A few weeks ago Mikael and I spent about six hours at a marriage conference in Allen.
Though we each had our reservations about saying “yes,” we agreed to go at my parents’ recommendation.
I grew up thinking all marriages must be really easy – that’s how my parents made it look (those of you that know them can attest to this). But as a newlywed myself, my parents let me in on a secret - they actually put a lot of work into it.
One way they said they make their relationship work is by taking part in as many “learning opportunities” as they can.
So, my husband of a year and I heeded their advice and said a hesitant “yes” to the conference, a chance to learn as a couple (plus "yes" to the free hotel stay that went with it; that which was much easier to agree to).
Unfortunately we had a few weeks for our nerves to build up before actually attending the conference.
Would we be packed in a room with strangers (plus my parents, and a dozen couples from their church)?
Would we have to breakout into sessions without each other?
we be the youngest people there by several decades?
Would we leave feeling worse than when we got there?
they convince us we were actually wrong for each other? Toxic, like a Brittany
By the time Friday came we were both on edge and frazzled.
It’s no wonder, really, that we had a pretty intense fight before
leaving the house that day.
In fact, when we checked into the hotel we had once been so excited to stay at, the grandeur of the fine accommodations was lost on us.
We were still pretty sore with one another, and obnoxiously
loud Abba playing in the elevator on the way up to our room didn’t help.
As much as I wanted the fancy suite, complete with Neutrogena travel toiletries, flatscreen and a full-sized Hershey bar, to magically end our squabble, or at least diminish our anxiety, alas… it did not.
Instead we continued exchanging cross words, and feeling miserable that we’d ever agreed to attend the conference in the first place.
And we felt this way all the way to the conference, which, very much like our predictions, did involve a large room filled with name-tagged couples, most of which looked a lot happier at that juncture than us.
There we were. Tear-stained newlyweds, barely talking, in a
sanctuary filled with handholding couples straight out of a
life insurance commercial.
We weren’t excited to
We did not have high hopes.
We didn’t even like each other at that moment.
We wanted to be anywhere else but there. Most importantly we wanted time apart.
Still, we showed up. Reluctantly. Together.
And I’m so glad we did.
From the start the speaker spent most of the time talking about the differences between men and women.
And I know this sounds like “no duh” territory.
But for me at least, it really was beneficial.
Over and over the speaker used the phrase, “not wrong, just different.”
And it was through that lens that he shared humorous stories, sociological research and Scripture, all pointing to the idea that couples are brought together to strengthen and to complement one another.
And I liked that message a lot.
(I desperately needed to hear it.)
As an adult, as a wife, as a Christian, I’ve come to believe strongly that marriage was not made for people to live hunky-dory happily ever after, the way I thought it was as a kid (one that watched The Little Mermaid a few too many times).
Instead I choose to believe, and trust, that marriage was created to make life richer, fuller, and ultimately better, by allowing people to share it.
Their days. Their dreams. Their lives.
Messily. Majestically. Intertwined.
And what I took from the conference was just that - an expert, well-spoken survey of how our differences make us stronger…
Reinforcement that relationships were never meant to be easy. But also that they’re important.
All of life boils down to relationship.
With one another. With Creator God. With the people we share this planet with, especially the one we share a bed with.
And I don’t want to sound like I’m on a soapbox here.
In fact, Mikael and I agreed months ago that we’d try very hard not to share too much, and especially not to give advice about relationships, seeing as we’re still very much starting out ourselves.
We’re far from perfect. We’ve got tons to learn.
Plus it’s dangerous territory sticking your neck out like this.
We agreed our 40th anniversary would be a good time to start explaining how we made things work, assuming we make it to 40 (if the hotdogs don’t do me in before then).
I felt like this is one good exception to that rule…
Because what I’m sharing is advice carefully curated from other people’s research, careful study, and hard-earned wisdom, not my own…
And also because it’s important, what with relationships being what life is created around and all…
It seems good to share this information, even if it is abridged, and with a little personal history thrown in just for kicks (with approval from my hubby).
I hope just hearing this tiny bit will give you a bit more appreciation for your S.O. (Significant Other’s) unique traits.
I hope “not wrong, just different” will prove an argument diffuser the way it has around here.
Mostly I hope that you’ll be reminded how the best things in life require a bit more effort, but are way more than worth it in the end.
With or without the chocolate incentive… like that Hershey’s bar waiting for us after a long day of learning...
The best things aren't things at all. They are people committed to sharing life with you.