This morning was like any other morning: I woke up lying next to Joseph who was starting to get out of bed and get ready for work. He gave me a quick hug before leaving the room to brush his teeth, and I began thinking about what it was like in the beginning. The getting-out-of-bed-to-brush-the-teeth-before-the-other-awakes stage. Romantic, I know... Now, I don't condone stinky breath any more than the next person, but it's a fact of life that I'm willing to overlook because hey, there are more important things.
"We have come a long way," I thought, as I crawled out of bed to go help Joseph get the kids' breakfast. That's something he nearly always does - makes us a hearty breakfast to begin our day.
In fact, I thought, staring at his back as he scrambled eggs, "Joseph is... wonderful."
I drank my coffee later while the three boys ate, lost in a little reverie, thinking about why, after six-and-a-half years, I think I just might love him more than when I married him.
I thought, "Well, he's a hard worker, and I like to think I am too, so there's that - we've just worked for this."
"And we're both great communicators, so we just talk it out and don't leave things unsaid..."
"And he's a man of action, and I am a contemplative, so I have the ideas, and he makes them happen, so that works too..."
"And we both want to get to heaven, and God is here in our life, blessing us as we go along..."
And then there was my ah-ha moment (after a brief pause to get 3 little boys and myself dressed).
As I went to to take my pre-natal vitamins with what remained of my coffee, I heard Joseph's voice in my head, saying "maybe you should take those with water..." and there it was:
"He wants what is best for me. He wants me to be the best I could ever be."
That is it right there.
I want the same thing for him. I want him to be the best he could ever be.
As long as we've been married, we've both wanted this.
Sometimes this desire manifests itself in ways that aren't pretty.
Take this gem from our first month as a married couple:
"(Expletive), I wish you could just learn to close the cupboard doors! That's the fourth time this week I've hit my head on one." (Maybe this is why he has not built my custom doors in our current home yet.)
All the credit can go to Joseph when I say that in my married life, I've become an organized person. Things have places in my home now, and I actually endeavor to put them there! Not, though in part, just because it drives Joseph crazy when all the things are lying around, but because through his example and philosophy, I've begun to see that there is virtue and merit in keeping an orderly home. I've still got a long way to go, but hey, now I have kids to teach this to as well, so by the time I'm oh, 45 or so, I'm hoping it's just second nature. This is only one of the virtues I've grown to embrace as a direct result of being married to Joseph. He is efficient where I am bumbling, generous where I am selfish, and reasonable when I'm being rash.
Sometimes it's really hard to see the other person continually fail at being their best.
I'm the first to say that I'm not the poster-child for pregnancy. I go from crying-lump-on-the-couch with a dash of just-plain-mean, to overly-particular to more-than-slightly-paranoid and anxious in 9 months. Every time. This current pregnancy is the fourth time Joseph has persevered through with "not the woman he married", and three times, I've heard him say, "That was hard. Being married to pregnant you is hard." And since I've been pregnant for over 2.5 years of our marriage, a lot of our marriage has been hard.
Daily, Joseph struggles with being merciful to our boys. I believe discipline and order with child-raising is key, but he and I have often discussed his propensity to simply get angry and not understand the reasons for certain behavior. If our children misbehave because they're tired, I often need to remind Joseph that they don't need to do X thing to make up for what they've done, they just have to go to bed. He has gotten better at listening to their cues, and I've gotten better at letting him input his thoughts on our parenting plans (because my failure is that I like to think I know everything because I've read a million parenting books and he has not). I've also learned that he most often spends time with them at the end of the day when he and they (and I) are not at our best, because we're all tired. Mercy is always needed on my part here too.
Sometimes it's hard to support the dreams of the other person.
Joseph runs a carpentry company. I often hear, "well since he's self-employed, his hours are flexible." It's true, but there are also more hours of work to do. At night, unlike someone who just goes to their job and comes home, Joseph spends time writing quotes, phoning customers and suppliers and doing the paperwork that keeps his business going. In the beginning, especially after our first baby, I complained bitterly about being a single-parent during some weeks.
But I was also pursuing a dream of my own in finishing my Bachelor's degree. Joseph's flexible hours were helpful when it came to childcare during some days and evenings when I was feverishly writing essays or conducting interviews. Joseph never once asked me to quit, to give up, or to cut back on classes. He only encouraged me to be efficient with my study-time so that between his work that supported our family, my schedule, and the needs of our baby, we could find some time to be with one another. He never once balked at the fact that because we were married, he was financially responsible for paying back my student-loans, should I not be able to myself. If not for his sacrifices, I would likely not have graduated.
Even as I typed all that, I have to marvel at how it all worked. Now, I'm better at supporting him in his job. I bite my tongue and save him some dinner when he calls me from his job sites having to work late. He is also better at giving me a break from the kids at the end of the day, often putting them to bed by himself, or taking them out to his workshop on Saturdays to let me nap, though he'd be more productive if they weren't there.
Sometimes it seems like you're traveling in different directions:
A good friend of mine put it this way: "I was going my way, and he was going his. He didn't want to turn around, and neither did I."
I am not presumptuous enough to suggest that I have all the answers when it comes to having a happy marriage. I just know that I've been blessed with someone who puts me first, and someone who makes it easy to put him first. I get that I'm just a baby in the grand scheme of things.
My heart goes out to people who are struggling more than we are. I think, even our biggest struggles have been nothing compared to what others have gone through together. We likely have a lot of hardships coming our way in our lifetime, and I can only hope and pray that we can withstand them and come out stronger.
There have been times where Joseph has asked me to make sacrifices, or simply, where it has become necessary to make sacrifices on both our parts. I've resented him, and he's resented me. We've had our blow-ups and ugly times. More than one day, we both have questioned whether or not it was worth it to work it out. I've honestly thought of just packing up the kids and leaving.
But usually, I end up thinking about why we're together in the first place, and come back to the one thing: He and I want what is best for each other. We both want each other to be the best we can be. Usually, I can pinpoint exactly where I'm not being the best I can be, but only after I spend an adequate amount of time blaming Joseph for not being the best he can be.
Then we've come back together and gotten back on track.
So that's my little epiphany on marriage:
We want to help each other become the best we can possibly be.
Many thanks must go to those people who've daily given us concrete examples of this in our own lives, and to our friends, whose marriages are beautiful and blooming. Again, we're the babies, just starting out, and I can only hope we end up as beautiful examples to our own children.
Hallie Lord - When Your Kiss is Met With a Cold Shoulder
Catholic All Year - Dear Newlywed, You're Probably Worried About the Wrong Thing
Fountains of Home: Marriage - The Mysterious Sacrament
Carrots for Michaelmas - Marriage is a Kind of Death
Heidi St. John - 25 Ways to Stay Married for 25 Years