I was at a wedding a couple weeks ago— I absolutely love weddings. Soaking in the words of the message, I usually find my heart revitalized with a newlywed’s eagerness to prioritize my marriage. But this time, when the pastor asked couples what areas they could be more intentional about in their marriage, nothing came immediately to mind. My husband was in the hallway with our youngest. And instead of thinking of things we could change, I just wished he was there so we could lock eyes and smile, passing each other the silent message that we are just so happy to have each other. I remember a few years ago being at weddings and grabbing his hand, praying for better days, and hoping we would make it. We were so young when we got married— no plans or responsibilities. We just knew that we really, really liked each other and maybe it would be fun if we could hang out forever. So we got married! Looking back, I know God was in it. It could have gone so badly. But it didn’t. He had a plan.
Over the years our relationship, once carefree and idealistic, began to change. We didn’t mean for it to happen. I just don’t think either of us were strong enough, at the time, to thrive in life’s challenges. In the beginning, life together was relatively simple. But before our first anniversary I was pregnant and things started to change. I want to make sure I say first, change is not bad. These shifts can be hard— but most of the time a change in the road not only brings new sites to explore, it also leads to knowledge and growth. Becoming parents changed us in all the most wonderful ways. But it also changed our marriage in ways I didn’t recognize right away, and because of this I didn’t take the time to intentionally lean in to a new and deeper love with my husband. Up to that point I thought I knew what love should feel like, but that definition exploded in to a thousand pieces the day I met my first born. Suddenly love was a mixture of intense joyful affection and a new somewhat fearful vulnerability. It would be years before I would learn to love my husband in this same way. If love meant I had to go all in, that I could get hurt?! Then that was not for me. For my kids— of course! But I didn’t think I could risk my whole heart on a man. And so without knowing it, I was holding myself back from love’s full potential. It’s complicated of course. But at some point I decided that my husband would get part of me. And I would hold back just enough so that if anything ever went wrong I would be safe.
Fast forward almost 6 years where I found myself at a fork in the road. And I realized I had to choose a direction. I wasn’t feeling fully loved by my husband. And I wanted to be. Not just loved— but I wanted closeness, I wanted to be his best friend again. Like it used to be. I was pregnant at the time and so, without my permission, I was emotionally vulnerable. And I cried. I allowed myself to think that maybe he didn’t love me, maybe he didn’t even want to be my friend. Neither of these thoughts were true of course! But at the time I needed to think them because I needed to care. And I quickly realized I indeed cared very deeply about this. So I decided to be brave and open up to him about everything I was feeling. His response was thoughtful, loving, and kind. He was there all along. Loving me. He never stopped. And he never held my feelings against me. Suddenly, for me, it was like we hadn’t missed a beat. I don’t know if he fully understood the depth of my thoughts, but he knew that ok was not ok for me anymore. I wanted more. Although it seems so simple, opening up to my husband about my innermost thoughts and emotions laid the framework for growth in our marriage. Opening up about these things unlocked my heart to a risky, all in, almost magical love like nothing I had felt before— and it permeated through all facets of our marriage. It was like Aladdin asking Jasmine on to the magic carpet, “Do you trust me?” Obviously over simplified, but what if she wouldn’t have trusted him? Sure, they could have taken a walk in the park. But they would have missed that amazing ride! Saying yes to trust, saying yes to loving deeper has transformed our marriage. We’re on the same team now. We are one flesh. We care about the details. After having Rowan, knowing my postpartum challenges, Randy asked me to tell him every time I felt anxious. It got to the point that he could tell by looking at me if I had just had an anxious thought. He partnered with me in my hardest time and I was secure knowing he was by my side. Being open and honest about our personal struggles, relationship conflicts, and dreams— all of it has only made us stronger. By holding back, I was slowly losing touch with my best friend. And I’m so thankful for that emotional pregnant lady who set me free from my self imposed isolation.
I wish I would have known how much better this kind of love was when we first got married. My engagement ring recently broke so, until we can get it fixed, I have been wearing the wedding band alone. The band is meant to wrap around my ring so alone it looks a little odd, a curvy line of white gold. But as I look at it now, alone on my finger, it seems so perfect to describe what it actually is. The wedding band. The pomp and circumstance of the engagement isn’t there anymore, but the band as it winds up and down around my finger looks a lot like the road we’ve been on in our marriage. Each curve marks a change, a chance to dig deeper, and a time for new adventures.