Tuesday, February 26, 2008

LESSONS ON MARRIAGE: IT'S ALL ABOUT LOVE, KINDNESS, LIGHT BULBS and PUSSY WILLOWS!


This April 7th Bert and I will have been married for 24 years. We will have been together for more than 25... a quarter of a century, the longest significant committed relationship I have ever been in.

Simply put... being with Bert, loving Bert, fighting with Bert, talking with Bert, listening to Bert, and sharing everything I am with Bert has changed me at a soul-level in my life.

I was married before. After fourteen and a half years of marriage... that marriage relationship ended. I was very young when I got married, either 19 or twenty, depending on whose memory you consult. I was in love with love. I was in love with Tim. I was in love with Tim's family. I had "known" Tim for years, but I could never truly know him because I didn't know myself.

I thought then, as so many people do, that being married would "complete" me. It would fill the hole in my heart. My relationship with my father, who hadn't been loved well enough by his own family, had left me wanting more. Surely a man would come along, love me, and make it all better.

I didn't understand that no human being could fill that deep, cavernous hole. Only my Heavenly Father could.

But since I didn't "get" that life principle, I unknowingly assigned the task of "filling the hole" to whomever happened to be there. Poor Tim. It wasn't a job description he knowingly signed on for. He had his own growing to do, and we both had to go elsewhere to find ourselves and then learn to be there in another relationship.

If I had known then what I know now...but that is life's lesson isn't it. It's all about learning the lessons, growing, and changing. Not trying to grow others, or change others, but learning to grow ourselves.

I met Bert in graduate school at Whitworth. I was somewhat jaded, as women often become. Cynical even... about men. Yet here was this unusual person. After many conversations with myself and with God...I was willing to give love another chance.

But first there was a greater task at hand...sorting out who I really was.
You see one of the slippery slopes of marriage is the "honeymoon phase" that ends in the "disillusionment phase".

The odd disparity about a marriage relationship seems to be this pattern:
*at first I thought you were perfect
*and now you are "just you"...not perfect at all.
*in fact, you are a huge disappointment on so many levels.

And it's far easier to look at how disappointing you are than to look at how disappointing I am...to myself, to you, to everyone around me.

In truth...you are just another imperfect human being, a child of God not fully formed, and you don't so perfectly fit the bill of who I made you out to be...who I made you up to be.

Before, when I was so in love I couldn't breathe, I gave you an un-doable job description..."My Perfect Husband"....and you have failed.

So...now it's "pick on you time" and "pick apart" time. The relationship often becomes unrecognizable.

Ring any bells? Sound at all familiar?

Truth told...I've been there, I've done that. It's vivious... and sad and ugly and awful. It often takes place in the hurting places of our heart...the places where we've failed to let God's love in and let His love shine and heal our own personal misery.

What I know now that I didn't know then... was that until you love your own imperfections, until you embrace your own frailties, until you learn to love, laugh at and accept the "icky part of you", and until you turn that all over to God...you will just project your own angst on to someone else. And sometimes that lesson gets learned too late.

I have several single friends who watch couples unknowingly pick each other apart, and they watch in horror. One recently said to me, "Don't you married people get what you have? You have the privilege of sharing your life with someone, and you don't seem to appreciate what a sacred honor that is." She went on to chastise all of us who are married when she said,
"You know you can go too far. You can do damage that can't be repaired. After your husband is gone, after he leaves or dies...or you leave.. you will then know what you had and what you missed."

Yup, she's right. I know that at a deep, heart level. Been there done that...and as scarey as it may seem..I am capable of not learning that lesson again.

Unless I take special care, I can focus on what is wrong about Bert instead of what is wonderful about Bert.

And that leads us to the light bulbs and pussy willows.

It has been a tough few weeks. It's Lent...no wonder. I have felt pulled and not at ease. Little things have irritated me. All of the light bulbs over the kitchen counter were out, and I was irritated that Bert had not replaced them. I was grouchy and grumpy...and not quietly so.

I am so glad that God didn't videotape me...I would no doubt be embarrased.

Bert has quietly tried to soothe my soul, bring some relief. Finally, I just started to cry. Guess I needed a good one. I asked God, "What the heck is wrong with me?"

And then yesterday when I came home from work at lunch time, Bert was still there working on the poetry for his poetry class. He looked like a little kid with a surprise. I was so exhausted that I couldn't "get" what was going on. Finally, he took me gently by the arm to the kitchen counter and with a big, child-like grin on his face...had me look up.

"I changed the light bulbs!" he said. "I thought it would make you feel better!"

And then he showed me the pussy willows. I love pussy willows since they signal that spring is right around the corner. So Bert, some years ago, planted a pussy willow tree for me so I could have pussy willows in our home.

There, in a funny little vase, were some hand-picked pussy willows. He had trudged up our snowy hill to pick pussy willows for me.

There, in that moment of kindness, lightbulbs, and pussywillows... I got what I needed to learn.
It IS a sacred honor to share your life with someone. I don't want to focus on what Bert isn't, but on what Bert is!

One little act of kindness can change everything. Changing those lightbulbs was Bert's way of showing me that he loved me. Go figure! And the pussy willows?
No bouquet picked by a child has ever meant as much!

Marriage really is about loving someone...just as they are...and seeing beyond who they are to who they could be. Marriage really is about loving someone more than you love yourself. Marriage really is about looking past your partner's "icky self" to who God meant them to be.
Marriage really is about working on my "icky self" so I can be a better wife for Bert. And marriage really is about letting God's love and light shine in my heart so I can see how blessed I am to have a life partner!

Today I am taking pussy willows to school...so I'll remember the lessons!

God Bless! Love and hugs to all who read this!
Love Linda

5 comments:

Tiffany said...

Hi Linda! Man, do you have a lot of wisdom to share! I love the part you wrote about how much easier it is to see how disappointing your partner is than to see how disappointing you are. That really made me take a step back and look at my marriage with some different eyes!

I love the light bulbs and pussy willows! What a sweet story. Isn't it funny how such small things can mean so much? Eric has gone to the grocery store for me for the past 2 weeks and it has been such an incredible gift to me! :)

Thanks so much for sharing!

jessithompson said...

I love this post... your wisdom, perspective, lessons, thoughts are so valuable to me. I'm crying reading all of this. It's so easy to get into a cycle of negativity with people - and extremely difficult when it happens with the people who are closest to you.

It's hard to be the one who will step outside the 'pattern' and break the cycle when you feel hurt.

I love you and am thrilled that you found Bert amidst all of the pain of divorce and have worked on a wonderful marriage with him for almost 25 years.

I love you, mom. XOXO

The Farrell Family said...

God really shows us, in His love for us, that we are lovable beyond our imperfections. If we are called to be like Christ, then we are called to love others, flaws and all.

I always learn so much from watching "Nana and Boppa!" You two made a vow to always work on your relationship. It's apparent when I talk with you, when I see you two, and when I talk with Boppa.

You've both been given such a sacred gift in each other. Take good care of it!

Love you, me

Kim Ellis said...

*sigh* tears in eyes, lump in throat

It seems that you wrote this post just for me. Obviously that is not the case but your timing could not have been better.

Thank you for sharing such details.

LORIE said...

Linda: I needed this today. Thank you for sharing. Love to you.

"Dirt Therapy"...

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