Today marks four years since Zack and I got married. Four isn’t an especially momentous number, of course–unless you count horsemen of the apocalypse or number of Beatles or something. No one talks about good things coming in fours, or going on a cruise for your fourth anniversary. No one’s lucky number is four. It’s a quiet number, and ordinary, and it’s well-lived-in enough in a marriage so that you know what you’ve signed up for but early enough that, in most cases, you’ve got the vast majority of life together before you.
There are enough blog posts about marriage that I’m reticent to write this one, and I don’t know if I have anything terribly new to say. But so much of the discussion around marriage (that I’ve read, at least) gathers around the extremes–marriage is wonderful, a fairy-tale, the ultimate expression of romance that mirrors Christ and the church; or, marriage is difficult, strained, full of conflict and compromise and tiptoeing around the other person. Both of these camps would have you believe the other one is selling you a bill of goods, that marriage either should be easy or should be full of conflict, that a healthy marriage looks this way or that way. And there is a thread of truth in what these folks have to say, but there is more truth in what remains unsaid.
Marriage is hard, to be sure. At least, it is for us, especially in the first year. I’ve written here about how I deal with anxiety–I have ever since I can remember–and getting married, even to someone as wonderful as Zack, did not do me any favors in the anxiety department. There were so many significant changes that went along with getting married, and change of any kind is not my favorite thing.
Marriage is also remarkably fun. It is crazy to me that we don’t have to say goodbye at the end of the day, that we can watch “Breaking Bad” in bed until midnight and no one is going to tell us not to. We can go out to dinner together, get drinks and play cribbage at a bar on a Thursday, drive out to the ocean, sit at home and read…We make each other laugh in our weirdness, which I think is one of the secrets of marriage: find someone who is weird in the same way you are weird.
Singleness and marriage, especially in the Christian world and with the church, are not easy things to talk about well. The temptation is often to ignore one and concentrate on the other, to extol the virtues of marriage and families while not quite sure what to say about being single. And I guess what I want to say is that they are not so different from one another, being married and being single, when it comes to the kind of person you are. Marriage, after the wedding is over and your relatives go home, is remarkably normal. If you were impatient and funny and pale before you got married, you’ll be impatient and funny and pale after you say “I do.” You’ll just have someone else around to be the target of your impatience, to laugh at your jokes, to hug you or hear you complain about the seven hundredth sunburn you’ve gotten. Marriage isn’t a catalyst for change in your life any more than a new job is–it might call for new habits or routines, but actual inner change has always been work between a person and God. Marriage doesn’t change that.
To be authentic about marriage doesn’t mean painting a bleak picture, nor does it mean making it out to be some magic happiness pill. It’s a simple faithfulness in good and bad. It is a source of endless joy and delight, and difficulty and change. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, but only because I met Zack–a person unlike me in so many ways, in the best ways, and the person who challenges me most in the world. It isn’t perfect, and it isn’t terrible, and it is that normalcy that makes marriage what it is. Nothing more, nothing less.
Two good books on the topic, by the way:
Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage
Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed