What Marriage Means

We got our wedding photos back this week (Cathrine Taylor did our photography and absolutely blew us away.) It was tremendous to look back through them—all 750 of them—because so many of the little moments that I’ve since almost forgotten were brought back into focus. I got to see some moments that I didn’t get to experience firsthand, like when our flower girls scrambled up the aisle, for the first time.

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It felt like a long wait for the pictures (I mean, you pretty much want them delivered to you the next day), but what a gift it was to look back, now that we’re almost a couple months out, at the day that we pledged to be BFFs forever. It made me giddy all over again. Now I’m listening to our wedding playlist and reading love poems and texting my husband things like, “Let’s get married!!!!” Also, it made me return to one of my favorite posts on the Internet (ever): “What Marriage Means” by Joanna Goddard. I remember reading this simple, sweet story long before Caleb and I started dating and thinking, man, I’d like to get married someday.

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From what I can tell seven weeks in, it’s true what they say: Marriage is hard. But they say it so much. They say it so much that, like I’ve shared before, I got wigged out before we got married that our marriage had no hope to be A Good Marriage. We either wouldn’t submit to each other, or we’d submit too much and feel like we’d lost ourselves. We’d either undercommunicate or overcommunicate (<– something I believe is impossible). Somehow, some way, and probably sooner rather than later, we’d wind up feeling lonely and far away and frustrated.

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I can’t say that none of those things will come into play (or even that they haven’t yet). Only seven weeks in, and I can echo the others: Marriage is hard. There are hard conversations and hard days and hard heads. It’s hard in Legit ways—like relationship-building and/or -destroying ways—and in stupid ways. Like one time I cried over Christmas stockings. Wait, that was actually before we were married. Let me try again. I once cried because I THOUGHT Caleb was insinuating that he didn’t love EVERY SINGLE ONE of my (87) coffee mugs. How could he not love them?? I mean, we have one whole cabinet to store our entire collection of kitchen necessities in, and we are all in agreement here that 87 coffee mugs are totally essential.

Wait, we’re not? We’re not in agreement? And I already married you? TEARS. (In my defense, he knew about the coffee mugs before we were married. In his defense, I actually believe with my whole heart that 87 coffee mugs are essential. Also, he is actually cool with 87 coffee mugs. Maybe even 88.)

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But we have found the secret, I think. We have found the strongest hope of our lives is the strongest hope for our marriage. Some of you may scoff—I mean, we’re only seven weeks in—but I don’t care. We follow this rule, and the path rises out of the fog until we can walk, steady again. It’s just this: “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” (John 13:34–35)

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So anyway, here I am, thumbing through my wedding pictures (again), and thinking about what marriage means. Caleb is better at being married than I am, so most of the what-marriage-means examples involve him being the best husband ever (excepting the coffee mug times, but everyone has his or her flaws, of course, and I accept his. I’m good that way.) Here’s what I think.

Marriage means that I steal his covers every single night (also his space in the bed), and every single morning, he gets out of bed first and brings me my first cup of coffee. Grace in action, my friends. It means that I pad into the kitchen at 7 on the dot every morning to scramble him three eggs for breakfast. It means that yes, I will pick you up, and yes, I will take out the trash because you hate to do it, and yes, you have a back scratcher for life. It means that I can tell you much more about fancy cars and computer parts than I ever thought I’d be able to do; it means that Caleb knows every single time the Gap is having a sale.

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Right after we got married, I got sick. It was Christmas Eve, actually, and I woke up feeling terrible. Caleb went out to Walgreens to buy some DayQuil. Usually I kick sickness pretty quickly, but I woke up the next morning feeling sick, too. And then the next day, too, and the day after that. We went on our honeymoon and had lots of fun, but the whole time, I was a hacking, sneezing, snotty mess. It was sexy.

The night we got home, I went to bed early, because I had work the next day and I was still feeling pretty under the weather. Around 11 o’clock, I woke up with ear pain. Yep, a throbbing ear, which I thought stopped happening after age 5. And because it was the middle of the night and because it, well, hurt and because I knew an urgent care clinic wouldn’t open until 7 a.m., I started sobbing. Of course, Caleb woke up. First, he got up to get me some medicine. And then he got up again to get me some more. And when none of the medicine worked and we realized we’d just have to wait it out, he snuggled me close, all night long, as I drifted in and out of sleep.

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The next morning, I woke up with fluid leaking out of my ear and very red, swollen eyes. He kissed my forehead and told me I was beautiful. And then, for the next 10 days, he dropped eardrops into my ear every four hours.

You’ve heard, I’m sure, that it’s not romance or infatuation that go the distance. You’ve heard that what counts is when love waves its victorious flag in the ordinary moments; it’s leaky ears and scrambled eggs and watching a whole season of 24 in one week. It’s trying to make it to the gas station before we run out of gas and emails with links we’ll both love and (sometimes) feeling like we don’t understand each other. It’s researching new coffeepots and buying oil for the car and going on a date. It’s saying Big Things—“I think you’re going to be an incredible dad”—and Little Ones—“Thank you.”

Marriage means that the nooks and crannies of your soul, the shadowy bits that you try to pretend aren’t there, get thrust into the light. Sometimes that hurts, because you see how human you are. You watch yourself hurt the very person you get out of bed to scramble eggs for, and you break your own heart. Marriage means watching someone else put all of the pieces back together. It means “I’m sorry” much more than you think it will (once, I told my best friend that I felt like Caleb and I say “I’m sorry” more than we say “I love you.” “Well, those are interchangeable,” she said.) It means setting your hearts on each other’s dreams; it means championing each other when someone feels like he or she can’t go on. It means Getting Over Yourself and it means honesty and vulnerability and honor and a bunch of other stuff that’s hard to do in the thick of it.

“In the same way I have loved you…”

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Marriage means all of these things and a million more that I can’t wait to find.

Oh, Caleb. Thank you for making marriage something worth writing home about.

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2 thoughts on “What Marriage Means

  1. I love the photos. I wish I could sit down with you over coffee and look at all 700 of them. You and Caleb are definitely on the right track. I’d like to meet Caleb too. He sounds pretty wonderful. Love you.

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