This month I will celebrate 43 years of marriage. When I started on this journey, I had no clue what it meant to be a wife, a lover, and in a marriage. I thought that good marriages just happened and if they were not good, people just somehow would stick it out. I did not know all it would involve. I knew that it would require a little work, but I was not ready for the "white water rafting" of marriage. How could I possibly understand the full scope of what a marriage would involve? We were 23 years old, hmmm...
On August 29, 1975, I packed my bags, my trousseau, my electric curlers, my student loans and waited for the big day, On August 30, 1975, I said "I do". It was a beautiful summer day at my home church. Of course 43 years ago, little did I know that I was beginning a journey of self-discovery and the discovery of the person I would be sharing a bed with over the next 43 years.
I didn't realize I would need tools to communicate my needs, desires and how to just get along in a one bedroom apartment. My model for marriage was . . . well, I didn't have one. I had never witnessed any public display of affection from my parents and although Michael and I dated for a year, I did not know the importance of building intimacy in a relationship. It was work, school, work, church, church, and more church.
Neither of us understood intimacy and what it meant to make each other a priority. I did not know how important it was for me to express my desires and what I needed as a woman. I did not know I could do this because no one (my mother) had ever talked to me about sex, other than "Don't have sex before you get married" and "Don't get pregnant before you get married." That was it!
In my early years of marriage, I was so focused on finishing seminary while Michael worked full time, I lost myself. I did not understand what it meant to be a whole, healthy woman who could love well. I thought all I needed was Jesus and that would be enough to sustain me and Michael in our marriage. I don't remember taking time off to go on a vacation (unless it was a church conference). Financially, it was tight and we were not creative in the planning of our time together.
Someone once said, "You cannot change what you are unaware of", and I was not aware of a lot of things in those earlier years. My journey of loving well began with myself. I started to grow and mature in my relationship with God, myself and others. The "others" started with Michael. Because I was learning who I was, I was able to see him as that life partner God had given me. Marriage can be turbulent, but by the grace of God we were able to survive. The great thing about this 43rd year of marriage is that we are no longer just surviving, we are thriving!