Friends: I send you this belated Valentine’s Day gift…in this article by Ann Voskamp (thanks to Jenifer)
Dear Us: Why We Can Give Up on a “Happy Marriage”: 3 Secrets to Grow Something Far Better
So — where along the line did we give up on trying to have a happy marriage?
I guess it was when you and I looked long into each other’s eyes and realized:
Marriage isn’t about staying happy — marriage is about staying growing.
So maybe — tossing that whole sham of always-happiness was good riddance?
Happiness-centered marriages implode —because that shifting centre won’t hold.
But I’d written down what my therapist said and we keep talking about it over the early caffeine:
Any ecosystem that remains always the same, never changes — is stagnant. Is dying.If a relationship isn’t changing, growing — it’s dying.
The bottom line is: Pursuing an unchangeable state of happiness will lead you to a stagnant state of despair.
There’s no such thing as unchanging happiness — happiness comes and goes like passing weather fronts — and the only thing that is unchanging is change itself.
Health means always growing — which means always changing. And nothing changes — unless what is — is broken out of.
Healthy relationships have a healthy relationship with breaking and changing, with dyings and risings — with the status quo shell breakings — and steadily new emergings.
You and I, we can trace the break lines — and I can still feel the pain stitched together with thanks:
Haven’t we known the pain and the truth of just that? Crushing suffering breaks open a seed of growth.
The two become one not to become settled, but to become stronger — to persevere and suffer and grow a new life together.
I have found you and we can testify: Marriage isn’t a playground.
Marriage is a field — where the hard places are broken up by suffering, and the dry places are softened by a rain of tears, and what dies falls into the shattered, surrendered earth — and there is patient nourishing and cultivating and praying in the long waiting — until the field yields.
So this is what we’ve done, in our giving up being happily married — to be honestly growing-in-grace in our marriage:
1. Cupping Each Other. Daily.
You know, we could have gotten bogged down in all the life-logistics — the kids and the bills and the car-pooling that can drown — we could have very well let the pace of things dupe us into staying in the shallows.
But there’s this rhythm that you’ve stumbled into, that we’ve found that lets us keep finding each other, keep holding each other, keep letting go to let their be growth.
You find a steaming cup of warm — and you come find me — bring me my own cup — and it’s our rhythm:
Drink a cup of warm together and cup each other — no logistical shallows allowed —— only the deep end of fears and dreams and pain and hopes. “What are you afraid of? What are you hoping for? Where are you hurting? How are you dreaming?”
Drink and cup each other in the deep end of bare vulnerability. At least once a day — an early morning or late night cupping.
You drinking me in — my heartbreaks, my hopes, my disappointments and my dreams — has quenched my thirst to be known, for a deeper intimacy.
2. Connection Cues. Constantly.
And how long had I missed it?
You telling me about mileage on the pickup, or about what came in the mail, or what the weather looks on the radar, — isn’t something for me to shrug or dismiss — it’s a beckoning, an invitation, a Connection Cue.
Me asking if these jeans fit right, or what to think of the thesis of this book, or when works for the next doctor’s appointments for the kids — isn’t something for you throw me a passing glance and an apathetic nod — it’s a call to come closer, a Connection Cue.
In every conversation, every line — is a Connection Cue. A cue to come closer, a cue to attend, a cue to bond deeper, to attach more intimately.
I wish I had known sooner — and we are learning:
Attend to every Connection Cue wholeheartedly — or you end up with a broken heart.
The rich relationships are the ones that pay attention.
If you want relational healthiness, practice attentiveness.
You are the story I want to read again every night, the story I never tire of hearing again and again, and you have loved me, day after faithful day, line after line, back to hope, and ours is the story that I never want to end.
3. Care-full. Always.
You know what you’ve done? What we are doing? In a world full of cares — we are care-full with each other.
I see how you do it in a thousand everyday ways, how we are growing: Full of care for each other’s needs, full of care for each other’s challenges, full of care for each other’s hardest and most fragile places. We are care-full with our asks — and each other’s asks. We are care-full with our words, care-full with our support, care-full with our presence.
The way you have covered my brokenness with tenderness, the way you have known my rawest shames, and have bound them up, instead of lauding them over me. A thousand times you could have said things that destroyed me — but you’ve chosen to be care-full with me, grow me, heal me, strengthen me, because you: only speak words that make souls stronger.
(And things you have said in hard moments that have haunted me? We have revisited and kept revisiting— until that ghost has finally given up the ghost.)
Care-full relationships know hearts are actually fragile — and relationship can painfully break.
Being care-full with another’s heart — is believing they have a soft heart — and not a hard heart of stone. Soft hearts — break. Soft hearts require that we be care-full.
Being care-full with each other — is how we care for each other.
Your grace is my oxygen and your kindness is my healing and I’d shrivel up and die without your love.
I smiled over at you this morning. Why want a happy marriage when you could have a growing-in-grace marriage?
And this is who we are growing into:
We are cultivating a growing marriage by:
Cupping each other. Daily.
Connecting to Cues. Constantly.
It’s true — I have just about broke us.
But when I watch you last week, bent over that snapped fine gold chain of mine, wielding a pair of pliars, trying with those huge Dutch hands of yours to repair my broken necklace with that pendant engraved with “Beloved” — I realize:
The way we stay each other’s beloved forever — is to keep breaking, changing, and growing together.
And I brim and blur, watching you trying to repair my strand of broken belovedness, and I keep telling you, still with your winter work coat on, that you don’t have time for this, that you have more important things to do than trying to find and fix the busted links — but you look up at me:
“I’ll take as long as it takes — to fix and change whatever I have to — so you get to wear — your Belovedness.”
And I read your eyes reading mine.
Read your eyes searching mine, saying more, saying all the things that don’t need to be said again — and neither of us move but the space between us evaporates, and there is a closeness, a belovedness, that says everything:
We get to be the person who does this for the other, who get to cup each other’s vulnerability, who get to read all the connection cues, who get to be the care-full, who care enough to cultivate and grow love large.
When you hand me the necklace, broken and repaired, I nod, your eyes holding mine.
The real romantics are always the boring ones — who let another heart bore a hole deep into theirs.
You nod slowly: Real love is making whole decades of every moment tell the whole truth about the whole growing-in-grace gospel.
And in that moment, your eyes smiling into mine, I could feel it all over again:
How marriage is two people who keep reaching and stretching and unfurling and growing in a thousand little ways, grace growing us into the deepest joy that lasts forever.