Upon five years of marriage, I reflect on how bisected our lives now seem. Still young and yet, there has been such a discernible “before” and “after” to what we have known, an “adulthood” and a “childhood,” which tended to overlap between the end of our engagement and immediately following our youthful wedding. The changing of these seasons–periods that have lasted lifetimes unique unto themselves–we have navigated together. There will come a day, God willing, that we will have spent more of our lives together than apart. The world of “after” will have overtaken the “before,” and I wonder how it will feel.
My husband is uncomfortable with eyes on him–the night before our wedding, nervous. He asked me to send him a photo of the vows in our hymn book so he could practice them again. As I walked down the aisle, he didn’t cry or even smile. What kind of man, you may wonder, stands stone faced as his bride walks toward their future? The same man who, nervous as he was, mouthed that I looked beautiful as the reverend welcomed the audience behind. Who grasped my hands with firm but gentle intent as I sobbed my way through my own vows. Who pushed the ring onto my finger only to the knuckle before needing help because he didn’t want to hurt me. Who kissed me at length as we stood before the alter, to the amusement of the audience involved. (It felt to us like only a second had passed.)
When the ceremony ended and we walked outside to the cheers of family and friends, my husband held me close to his side–his palm never far from my hand or the small of my back, his shoulder resting against mine. The look in his eyes and the upturn of his lips were softer and more joyous than I could ever have imagined. My husband is a reserved man, and his actions speak louder than words. In every touch, I heard that I was cherished. I wonder what the others saw.
Lost in a happiness born of ending a well-enforced and long (three year!) engagement, we were finally allowed to touch and love and be in all the ways we craved. Accepted. Embraced. We laughed about the lavender landing in my dress and hair, intertwined our fingers like we’d never let go, and–without realizing–kissed so many times at the reception that their excess is joked about to this day. In the intervening years, we’ve had many ups and downs–growing up together, maturing into the people we continue to become. It wasn’t and isn’t always easy. Things that once seemed to matter so greatly mean less as time goes on. Others left unconsidered prove their importance at inopportune times. Injuries occur, depression flairs up, hurts accumulate through sound and silence.
You learn just how much you mean to the other person, and that meaning deepens with time and circumstance in ways you never dreamed. “The two of you” become “you” in ways beyond what you’ve ever been, and “you” is messy. “You” is also beautiful. It’s challenging, rewarding, motivating, confusing, comforting, exciting, predictable, and unexpected. And neither of us–we have learned–would trade that for anything in the world.
I write this in advance of its publication date. In a few moments, I’ll head to bed. My husband will be sleeping and, in sleep, he is vulnerable. It’s not unusual for my “it’s too warm to snuggle” love to turn toward me, curled into a fetal position with his face close to mine, completely unconscious of doing so. Perhaps, in early morning hours, he’ll throw this arm around me, pulling me close and nestling in that much deeper. For all the world pretending like I’m the only one insisting on cuddles in this house, he hides nothing when asleep.
To this day, it is his actions that show me I am treasured. It’s hands that hold mine on instinct, hover over accidental injuries with such concern, and work hard each day to provide us–by God’s great blessing–a comfortable life. It’s arms that intertwine with mine as we walk through the grocery store, carried me to the bathroom when in too much pain to walk, and dressed me when I couldn’t do so on my own.
Marry the man who lays on the fuzzy rug with you and laughs with you about jokes that don’t make any sense. Marry the man who loves you in spite of your shortcomings, who grows against the grain to be the best version of himself and makes you do the same.
Though he will never read this, I hope I can convey to him the same message of appreciation and adoration today–our 5th anniversary–in his love language:
On July 11, 2015, I married the love of my life. We have had our ups and downs, have grown and loved and laughed together, and I look forward with great joy to the future that God has planned for us today and always.