Today being Valentine's Day, I thought I would reflect a little on my relationship with my wife. Although many of you probably know the story, I'll recap. Ellen and I met our freshman year in high school. We were in the same homeroom since both our last names began with the letter F. She sat in the row to the right of me a few seats up. I won't claim it was love at first sight, since it wasn't. Honestly, we were just two kids in the same homeroom. I got to know her through a mutual friend. In band, I played baritone sax and sat next to a clarinetist with whom I became friends (shout out to my buddy Roz!). I began hanging out with her friends and Ellen was a part of that group.
However, I never honestly considered dating her until junior year. Apparently, she thought I was kind of cute (a fact of which I was COMPLETELY oblivious at the time). We dated through the rest of high school for the most part and went to our junior prom and senior ball together. However, by the end of high school we decided to break it off as we were going to different colleges (although both of us were local). That lasted through the summer and until about the middle of September.
We still talked to each other throughout that time and in September I needed a date to the Marine Corp birthday party as I was part of the ROTC unit at the time. Since I didn't have a lady friend, I invited Ellen. We realized that night that we still liked each other and that we should get back together. And the rest, so to speak is history. About a year or so later, I realized I really wasn't interested in other women and that I was truly madly in love with this woman. I eventually proposed to her and we were married in 1989. And I've been a happily married man ever since. I'm still madly in love with my wife and can't imagine life with another woman.
So, what is the point in my story? People have asked my our "secret" to staying married over 25 years. Before I answer, I'll move to the real reason for this post. And that's a reflection on marriage. I've come to believe over the years that one of the causes of the issues facing our society are due to the breakdown in marriage. I'm not going to get into the debate on what "marriage" is in the legal sense. What I'm talking about is the divorce rate in this country. It's over 50%. Marriage has become disposable, like a car or a home. You really liked your car when you bought it, but now it just doesn't satisfy you. So it's time to trade it in for a new one.
Except marriage isn't supposed to work that way. We've lost our sense of marriage as sacramental. That marriage is a union that should not be lightly entered into or lightly broken. We've lost that understanding that marriage is a hard thing that requires work on the part of both people in the relationship. Marriage isn't that romantic, happy ever after, found my soul mate and life is perfect kind of thing that is sold to us by our culture. So what is marriage? I really believe marriage is the union of two people into something greater than they are. Marriage is a sacrament where two people become one. I also believe that a marriage is really between three people: the couple and God.
Scripture is very clear that when people marry, they are no longer two but one. And like all areas of our lives, we need God to bless it and help us to be successful. And if you ask me the secret to how my wife and I have made it this far, I would tell you it's because we realize that we need God in our marriage to help us work through all of the issues that come up in life and in a relationship. Part of it too is that we're committed to making this marriage work. We went into it with the idea that we're in it for the long haul. And we rely on the grace of God to help us get there.
Sure, there are lots of practical reasons we're still together. I won't speak for my wife, but one of the reasons I think we've gone this long is because, at the end of the day, I'm still madly crazy about her. We've fought, been angry with each other, didn't talk, and you name it. But then I look at her and can't stay mad for very long. Even after over 30 years together, I find her to be the most beautiful woman I know. I wake up in the morning and marvel that God has blessed me to have this amazing woman in my life. I thank God for her every day.
I think another reason we've been together so long is that we're genuine with each other. By that, I mean that we're honest with each other and don't pretend to be what we're not. Be both respect each other for what we have in common and what we don't. And we support each other, even if it's something we may not be completely interested in. And we can disagree with each other without thinking the other is wrong or being unsupportive.
At the end of the day, I think what has kept us together is that we both try and take care of the other. Paul was very clear in his epistles that spouses should put the interests of the other above their own. That they should be subordinate to each other. I think when we put the welfare of our spouse first, it allows us to love each other more deeply and makes it easy to stay together for so long. It's not an easy thing and certainly a process, but it's one we've gone through together.
So Happy Valentine's Day to my wonderful wife. I think she knows how much I love her, since I tell her often. And I think she knows I mean it.