I’ve been reflecting on our decision to say “Yes” to each other.
Marriage is a big deal for all who enter it. For some of us, who have felt the ache of betrayal and abandonment deep into the marrow of our bones, it takes extra courage–and a special partner who understands, and has a very long standing pattern of trust-inducing behaviour.
I loved being married to my first love during the good years. I longed to have a life partner again…but I was so far from desperate. I enjoy spending time by myself, had great friends, a satisfying career and rich relationships. I knew I would get married again if my life would be better with a special man. However, because my life was so good, it was gonna have to be a remarkable man that would make my life richer to top the life I had.
I decided I would make a list of qualities and characteristics of this new man that were characteristics that were important to me…a guide that would help me make a good decision with my head, not just my heart…should some fella come along and sweep me off my feet.
So…I made a list. And on the anniversary of our commitment to each other, I thought I’d compare what I wrote with Husband…
1. I want him to be on the path to God
He is. My faith is an organizing principle in my life. It is what gives meaning and purpose to me…and I wanted to have a common shared vision and mission. We decide budget, lifestyle, activities etc. based on what together we believe to be important. Values like love, forgiveness, grace and mercy are held high around here…and we together live in knowing we are deeply and profoundly loved and cared for by the Creator.
2. I want him to struggle in his faith—it shouldn’t be too easy, he should be wise enough to be able to struggle with doubts and mystery.
Early on, I heard him talk of the challenge of losing an infant daughter due to heart problems, and a wife to cancer…his struggle to make sense of it, and then eventually finding a peace even with a lack of clear answers. I like how Brené Brown says: “Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty.”
Husband is willing to live with the fear of uncertainty of many things, even as he is very certain of other things by faith. I love how he is content with mystery–we have wonderful conversations contemplating big ideas and contemporary issues. His opinions leave room for mine, and he is more curious than judgey. We can each grow, together.
3. I want him to struggle with how our relationship will affect his kids…and have that impact our relationship
It’s tough trying to date when there are multiple Junior Tribe Members. I loved it when he would say he couldn’t see me in an evening because he needed to be with his JTMs–even when we really, really wanted to hang out. There were times when it just didn’t work to be together…and while that wasn’t easy, it showed me that he could place another’s needs above his own desires. That was important to me because I knew, without a doubt, that:
- I had his support and blessing to nurture my own relationship with my JTM’s, even when it impacted him.
- He would know how to place my needs above his one day when he wanted to watch the game with the guys and I needed some of his time in that moment.
He’s a gem of a dedicated dad…and that was a forecast of how much he would be a dedicated husband!
4. I need him to have been willing to have done anything to save his marriage. He needs to not have decided they weren’t suitable together, or merely grew apart.
This was big for me. Many others will have different perspectives on this, and that’s OK. But I needed a man whose faithfulness and trustworthiness went long and far. I just knew that any man who didn’t go to the ends of the earth to save a previous marriage, wouldn’t have my trust to go to the ends of the earth to make something work for me.
Husband will be quick to tell you that he wasn’t perfect in meeting her every need over their marriage, but his friends go on and on about his unfailing faithfulness to Carolyn, his late wife. They talk about how he drove her to endless appointments, researched and pursued alternate treatments to add to conventional treatment, many middle-of-the-night trips to the Emergency Department. He was desperate to have her live longer, and would have done anything to help her live.
Sigh…he passes on this one with flying colors. I trusted him before I loved him. Absolutely.
5. I want him to be the guy that will ask my boys for their permission to marry their mother
He respects and includes my JTM’s. He looks for ways to deepen their friendship, and respects when they ask for space.
But he didn’t get a chance to ask them for permission to marry me. They told him the had their blessing before he had the chance to ask.
I still consider this one “a check”.
6. I want him to be financially responsible…to understand debt, to carry $0 credit card balances, and to have thought about retirement planning
I come from a family of accountants. I wanted the man I love to be grounded in decisions that would set us up for long term success. I didn’t need The One to be rich…but I did want him to be responsible.
7. I want him to have a sense of mission and purpose. Living a good life or paying off the cottage does not qualify
We don’t have a cottage.
Seriously though, he has a larger purpose. He and I both love Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in Thousand years. The premise of the book is to “write a better story” in one’s life. He sees himself as part of a larger story. He often says he is a tree in the story about a forest, which I think is a neat idea.
He and I are in an ongoing dynamic process to determine our mission and purpose as we share our lives together. We are only 10 months into marriage, and we have done some projects and are mulling over some pretty cool ideas.
8. I want him to want to be protective and generous towards me, to be kind and caring, and get mad when someone is hurtful
He has often said to me, “I am going to protect you, even though you don’t need protecting” or “Can I help you with that, even though I know you can do it on your own.” I’ve seen him be upset when he has heard details of past hurts. There was a part of me that took a sweet satisfaction when his anger burned about these hurts for a time. He is protective. I matter to him.
9. I want him to appreciate that I’m lousy at cleaning the house from top to bottom. He needs to know how to cook and generally fend for himself. He needs to be generally independently tidy.
Check, check and check. Whew.
I leave the house sometimes and it is cleaner when I come home than when I left. That will never get old. He knows better than I how much milk is in the fridge and if he should stop to pick some up. He carries some of the emotional labor in the house and I’m grateful.
It feels peaceful in our house, and I’m not carrying the weight of creating that. That ups the peace quotient, exponentially.
10. I want him to be the type that looks after the piles of paper; that can do the house administration
Can’t win’em all.
I’m not great with paperwork and administration…and he is even worse. He can tidy up the piles…but does so by stuffing things in the drawer so that later neither of us can find the paper we need.
11 I want him to not be threatened by my desire to learn, and the requests I have to speak and lead…I want that to be celebrated. He needs to support opportunities that come up for me, and challenge me on them so I’m not doing them for the wrong reasons. He reads my blog periodically without my asking cuz he chooses to, cuz he’s interested. I want him to refer to things he is growing in, with reading books or watching things or discussion…to be able to talk about and want to talk about ideas and theology.
I don’t set out to be intimidating or difficult, but I get asked to do interesting things, and I like doing them. I like to think big thoughts and then write about them. I get a ideas about something and then like to mull them over…and then implement some of them as projects. It’s taken me years to learn to be comfortable with this, and not apologize for this: I am a strong woman. I take up some space in the room. Not all men can handle that.
And Husband loves me for it. He supports me…offers to make snacks for the group when I lead The Daring Way™, comes with me on retreats that I speak at, and often asks to accompany me when I go somewhere to speak. He gives me time and space to write. But he also challenges me on my schedule, and invites me into his world so our life is about us.
This blog…I don’t need the man in my life to read it always…but it comes up in conversation…and for me, this was a “canary in the coal mine” about his true interest in me. He wouldn’t have known this was on my list. And I remember the day when we were first dating that he told me he had looked up my blog. It meant he was interested in the things I was interested in, and was interested enough in me that he read what I wrote.
I don’t ask him to read my blog now. But he does, always. And that feels great to me.
And he and I trade books and authors. We like to read what each other is reading. Often in the evenings before we go to bed, we spend a half hour in the hot tub together. No TV or phones…just us, talking about ideas and books and news and friends (and JTM’s too of course…never enough talking about our kids).
12. I want us to laugh together, heartily and often. I want him to like holding hands years into a relationship. I want him to not get wound up when we are a few minutes late
Husband is relaxed. He reaches often for my hand, or puts his arm around me when we are sitting together. Gosh he’s fun, and we love to laugh together…and he has a gentle humour. He’s great fun, and laughs heartily when the joke is on him. He is incredibly patient with me when I’m running a few minutes late…honestly, men…if you knew how much that meant to a woman, you’d find a way to be patient.
13. He doesn’t freak out when I freak out…but kinda can hold it and roll with it.
Husband can sense when I’m getting stressed–too much to do, or too much action for too long around me. And he’ll calmly say, “Hey babe, whaddaya need? What can I do?” And that day, he takes care of supper. Or I’ll go to a movie by myself. Or he encourages me to squirrel away at Starbucks to get several hours of work done.
He doesn’t freak out…but neither does he ignore it. He trusts me to handle things…and that confidence has me feel better. He’s supportive.
Husband filled all my list (well, except for the adminstration thing, which is unfortunate but forgivable) and then some.
I’m so glad that he asked me a year ago. My answer today is still “YES”!