembled a Disney princess movie).
This did not bode well for Hubby when we got married. I had such expectations! And I literally strangled the poor man with my idealism. It got bad. So bad, I had my bags packed one night in our first year of marriage, ready to get out of Dodge. This was NOT what I signed up for! This was not the way a marriage was supposed to be! How dare he work late when he could be home having long talks about deep subjects with me! How dare he tell me he got wrapped up in work and not call to tell me he would be home 30 minutes late! Obviously, I wasn’t important to him, if I could be replaced with work so easily in his mind. Didn’t husbands who really loved their wives make a big to-do for Valentine’s day and how dare he not make our anniversary into a major ordeal! Where were my 2 dozen roses and Hallmark cards and pieces of jewelry, signifying his love and affection for me?!
Ugh! I throw up a little bit in my mouth just thinking of what I was like to live with. But I, like so many young wives, bought into a false view of what love was. I wish I could scream it from the roof tops: Movie love is a lie!!! Daytime drama love is a lie! Romance novel love? Lies! All lies!
Today is Hubby and my 25th anniversary. It is a day that makes me very reflective. I am so thankful that God got ahold of me, early in my marriage. He transformed my heart and that transformed my life. I can’t say that it radically changed my marriage, but it did radically change me, and THAT changed my marriage.
I wish I could talk to my 23 year old self. I wish I could tell her that real love is very different from what she grew up with and it is also very different from the ideal she had created in her mind. Real love is a man who promises to be faithful to you and then keeps that promise. Real love is a man who makes the choice to honor the commitment he made at the alter. Real love is a man who treats you with kindness, year after hormonal year. Real love is a man who goes to work to provide for his family, even when he feels like he has been hit by a truck. Real love is a man who loves you, values you and cherishes you, even with the 30 extra pounds that have snuck onto your aging body. Oh, my goodness, 23 year old me! A hallmark card is a piece of paper someone else wrote, that costs a few bucks! Roses last a week, if that, and then they look dead and sad! A man who gets up with you, even though he has to go to work the next day, when you have puking kids, so you don’t have to do it alone? Priceless! A man who has NEVER ONCE complained about your less than perfect culinary and housekeeping skills? Priceless! A man, who without a single grumble or complaint, willingly forgoes the fun and expensive toys that all of his friends have, so that your medically complicated child can have the food, medicine and medical care she needs? Beyond priceless!
If I were President of the World, I would update wedding vows, so as to be more easily understood and they would go a little something like this: “Bride and Groom, I want you to know that life is hard. Bride, you are a hot mess. Groom, you are a hot mess. Your marriage will be a hot mess stew. But, do you promise, with no backsies, that you will walk through this mess together? Will you work each day to put the other person’s needs first? Will you chose to be loving when they are sick, hormonal, overweight or broke? There will be good times but there will be hard times. Do you promise to not add more poop to the potty of life your loved one faces each day? Do you promise to WORK with all your might, and God’s strength, to be a blessing to the other person? Now you can kiss and we can all go eat cake.”
I am so thankful that God gave me 25 years with this quiet, self-sacrificing, hard-working man, loving man. We have had a lot of hard in life and have made Mess Stew more times than I can count. But God has taught us precious things in those times and I pray that we have modeled how God can work with a beautiful mess to our daughters, and that they will seek and see and practice true lovingness. I pray that they will know not to look for a man to sweep them off their feet, but instead one who will bend down and tie their shoes when they can’t see their feet past their pregnant bellies. I pray that they will not value a man who makes grand promises and has silky words, but one who keeps his promises and stands by his words. And I pray that they see that Hallmark cards and flowers can be a cute gesture, but man that treats them like a treasure is priceless. Real love is a man who holds your hand and won’t let go and plods through the muck of life with you because anything that happens, you will walk through it TOGETHER.