Maybe it’s laughable for someone who’s been married three months to try to say anything at all about it yet. All the same, I know a whole lot more about marriage now than I did 91 days ago.
Here are a few of the things I’ve learned — not lessons exactly, but my experience.
— I have to take myself into marriage. Not so much because of some noble idea of self-giving, but because it’s impossible not to.
As a people pleaser, I have a deeply ingrained habit of deferring to others. I honestly thought I could do this whole marriage thing like I’ve done almost every other relationship: act with sweetness, kindness and forbearance for the sake of the other person and then go to my room and be myself.
Marriage hasn’t allowed me to do that. For one thing, it annoys Ivan when he asks my opinion and I say, “What do you think?” For another, it is impossible to constantly defer to someone else when you are married to him and don’t even have your own bedroom, for crying out loud. If you did, you’d become a non-person, which would be pretty miserable and make you really mad and resentful in a hot minute. I’ve had to learn to share more of what I am thinking and more of my likes and dislikes.
— Some things in a marriage are really hard to say. Like when you feel bad about something he said or the way he said it, and you know if you don’t say something, a tiny wall will spring up between you. Or when you spill ink on the new carpet. Or when you lose the Bluetooth he bought you — and he never loses things. Or when you know you should compliment him for a strength he has but know that doing so will show up your own weakness in that very area.
— Communication is always worth it.
— Sex is more complicated than one would think. Also more wonderful. There’s a word Ivan uses to describe it. Fragile. I know of no word more accurate. We have to learn so much about each other and about ourselves — our bodies, our minds, our emotions — in order to make it work right. I never realized, before I got married, how much power the right kind of sexual intimacy has to deepen a relationship.
— The attraction that will make a marriage strong goes a lot deeper than skin. I’ve had some pretty intense crushes in my lifetime, but none of those developed into a long-lasting relationship. When Ivan asked me to date him, I wasn’t attracted by his looks or personality but by his honesty, his godly character and by the way he was 100 percent supportive of the ventures in life I had already begun.
As we got to know each other better, I grew in love and attraction, but I worried at times that because our relationship hadn’t started with physical attraction, our marriage — especially the intimacy part — would be less than.
It hasn’t been.
I guess a little bit of Hollywood — or maybe it’s romance novels — has worked its way into a lot of us. But honestly, when my husband holds me while I’m crying, when he helps clear up after supper or giggles like a little kid over some ridiculous remark — it’s those things that deepen my attraction for him. As our relationship deepens, my physical attraction also does.
A marriage that empowers, I have learned, has little to do with physical attraction and a whole lot to do with valuing the other person for who they are.
Lucinda J. Kinsinger fell in love. She married Ivan on Nov. 23 and since then has lived with him on his farm in Oakland, Md. She is the author of Anything But Simple: My Life as a Mennonite and blogs at lucindajmiller.com.
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