When Love Is Hard...

Last year I wrote this article as a guest post for a sweet friend's blog. Since today my husband and I are celebrating our 17 year anniversary, it seemed like a good time to edit it up a bit and finally post it here. 

When Love is Hard by the Copper Anchor

We married young. Too young. I was 4 days past my 16th birthday, and he was 18.

People told us it wouldn’t last. We laughed, confident that our love would prove them wrong. But the joke was on us. When two flawed people come together and try to make a life, it’s never an easy feat.

Truth is, love is hard. Harder than we ever imagined it would be. We both entered this marriage scared and broken. We learned the hard way how to grow up together. How to face our demons, our pride, and our selfishness. 

There have been days when our words have cut each other to the core. Days when the hurt and pain seemed deeper than any abyss we could get through. And days when the sparks of love have felt like nothing more than a pile of dry grass.

But, I love how Tim Keller puts it: 

“You never marry the right person. As a pastor I have spoken to thousands of couples. I’ve heard them say over and over, “Love shouldn’t be this hard, it should come naturally.” In response I always say something like: “Why believe that? Would someone who wants to play professional baseball say, ‘It shouldn’t be so hard to hit a fastball’? Would someone who wants to write the greatest American novel of her generation say, ‘It shouldn’t be hard to create believable characters and compelling narrative’?” 
Duke University Ethics professor Stanley Hauerwas has famously made this point:
“Destructive to marriage is the self-fulfillment ethic that assumes marriage and the family are primarily institutions of personal fulfillment, necessary for us to become "whole" and happy. The assumption is that there is someone just right for us to marry and that if we look closely enough we will find the right person. This moral assumption overlooks a crucial aspect to marriage. It fails to appreciate the fact that we always marry the wrong person.
We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.”
“Hauerwas gives us the first reason that no two people are compatible for marriage, namely, that marriage profoundly changes us. But there is another reason. Any two people who enter into marriage are spiritually broken by sin, which among other things means to be self-centered. As author Denis de Rougemont said, “Why should neurotic, selfish, immature people suddenly become angels when they fall in love ... ?” That is why a good marriage is more painfully hard to achieve than athletic or artistic prowess. Raw, natural talent does not enable you to play baseball as a pro or write great literature without enduring discipline and enormous work. Why would it be easy to live lovingly and well with another human being in light of what is profoundly wrong within our human nature? Marriage — more than anything else that is good and important in this fallen world—is so painful and hard.”

Life perpetually propels us forward, and with each new experience our souls begin to take shape and we rediscover who we are. We shift, transform, and are made over, and this places us in an interesting paradox of discovering what love really looks like as the years go by.

Marriage is like a fire —when the flames die down, you have two choices- let it fall to ash, or spend the rest of your life tending it.

So as I sit tonight listening to the storm brew outside, my love is deepened for the man who has weathered the storms of life with me for the last 17 years.  Yes, we’ve had our share of hard times, and we know more will come, but we’ve also learned how to make the best of times. . . times that we would have never experienced alone — times that have brought more joy and happiness into our lives than we ever imagined could be possible. 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

I'm certainly not an expert, but when I look back at how little I knew going into marriage, and what my desires are for my own daughter someday, this is what I want her to know, this is what I will tell her…

20 tips for marriage by The Copper Anchor

20 TIPS FOR MARRIAGE 

{in no particular order}

{Obviously marriage is not a one-size-fits-all. Every experience is different as we each vary in personalities, struggles, life experiences, and beliefs, but these are just a few things I’ve learned along the way …}

1. Have a good sense of humor. In every area of life. Whether it’s learning how to live together, or how to navigate the bedroom — a good sense of humor will make all the difference.

2. A great marriage is made up of two good forgivers. Because it’s also made up of two terribly flawed human beings. 

3. Talk about your dreams together, and talk about them often. So many people stumble through the motions day-after-day, but life is too short NOT to live it. So make dreams, set goals, and work towards them together.

4. Encourage his dreams. You are his biggest cheerleader, and whether he knows it or not, he will need your support backing him more than anything.

5. Never stop dating each other. People change over the years, and making time to fall in love all over again, is vital.

6. Don’t give up. Even on the hard days. When the flames of love are low and everything in you wants to pull away from him… don’t. Pull into him. Hold onto his hand, not onto your anger and frustration. 

7. The sooner you ditch the notion that everything needs to be fair, the happier you’ll be. Life isn't fair and neither is marriage. Although the wish for everything to be 50/50 sounds nice, it doesn’t work that way. Learn to let go of the little things, and talk about the big things, but most importantly, love each other enough to fill in the gaps.

8. Be generous. Be a wife full of grace. The happiest couples pay more attention to what they put in, and less attention to what they are getting back. In the end, the giving and the getting become one and the same.

9. Ask yourself how much fun you are to live with? Be honest. Either you contribute to the relationship or you contaminate it. 

10. Take care of yourself….physically, emotionally, spiritually, etc. It’s not selfish, it’s crucial. When you are feeling your best —balanced inside and out— you are much more capable of giving your best to those around you. 

11. Experiencing some of lives deepest pain together {as hard as it is} will make you a stronger couple. I wouldn’t trade the most painful times in our marriage for anything in the world, because those are the moments when our marriage grew the deepest.

12. Be grateful for the husband you have. Accept him as he is, not for what you want him to be.

13. Kiss him in front of your children. Let them see your love and tenderness for each other. They will learn how to love others from the experiences they had while growing up.

14. Smile at your husband. Your children need to know you don’t just love him, but also genuinely like him.

15. It’s okay to fight and disagree. But do it respectfully. We all have opinions and beliefs that matter to us, and there's nothing wrong with that. I even think it’s important that our children see us disagree, so they know that it’s alright for two people to fight, but also understand that it doesn’t change our love for each other.

16. Make peace with your differences. He will undoubtedly like things you don’t and vice-versa, but that’s okay. It’s our differences that push us out of our comfort zone and help us to become more flexible, tolerant, and well rounded people.

17. Find your worth and security in God. Don’t look to your husband to meet all of your needs. That’s an unfair/unrealistic expectation to put on him.

18. Speak well of your husband in front of others. He deserves your respect, even if you are angry with him—that is between the two of you and no one else. {And if you truly are having problems, seek professional help together — don’t go gossiping about him and his issues to your girlfriends.}

19. True romance is NOT found in novels or fairytales…the deepest kind of love is found in doing the dishes together when you’re both exhausted. It’s finding each other’s feet under the covers late at night, even when you’re in a fight. It’s having someone by your side who loves you enough to hold your hair out of the way when you're throwing up. And, it’s growing old with someone who has seen you in your darkest moments, but chooses to love you still.

20. Marriage is a huge commitment, and an even greater sacrifice. But it’s also the best and most wildly-rewarding adventure you will ever embark on with your best friend!

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Happy 17 years to my favorite guy! A few years ago we walked away from a life we knew was wrong. We survived starting over. Through the years, we've endured job changes, miscarriages, 11 moves, 3 kids, 3 dogs, and more fights than I could ever count. But I've also never experienced more happiness deep down in my bones, or felt more love for another human being, than I do you. Thank you for making me yours.


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Author: Lisa Larson // Photo Sources: The Copper Anchor & Co.
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