Marriage. How do you even begin talking about something that underpins and encompasses everything? Choosing to spend your life with someone, creating a family and a life together – there are so many layers to be examined, viewed, understood that sometimes it can feel a bit trite when trying to sum it all up.
Perhaps it is like a tree. The reality of marriage is told in the roots – twisting and turning unseen and underground – the structure working tirelessly to support the trunk and branches of life lived and story created. Roots are complicated, they aren’t necessarily ‘pretty’. They represent the mundane reality of needing nourishment, care, quenching of thirsts.
Dave and I have been remarkably lucky. We got married young (I was only 20) after a brief dating period and a six month engagement. We immediately threw ourselves headlong into a ministry role – living practically onsite at a church and fulfilling all the expectations and obligations that a Young Adults pastor and his wife incur: a perpetually open door, allowing people to crash and live with us when needed, planning and preparation of church services, setting and packing up of chairs. It was – in hindsight – far too much pressure for a couple only barely discovering who they were themselves, let alone together.
We gathered and regrouped, stumbling through a number of other roles and locations before Dave completed a teaching degree and unwittingly landed in his ideal vocation – education. Ambitiously, we started a church together, spending a decade figuring out what a values-centred life could look like and what kind of community would best help us live out these values.
Kids came along and transformed us – slowing down our ideals of all we thought we should be accomplishing, but refocusing us in on what really matters in this existence. We were shaken beyond anything ever experienced by Hudson’s perpetual health issues and difficulty thriving in that first brutal year – forced to examine our unstated narrative of what successful parenting looked like.
These events are helpful in telling part of the story of us, but even they don’t come close to encompassing the whole picture. They don’t convey the resentment I felt when I lost myself in motherhood, expecting Dave to somehow know what I needed and complete me in ways I couldn’t even articulate. The frustration I felt when he would come alive with insights from his PhD research, find meaning in interactions with others and enthusiastically casting vision of a new future of micro-schooling. It doesn’t capture the communications difficulties we’ve had over the years in relation to intimacy. The devastation we felt when discovering that a pregnancy had failed.
This year, it feels like we have broken through an invisible wall – one that we didn’t quite even realise was there for the past decade. I took responsibility for my happiness and began exploring what it would take for me to find my own spark. I invested many hours into this blog, started writing a novel and stopped expecting motherhood to be the only part of my story. We discovered an extraordinarily helpful definition of love as meaning the desiring of the other’s subjectivity, or in other words – not wanting what you think is best for that person, but allowing them to determine that for themselves. The Enneagram came along and blew our minds as we realised that the other person really didn’t see the world the way we did after all.
It doesn’t mean that life is perfect. We still get frustrated at each other and experience miscommunication from time to time. We still unwittingly try and out-do each other in the game of who is more tired (though at the moment this pregnancy gives me a bit of a trump card in that one!) But on the whole, in allowing each other to flourish, we experience the best side effect of all – unconditional love.
This week we celebrated 12 years of marriage. Both sets of parents generously took care of the children so that we could seize the occasion – escaping for a night to the Hotel Windsor. A generous Christmas present allowed us to savour high tea for two, and we felt like celebrities when a decorated plate came out with a special celebratory message written in chocolate. A surprise knock at the door later in the afternoon revealed another thoughtful touch – a complimentary bottle of sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir with a personalised card from the hotel.
We slept when we felt tired, battled crowds at the Summer Night Market and sampled delicious food from Argentina, Nepal and Ethiopia.
Walking home at twilight we took the time to lay in the grass at Carlton Gardens, watching the sunset and appreciating the rare moment of not needing to tend to the demands of little people.
After leisurely waking at 8:30am, we took our time getting ready and walked through the city for bagels and coffee at hidden gem, Jungle Juice.
Marriage can be complicated, particularly when kids are added into the equation and the time for communication is significantly reduced. But being able to celebrate together, talk in uninterrupted spurts and reflect on the values that are important in moving forward – that is priceless.
I am so thankful to be a part of a relationship in which I am understood, supported, encouraged and urged towards the best version of myself. And in turn, it is so inspiring for me (now) to see Dave thrive – to enthusiastically come to insights and revelations about great ideas for education and to see his mind craft a vision for how things could be. I’m so glad that our kids get to be a part of this story that we are creating – knowing that love isn’t merely an urge or sensation, but a vibrant partnership that releases each person to the heights that they could previously only dream of.