There was nothing conventional about our courtship. Whenever I look at the first picture taken together, I am reminded of a blatant naivety wrapped in complete and utter infatuation.
We met in December and found out we would become parents before Spring arrived. Uncertainty, instability and fear became permanent passengers in the relationship before we even were. I couldn’t explain the magnetizing pull towards someone entirely unfamiliar, but there I was anyway. I have observed many couples when they become parents. That exciting stage is full of promise and becomes a gravitational pull that strengthens a relationship. I can’t say that was our experience those first nine months.
While we were both filled with an unparalleled excitement, I believe we were both filled with an unwavering recognition of impermanence too. We were sucked into questions we couldn’t answer and it became evident that “we” were put on hold. There wasn’t a foundation to return to when life tugged at us because we never seemed to have the time to go back and build one. Our relationship became entirely consumed by parenthood. We had to create an illusion of stability because that’s what we knew was expected just as that was what we both wanted for someone we loved, but hadn’t even met.
Then came two moves, a change in jobs, blending of families, the decision to have a stay-at-home parent, financial adjustments, opposite work schedules and what would become a family of five in just four years. Just as who we once were as a couple became unfamiliar, so was who we were as our own people. Our conversations consisted primarily of all the interesting dialogue I’m convinced most parents are consumed with. Ours consisted of things like:
How we would save for the upcoming winter oil bill?
Which of us would put the children to bed?
Reminders of upcoming commitments and
House repairs that awaited us.
We couldn’t identify with the person we fell in love with because in many ways those people permanently changed. We were now two people fighting to be good parents, providers and caretakers for three people we unquestionably compromised us for.
It’s not to suggest our children aren’t worth it. It’s to resurrect the truth in what happens when you put your marriage last. When you’re in the vulnerable stages of parenthood, everything that occupies the space between you can sometimes create an indefinite wedge you were both too distracted to see. You no longer know how to engage, quiet time is something you only dream about and you find yourself grieving a part of your relationship that has no destination point to return to.
I’ve also had to learn the scary truth of how men and women cope with the transitions of marriage and parenthood differently. While you’re attempting to be the best parent you can be for your children and juggle the daily responsibilities, it’s commonly at the expense of your spouse. You end up feeling exiled from your marriage and your social arenas don’t offer up the opportunity to normalize the stage either. So you’re left feeling as if your experience is the exception.
Many of us hide in silent shame and secrecy because we’re afraid of honesty. If you enter social circles, no one wants to take off their veils. If you immerse yourself into the world of social media, no one dares to show anyone anything real. Even if you offer the sacred and vulnerable space of truth to people you believe will honor it, sometimes you find out the painful reality of why truth-telling isn’t made for the weak. I am even learning the painful truth of how ostracizing and unforgiving it can be if you make the courageous and vulnerable decision to take the veil off.
It’s been six years since that December when I met a man I barely knew but fell in love with. Nothing about it made sense and before I knew it, he would become the father to three children that will forever make up the best pieces of our story. In those six years, what I can tell you is that not only has it been imperfect, but that it’s been hard.
There are moments when the uncertainty, exhaustion and fear make its way back into the passenger seat of our relationship. Sometimes it’s in control of our direction more than we are. There are times when I believe we all retreat to the denial and secrecy of our struggles because we’re convinced it’s a protected space where fear and shame can’t touch us. The daily stress tugs like tension on a rope and it’s a matter of time before it breaks. Disappointment, pain, blame, heartache, betrayal and shame fracture the trust, compassion, empathy and love you have for one another.
Sometimes I grieve the courtship other marriages had. I wonder what life would be like if we had the necessary time to build a foundation other than what has felt like quick sand beneath our feet. I ask myself if any marriage rests comfortably and safely on solid pavement all of the time? I am also learning the hard truth of why so many couples protect their veils and will shame the truth in others because they believe it exonerates the imperfections in their own marriage.
Many times I look back in awe of the life we built despite odds that were never meant to be in our favor. Sometimes I question if we’ve honored where we came from and where we’ve been to better understand where we ended up in those questionable seasons.
In my private moments, I find myself talking to that 30-year-old woman who stepped out onto faith for the life she believed was waiting for her. I find myself having compassion for what she expected of herself despite never really knowing much of what to expect at all. I think about the 32-year-old man who didn’t know where the ride would take him and refused to admit the vulnerable admission of when the ride became frightening. I think about the ways in which we’ve hurt one another and the lack of compassion we have for two people who only had an undeniable and indescribable pull towards one another to build off from.
Maybe gravity is all we really have left at the end of each exhausting and challenging day in a marriage? It may be the only pull that finds our way back to one another when there is so much designed to pull us apart. They say that in order for a fracture to heal, it must be put back in the right direction and protected. Healing is a slow process but with time and protection, it can return to its original shape. It’s a taboo subject but only because we’re afraid and choosing to be shackled by shame. Marriages may be fractured in different places, but I’m beginning to realize we all have them. We must permit humility to wrap its arms around our egos in order for the necessary compassion to creep in and support other couples when they’re fractured.
At the end of the day we all wish for the same thing, especially when we begin to chart the course for our families. We pray for the ability to protect our marriage, time to heal the fractures and the hope that we’re able to hold it all together.
In Love & Truth,