Six months is a long time to love and you want to chat about forever over coffee? ~Me, at 19
As a young woman I wrote scads of melodramatic poetry about my fears of commitment.
And no wonder, by then I had lived through my parents divorcing twice. My mother and father split up when I was five, after 11 years of marriage. My step-father left the week of my 18th birthday. Ironically, they had also been together eleven years.
Myself, I’ve never even come close to 11 years in a relationship. My norm has been six months of dating. Six months before my fear gets the best of me. Six months before my anxiety overwhelms all attraction. Six months. My one exception to the rule had previously been my relationship with my daughter’s father, which persisted for three years. “Of course,” I’ve often half jested, “we didn’t speak the same language at first. That helped it to last as long as it did. By the time we finally figured out how to communicate, we realized we didn’t have anything to say.”
Despite my persistent fear of commitment, I did finally take the plunge and get married recently. Tomorrow makes seven months since Jason and I said I do. (Also, it’s been 2 years 10 months since we first met, almost exactly two years since I fell in love with him, just a couple days over a year since he proposed…) O, yes, I’m counting. You’d better believe I’m counting! I have a lot of relationship hurdles to get over. Six months. Three years. The dreaded eleven year mark. I warned my husband very early on that these milestones may be weak points for our relationship as old fears rise up, whispering lies, “Never could. Never will. Never does.”
First hurdle over. Surprisingly, the six month mark came and went with barely a blip in our relationship. I never expected to get off so easily.
And I’m loving married life. My husband is ridiculously sweet. I love how he drives everywhere, knowing I hate to be behind the wheel. He can (and does!) describe at length how much he adores me and why. My queen sized bed isn’t a looming swath of emptiness anymore. Quite the reverse of my past experiences, I feel myself loving and appreciating him more every day.
So why am I still petrified?
You see, it’s not only my past that’s littered with broken relationships. Lately, marriages have been crumbling around me at an alarming rate. Couple after couple that I’m close to have been calling it quits. Crashing and burning.
I danced hula in her wedding. Over. We were just shopping for dresses for her big day. Done. They just got together. Kaput. They just reconciled a few months ago. Finished. We just booked tickets to fly out for their big day. Cancelled.
Even looking at couples I know who are managing to stick it out worries me. She’s miserable; stuck in a marriage to a self-centered child. They nag and bark at each other all day long, never content. She’s considering leaving him because he’s a bully. He is being sliced to ribbons by the constant attacks from her sharp tongue.
I confessed my fears to my mother, begging, “Name a happy couple. Just give me an example to show it could work out.”
My sweet, no-nonsense mother shot back, “Kate, you don’t need an example. You can trust the word of God!”
The word of God.
And she’s right. Absolutely. 100%. In my fear, I had forgotten. When everything is hopeless and impossible, when the odds are terrific and I’m ill-equipped, as a Christian I can call on the LORD. When the whole world screams NO WAY, a Christian can answer back with YAHWEH.
Relationships fall apart…but God restores.
Hearts break…but God heals.
People let you down…but God lifts you up.
In his word, God has given me a lot of advice to strengthen my marriage so that it can stand the test of time. The one I’m clinging to this week is from, of all books, Ecclesiastes.
Written by a world-weary King Solomon, much of Ecclesiastes is a lament about just how futile this life can feel. How we strive, often for no reward. How circumstances frequently don’t work out even when you’ve been wise. Heavy with sorrow and tinged with despair, Ecclesiastes can be a tough read. But right in the middle of the diatribe, I found some hope for my marriage. There it was, just a few short verses after this little gem of encouragement: “And I declared the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive. But better than both is the one who has never been born, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 4:2-3
Oof. Heavy, Solomon, heavy. Not going to cross-stitch that on a pillow anytime soon.
But soon after that, I found a ray of hope to cast into the darkness of my fears.
Solomon’s answer to the seeming futility of life was companionship, a variety of companionship, in fact, that sounds a lot like marriage.
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves. ~Ecclesiastes 4:9-12a
And he’s right.
Everything has gotten a little bit easier around here with a co-laborer. There’s an extra adult to teach the teenager to drive, get those weeds that have been taking over the side yard, and swing by the hardware store to pick up a new battery for the garage door opener. What a relief it’s been to have Jason working at my side.
And the joy of having someone to help you up when you fall! When I lose my temper and rush off to the bedroom in a straight-up mommy hissy fit, Jason steps right in to parent, gets the kiddos squared away, then sneaks into the room to assure me that I’m not the worst mother in the world. When Jason is discouraged by the futility of looking for a decent job in this small town, I’m able to assure him that it’s not him- he is smart and capable and hardworking- it’s just the economy. We help each other up.
And what a comfort to not be alone anymore. I have a hand to hold in church, a sweetheart to cuddle during the movie, and a shoulder rub available pretty much any time I request it.
How blessed am I?
But Solomon doesn’t stop with just a list of reasons to get together, he’s got some advice for those looking to stay together.
Oddly, after all that talk of two- two are better than one, two lie down, two defend themselves- Solomon suddenly ups the companion count at the end of verse 12.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. ~ Ecclesiastes 4:12b
Three strands? Where’s the third strand come from Solomon, buddy? I thought there were two of us?
Interestingly, according to Solomon, the benefits of relationship came from just two together, but the strength, that comes from three together. What or who is the third strand?
Because “not quickly broken” is the desire of my heart. I desperately want a marriage that will endure. So it is absolutely crucial that Jason and I have that third strand upping our relationship’s durability.
The more I think about it, the more firmly I believe that the third strand in a marriage, the one that strengthens it, providing endurance and longevity, is God himself.
Three: Jason. Myself. And Jesus Christ. Braided together and intertwined. Inseparable. A relationship not quickly broken.
Forget six months, 3 years, 11 years- I’m shooting for until death do us part.