Today my beautiful, smart, funny, crazy wife Kylee and I celebrate ten years of marriage. There are certainly a lot of people out there who have been married longer than us — many in my own family, in fact (by the way, congrats on 46 years, Uncle Jeff and Aunt Sandy!) — but in this day and age, I think we can all agree that ten years is quite the accomplishment.
I have to admit, during the first two or three years of our marriage, I sometimes doubted that we’d ever see this day (and with good reason). We went through a lot of wild ups and downs early in our relationship. There’s a classic saying about getting older: “It’s not the age, it’s the mileage.” Well, Kylee would probably agree with me that our marriage has racked up a lot of mileage over the years, probably even more so than many couples who have been married for longer than us. But we made it through together, and we’re stronger for it.
Several years ago, Kylee asked me if I wanted to take my wedding ring to the jewelry store to get smoothed and polished. You see, the gold is covered in little nicks and scratches from years of wear, and it also gets banged up a bit when I clap and it knocks against the Aggie class ring on my other hand. It looks pretty rugged, honestly, but I’ve never really wanted to get it polished. See, if the ring is supposed to be a symbol of our marriage, I feel like those nicks and scratches represent an important part of it — plus, Kylee and I have earned all of them. It’s the little nicks and scratches that make us who we are. And it’s also the little nicks and scratches that help us overcome the big gashes and bruises that still come our way now and then.
So what have I learned over these past ten years? Well, if you ask Kylee, she’d probably say that I haven’t learned nearly enough — and she’d be right, because I still have bad habits, and I still say and do stupid, insensitive, boneheaded stuff now and then, and I still fail to listen well enough (especially to her). But here are a few things I have learned: Firstly, do you wanna know the secret to staving off divorce? Don’t even entertain it as an option. Never. In my humble opinion, it’s really that simple. See, it’s extremely easy to get into a big fight where someone yells, “Well maybe we should just get a divorce,” or “I’m gonna move out for a while,” or “This marriage just isn’t working.” All of those statements open up the prospect of the relationship dissolving — all of them lead down a dangerous path. But if we choose to never look down that path, to never even think of divorce as a viable option, then (as simple as it sounds) we have one less thing to worry about.
I know we all think to ourselves sometimes, “What would my partner have to do for me to consider a divorce? How far would it have to go? How much would he/she have to hurt me?” I’ve certainly done it myself. But a long time ago, I made the decision that I was going to keep on loving my wife no matter what. No exceptions, no caveats, no questions (I’m not always very good at it, but I try). From an outsider’s perspective, I can understand how such a decision might seem overly constrictive. But in reality, it’s extremely freeing. Intentionally removing even the prospect of divorce from my mind was like a heavy weight being lifted. It’s one less thing to think about! I don’t feel the need to ask myself those questions anymore. All I have to do now is figure out how to love this woman I’m united with — and obviously, that’s enough of a challenge on it’s own. Right, married people?
In my novel, Camelot Fallen, I wrote about this very idea in a conversation between Merlyn and Arthur about Gwenivere’s infamous adultery with Lancelot. The king obviously feels angry and betrayed, and he wants justice against those who have wronged him. But this is how Merlyn replies:
“Ah, yes. Cast not thy pearls before swine. Is that it?”
“Don’t mock me, Merlyn,” Arthur grumbled softly, his voice quivering with emotion, “I loved Gwenivere with all my heart. I gave her everything. I always looked upon her as a queen even when the rest of the world saw only an undeserving harlot. And yet this is how she repays me?”
The old man smiled and his clear blue eyes twinkled.
“Love is easy when it asks nothing of us,” he said, “Any common rogue naturally loves those who show him kindness or charity. But to love the unlovable? To turn the other cheek? To sacrifice your pride, nay, even your life on behalf of another? This is the true measure of a man, Arthur. Now, I do not doubt the pain you feel because of what Gwenivere and Lancelot have done. But I also challenge you to ask yourself how this act of betrayal is any different than the near ceaseless rebellion, from the dawn of time, of mankind against their Maker. How many times have God’s people turned away from Him, and how many times has He lovingly called them back? This is a love beyond reason – beyond comprehension. It is what an unbelieving world finds truly unbelievable. So as you wallow in self-pity, know that your anguish is only a dim reflection of what your own redeemer has felt in every waking moment since the loss of Eden.”
The truth is that we’re all going to hurt each other. No matter how much love exists in a marriage, we’re going to get angry, be insensitive, betray one another, disappoint one another, lie, say awful things in the heat of the moment, forget birthdays, snore too loudly, butter the toast incorrectly… whatever. And every time we feel wronged, we want justice. Heck, sometimes we even want vengeance. But if we can remember that our God feels that same pain every second of every day because his creation — his beloved — continually turns away and betrays Him, then it becomes a little easier to put it all into perspective. If you ask me, no one really understands love until it’s hard. True love is meaningless until it’s put to the test.
Too many people these days watch romantic movies and grow to believe that if you don’t feel passionately in love and happy all the time, something must be irreparably wrong. You must be with the wrong person. It’s clearly not “meant to be,” right? Bullcrap. Love isn’t a feeling. It’s not about giddiness and infatuation. Love is a choice, and we all have to consciously make the choice to love our spouse every single day. Sometimes it’s easy, and other times it’s hard. The easy times are the ones we remember with fondness and joy. But the hard times are when we dig down deep and truly see what we’re made of.
I’m probably rambling now, so I guess I’ll wrap this up. In summary, I love you, Ky — just as much today as when we first said, “I do.” You’re beautiful and amazing and I don’t know what I would ever do without you. Somehow we managed to make it through ten freakin’ years together, so here’s hoping for forty or fifty more! And to those of you reading this who are single or have only been married for a short time, I truly hope that some of the things I’ve said here are at least a little bit helpful. I’m no marriage counselor, and I’m far from an ideal husband. Heck, sometimes I still have trouble with the basics! But if the struggles Kylee and I have been through are good for anything, it’s to show others that it can be done — that the odds can be beaten and that marriage can last if you make the choice not to give up.