Thursday, December 18, 2014

as if you didn't know

I've been married for six (and a half!) years now.  I'm at a place in my marriage where loving my husband has become a choice I make, something I work towards.  Perhaps this sounds unromantic to newlyweds, but the days when love isn't an effortless rainbow in your life will happen.  In every companionship there comes a time when you have to make an active choice to love your partner.  I absolutely believe, though, that this is even more romantic than the adoration I felt when we were first dating or first married.  I know what David looks like when he's so sick he wants to die.  I know what sound his toenails make when they're being clipped.  I know that some things I say and do are so annoying that he can barely stand it.  I know these things, and I have chosen this love anyways.  I don't pretend to be an expert, but I have one theory that makes a big difference in my life.

I truly believe that the reason we love our children has nothing to do with carrying them in our bodies or sharing genetics and everything to do with the service we give to them every day.  I love Clark because I have to serve him. If it weren't for me, he would be hungry, bored, exhausted, and sitting in a dirty diaper.  It's this really beautiful cycle though, because the more I serve him, the more I love him, and the more I love him, the happier I am to serve him. When I put my own needs aside for someone else, my love for them grows.

Marriage works in the same way, except the service is a more conscious choice, which makes it harder.  I could argue that things like cleaning the house, doing dishes, washing laundry, and caring for his son are acts of service that I do for David, but truthfully, those things benefit me just as much as they benefit him.  I would do them even if he wasn't around.  Marriage requires extra steps, ones that are sometimes inconvenient, that end up helping me feel more love towards David.

The other day I was putting laundry away and I noticed what a complete mess his side of the closet was.  My knee jerk reaction was to make a mental note to ask him to clean it out, but then I thought about his life: he's working 50+ hour weeks, he's in school, he's maxed out.  He doesn't have the time.  My schedule could be arranged to help him out.  I cleaned out his side of the closet, it looked amazing, and he was so grateful when he got home. I've thought about it a lot since then. It was an extra step that showed him I had been thinking about him that day, and it made me love him more because I was serving him.

I know this might sound old-fashioned and sexist, but it's totally not.  The more I serve David, the more loved he feels, and the more he's inclined to serve me in return, which makes me feel more loved.  It's like this big, cheesy cycle of acts of service, which sometimes look like bouquets of flowers and lingerie and date nights but also sometimes look like a shoulder rub during a panic attack or a roll of toilet paper handed through the bathroom door or stumbling down the hall to get Joony out of bed so one of us can sleep for an extra 20 minutes.  It's something outside of the routine that doesn't benefit the person doing the service even a little bit.  I'm not perfect at this--sometimes I go days and weeks without remembering to go out of my way to do a kindness for David.  A lot of times he'll do something for me that reminds me how long it's been since I've served him.  But when I remember, I'm so much more content in my marriage.

If you're interested in this idea, a few years ago I did The Husband Project with a few girlfriends and it was fun and eye-opening (and neat to do it together so we could check in with each other). The title and cover of the book are a bit of an eye roll, but it ended up being a great read.  It laid out 21 days of little projects and assignments, and as I did them, I really found myself feeling closer to David and looking for new ways to show him my love.  I've thought about it a lot since then.  It really impacted the way I look at my marriage (no sponsored shenanigans here btw).

9 comments:

  1. long time reader, but first time commenting. I LOVE this post...I've been married for four years, but I'm beginning to see how true your thoughts are. I think the choice to love gets even more difficult after having a child. It can be hard serving your husband after you've spent all day serving your child. It really is a conscious choice to treat him kindly sometimes. Thank you for the reminder!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Shelley! Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment!! Such a true point about the balance when a child is involved. We spend our days with our kids climbing all over us and talking a mile a minute, and sometimes by the time our husbands get home it's just like "I don't want to be TOUCHED, I don't want to be TALKED TO, I just want to sit quietly by myself!" It's hard for me to remember that he doesn't have any of that at work all day, and when he gets home, a listening ear and a kiss go a long way.

      Delete
  2. Thank you so much for this honest, lovely post. This was the exact right thing for me to read today. I have a lump in my throat and a resolve to do better at choosing to love my husband. I'm getting up right after this to find a way to serve him. Thank you for stating the difference between serving both of you and serving just him outside of routine. It seems obvious, but I hadn't noticed how little I was doing that. It most likely has a lot to do with the little unromantic stage we're in. I want to choose him and choose our love. Thank you so much, Brandilyn.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amber, I'm so happy you left this comment! It's hard to remember sometimes, because we only post happy, smiling pictures online, but every couple has those ups and downs. It's so, so, SO normal. I know your husband will feel so loved when he sees you were thinking about him today.

      Delete
  3. I love this, bran. I don't have any other words to say or things to add. A loving marriage is a choice and it requires effort.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Of course I have to look up your viral post. ;) I've been thinking a lot about this recently too - the last year of our marriage has been by far the hardest (though still easy by many standards, I'm sure), and I've come back to this truth a lot. I think what they never say in romantic comedies is that loving IS a choice, and being loving is a choice, and sometimes it's a choice you don't really feel like making because your'e tired/stressed/overwhelmed yourself. Not every day is a roses-and-chocolate kind of day, and that's okay. Marriage is the most incredible source of both refinement and joy, IMO. One of these days I'll type up a blog post on all these thoughts that have been spinning around in my head this year, too. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I will just say that when you both work full time outside the home, this idea is a bit more...complicated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marriage is totally complicated. We've had times in our marriage where we're both working 40 hours a week while taking 12+ credits and running a small business...and I feel like it was just as applicable then. I think the whole point of service is that it's not totally convenient for the person giving it. The things I do for my husband might not work for yours, but I truly believe that happy marriages are built on service no matter that your living/working situation is!

      Delete

I think you're smart, pretty, & entitled to your own opinion.

I'd love it if the feeling was mutual!