In honor of Valentine’s Day (we know I love this completely made-up holiday), I’m doing a mini series on our marriage. This will be three posts–past, present, and future–and I’m just going to share snapshots of our relationship at different points. I hope you enjoy! [Part one is here.]
Recently we went on a date, Chris Graham and I. It was a Friday night, my original plans had fallen through, and we had a babysitter lined up so off we went.
Dinner, groceries, and birthday present shopping for our soon-to-be seven year old. Just a typical evening of running errands and checking things off the to-do list.
It was my favorite date ever.
Twelve years into our relationship, there’s not a lot of surprises. (Thank the Lord, I don’t think I could handle many more of those.) But our completely run-of-the-mill date night caught me off guard.
At dinner we talked like we hadn’t seen each other in weeks. There was so much to say and dream and laugh at. We sat at a booth in a chicken wing joint before the dinner rush had arrived. I didn’t even realize as we sat there in our little bubble that the restaurant had filled up and a long line of people were now waiting for tables. We had sat for a long time, unaware of the world going on around us, unaware of anyone or anything else.
Marriage is hard and sometimes you’ve just got to ignore everything else to make it work. Sometimes marriage is so fun, you just don’t remember to pay attention to others.
That was us at dinner.
The weekend before our date, Chris had gone through his CD collection from his high school and college days. My husband doesn’t have a ton of possessions, but he does have a ton of really old and loud CDs from his stoner days.
As we headed to the grocery store after dinner, we jammed to some tunes. Stuff popular in 1999 or 2002, some real classics, if you know what I mean.
Normally, I would roll my eyes at this, but tonight the marriage stars were aligned and I had a belly full of chicken so we both took turns singing and rapping as we flew down the highway in our minivan. Songs I hadn’t heard in almost twenty years played and we sang all the words like it was senior year and I was still rolling deep in my red Chevy Cavalier. There was no self-consciousness, no judgments, and plenty of laughter.
Sometimes marriage is nasty. You know someone so well you understand exactly where to strike and what words will do the most damage. It’s a strange power you try not to use. Other times, marriage is entertaining. You don’t just tolerate, but you embrace and love the other’s quirks, and you encourage the bass guitar pedal collection, the endless tattoos, and the Limp Bizkit.
The last stop of our night was shopping for a few of Ellie’s birthday presents. Knowing who we were when she first came into the world, and knowing what was to come, I’m surprised we have such a wonderful oldest daughter. She lived through a lot of mess even if she was too young to understand it. Our daughters play these make-believe games where they create worlds for their Shopkins or baby dolls. It’s pretty typical for their age. One story line that has started popping up is their parents have “split up.” I know they learned this language from school, specifically Ellie learned it and introduced it to Harper. It breaks my heart. We talk about it a little bit, but I also let most of it go because they’re just playing, and it’s not as sad for them as it is in real life.
What bums me out the most is so many people miss the magic that happens at ten years of marriage. The love that comes from lots of misunderstandings, heartbreaks, and rebuilding. So many people don’t make it to ten years of marriage because it’s hard work and sometimes boring and–a lot of the times–not fireworks. It’s just day in and day out showing up and trying to be better, not using your power for evil, and loving someone who is, truthfully, sometimes really annoying.
(I mean, I’m not. But Chris can be.)
But then the stars align and the January air warms so you can ride with the windows down and you find your husband to be the most entertaining, funny, handsome man that ever walked the earth and the depressing aisles of Aldi seem bright and alive.
I came home electric from that date with Chris. We didn’t dine under dimmed lights with fancy napkins in our laps. We ate at BW3s and got sauce on our fingers (…and beards. Just kidding, I don’t have a beard. #waxing). We didn’t see a play or movie with a cheesy romance theme that lit some fire that had been smoldering for some time. We played with toys in the kids’ department at Kohls because I had a coupon and some Kohls Cash to spend.
We did nothing out of the ordinary, nothing that a million other couples hadn’t done before. But it was thrilling and uncommon because we knew how hard-fought this silly date was. We knew what had come before, what long roads we had traveled to get to chicken wings on a Friday night, and we respected the fight.
That’s where we’re at right now. I’d call it a lull; a safe, still, calm spot after lots of uphill battles. Those will come again–I have no doubt–but right now, we’re enjoying quiet, everyday love and how breathtaking it feels.