Monday night was date night. Our babysitter came over and the boys practically shoved us out the door. We jumped in the truck and headed to a restaurant that we reserve for date nights. It is not conducive for four small children; at least, not in our opinion. We talked about a little of everything over our Japanese food: dissertations, podcast interviews, homeschooling. Then we went to Lowe’s. Because every good date night ends at Lowe’s.
(Honestly, I haven’t figured out if that’s because we’re getting old or because we live in a small town. Either way, I usually come home with another houseplant so I don’t question the decision too much.)
When we were almost home, Justin mentioned that he really liked me. (Gag alert: we often have these conversations about being each other’s favorite person.) Of course, I started thinking about why our marriage works.
Short answer- Jesus, duh.
Before I go into the longer answer, I want to point out that I’m not a marriage expert. I’m not suggesting that you should do these or that these things will fix any marriage. They are part, only part, of what makes our marriage something we both enjoy.
Talk a lot, and also listen a lot. We talk about almost everything. But we take turns. One of us talks and one of us listens. And then we swap. Sometimes one of us interrupts the other and we listen but then point out that we were interrupted and go back to the first story. We crack a lot of jokes and share a lot of hard stories.
Support each other’s dreams. We are both big dreamers. We have plans and goals and things we want to do in life. We try to be the biggest cheerleaders of each other. Sometimes that means that we have to take turns because life is full and we have four children, but there is plenty of space in life for both of us.
Go in 100%. This crosses paths a lot with our rule of not keeping score. It’s not that there are no expectations. For us, this means that if it needs to be done, we are both there to do it. The trash needs to go out? Whoever is there takes it out, without keeping score. There’s no “I took out the trash three times and now you owe me.” If it’s there and it needs done, it gets done. If one of us is sick, the other takes over. Justin has carried our family over the past year. He’s never pretended that he’s done more than his part or tried to make me feel bad about that.
Be Jesus to the other person. C.T. Studd said, “The light that shines farthest shines brightest nearest home.” That is true for men and women. How real is my faith if it’s not shown with the people closest me? I want it to be as if Jesus were here instead of me. That’s the goal of being a Christian, remember? That as time goes by each of us would be a brighter reflection of the Light within us to each other and to the world.
Be your own person. We come together as a team to serve God. The goal is that both of us would be able to serve God better because we are married than we could have if we were single. This means I don’t wrap my identify up in Justin or him in me. Who we are is found in Christ. I’m not waiting on him to make me happy. He’s not waiting on me to fulfill his dreams. We don’t agree on everything and that provides some stimulating conversations (and no, that’s not usually code for “arguments”). He’s not responsible for my growth or spirituality, although of course he contributes to it, and vice versa.
Flirt! Have some secrets from the outside world. We were putting the boys in the van after church one Sunday morning and when we met outside the van, we stopped for a kiss. Nothing gross; no one shouted “get a room” or anything. But we take time to flirt, to hold hands, to have inside secrets. There are things that help our marriage that aren’t getting listed here because this relationship is special in a way that none of our other relationships are.
The beautiful picture of marriage is that of one flesh, of unity (Genesis 2:24, Malachi 2:15, Mark 10:6-9, Ephesians 5:31). The husband is the head and the wife is the body and together they make something different, one flesh. It is a picture of how united believers are to be with each other (1 Corinthians 12) and with Christ (Ephesians 5:22-32). It is a picture of the unity between Christ and God (1 Corinthians 11:3). Unity is the picture of the relationships that God designs and desires.
This takes work, both laying down our own preferences and putting the other person first. That can look drastically different day to day but that’s part of the fun and challenge of marriage.
He is my person and I’m his person. We choose that every single day.