We observe weddings all the time. We hear countless vows, sermons, and charges. Scripture is read, prayers are prayed, and in the middle of taking pictures and finding the best angles, the words don’t always soak in as I listen to the wedding ceremony.
One wedding this year hit us both in particular. The preacher said the following: “Men get married wanting their wives never to change, and women get married wanting their husbands to change almost everything.” When he said that, Nathan and I both shared a glance. We had both heard that wives often want their husbands to change, but had never thought of the flipside to that scenario.
It’s so very true. Nathan never wanted me to change from the bubbly, happy-go-lucky, head-in-the-clouds college student who had big ambitions and a lot of love to give. While I did not think I wanted Nathan to change at the time, I can see now that I assumed he would. I thought he would be more extroverted, more interested in things that I care about, more involved in this or that. He never wanted me to change. I had a lite for him. And neither of us knew it at the time.
Lo and behold, I changed. A lot. And Nathan? Well, he has certainly changed in some ways, but the core of his personality is the same as it has always been. Marriage is different than either of us thought it would be, and the hardest part of the to accept is that each of us thought our spouse would be different today than we are. So what do we do with that? What does a happy marriage look like, 8 years in?
I don’t have all the answers…or probably even most of them. But what I do know is this: a happy marriage isn’t about what I want, or want from Nathan. It’s not about what I can do for him or give to him. It’s not about how I have changed over the last 8 years or how I’ll be different in 58 years. It’s about waking up each day and working to get to know each other. It’s about finding the best parts of each other and loving him for that, instead of dwelling on all the things we wish would change.
It’s about finding the things you love together that you would never love if not for your spouse. Photographing weddings on the weekends. Watching lectures about cybersecurity. Becoming interested in politics and the news. Trying new foods and discovering new places.
It’s about finding the things you can both love, together, that bring you closer. Listening to the same podcasts and talking about them over dinner. Rejoicing when your kid goes to sleep so you can watch (and re-watch) Parks and Rec. Consistently going to church together and reading the Bible each week. Roughhousing with a feisty toddler and a cockapoo while we can’t stop laughing. Drinking tea in front of the fireplace on cold winter nights.
Marriage isn’t comfortable if you’re in it for the long haul, but it is rich and joyful and filled with meaning. It’s an opportunity to see your selfishness and change for the better. It’s the daily practice of looking for the best in someone else and trying with all your might to give the best in return. It’s failing every day and knowing that there is forgiveness and love that will last through difficult days. For Nathan and me, it’s ultimately a reminder that the thing we need more than each other is Jesus - and that is the best lesson we have learned in 8 beautiful years.
I love you, Nathan. Happy anniversary.