by Heather B. Iseminger
blogger at www.petalsofjoy.org
About once a year, my husband and I take the time to ask the hard questions: What can I do better in this relationship? How can I be better? Where can I improve? And then we listen as we each take turns sharing areas of weakness.
This is not a time of accusations. It is not a time of rebuttal. We do not sling harsh and biting words at one another. We openly accept the feelings of the one we love. It is a time for each of us to understand how we can be a better partner, a better lover.
Because marriage is hard.
I wore my aunt’s veil as I walked down the church aisle at a tender twenty-two. I stared into the eyes of a man who took my face in his gentle hands as he kissed his bride.
My husband is Prince Charming. He is. But he’s not perfect. Neither am I. While he does bring me my cream-no-sugar coffee every morning, our relationship is not without its struggles.
After 16 years of marriage, I’m learning that I have a lot to learn. I’m learning that romance has less to do with a dozen long-stemmed roses and more to do with the way my feet still find his under the sheets. Every night.
It has less to do with gorgeous jewels for gifts and more to do with knowing he is a husband that isn’t a babysitter, but a parent – a daddy. And it has less to do with poetic words of new lovers and more to do with the authenticity of our love deepened over time.
I’m not sure when it happened. When I realized this deep knowing of my husband was like a soft blanket wrapped around my soul – more comforting than the tight stilettos of early dating butterflies.
But it happened.
Don’t get me wrong. There are moments. Moments when I see the way he fathers our children or whispers in my ear words meant for my heart, and I’m filled with butterflies.
But butterflies are not love.
Because there have been days in the last few years that have stretched and beaten our marriage flat and lifeless. Days when we wonder if we really know each other. Weeks when we forget to connect, when the silence of our hearts deafens the room.
If I had relied on delicate wings to flutter in my stomach as an indication of love for my husband, our marriage may not have survived.
The crazy? I don’t know a marriage that doesn’t lay itself out against the rocks to be leveled as the waves of life pound again and again and again.
Not every relationship can endure the pulverizing. And no one should ever have to stand under abuses – those disfigured façades of love. And sometimes the choice to stay is stripped away.
But for most of us? For the relationships we’re in now? What do we do in the days and weeks of silent hearts? How do we survive the mundane hand-in-hand with our loves?
It’s easy to say love is a verb. But to be love? To live out the truly selfless love? That’s the hard. The painful. The roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-dirty difficult.
Love is a self-sacrificing act over and over and over. Choosing love is never easy. It doesn’t guarantee wedded bliss into our sunset years. But we have to begin somewhere.
Love reminds us to choose.
To choose patience when his idea of organization is straightening and moving a stack of papers from the counter to the table.
To choose kindness when he tickles and wrestles with the kids – right before bed.
To choose generosity as you remember how much he gives your family so you can rid your hairs of their gray.
To choose forgiveness when words have been biting.
To choose encouraging words instead of a nagging “I told you so.”
To choose honesty even when you know you must gulp down pride to do so.
To choose perseverance even if it will continue to be difficult.
I have witnessed this love. Over eight years ago a dear friend experienced a traumatic brain injury. While he is, by all-accounts, “normal” to most, to those closest to him he’s never been the same.
He needed countless hours, days, months, years of rehabilitation. Part of his personality has been lost forever. But his wife? She has never wavered. She is still his and he is hers. While it isn’t easy, but she chooses to love him – every day.
This has been a powerful example to my husband and me. Because there have been stretches of time in our marriage when, to stay in love, we’ve had to choose love.
And so now, my heart still skips a beat and butterflies flutter as I look in the eyes of my Prince Charming and know that we’ve done just that.