The “Golden 15”:: Cheers to the Crucible of Marriage
We were on our weekly hiking date, talking about what we might do for our upcoming anniversary. The air was crisp as we headed down the hill, sweaty and stinky from the miles we had trekked. As we trudged along, with the sound of gravel crunching under our shoes, he made a comment which was something to the effect of “It’s not like it’s a big deal or anything. It’s not like you hear about people celebrating their “Golden Fifteen” or anything like that. It’s fine if we don’t do anything to celebrate it.”
Without warning, his comment brought tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat.
He didn’t mean anything cruel by it— he was simply trying to put my mind at ease so that I didn’t feel guilty for choosing to save money (and effort) by not doing anything extravagant this year — but the “it’s not a big deal” phrase still stung a bit.
Because I had been feeling the exact opposite way. To me, anything in an increment of five seems to be a “big deal” for some reason. And OUR past 15 years? They have definitely been a “big deal” to me.
Although of course our years together have been filled with countless times of joy and celebration and growth… they have also been extremely challenging. And I’m pretty dang proud of how far we’ve come.
Because the truth is: Marriage is freaking hard.
Yes, it is beautiful and fun and rewarding and it has the potential to be an incredibly fruitful relationship. But it is also extremely difficult. True intimacy often requires more courage, perseverance, and determination than I ever imagined it would.
This thing— marriage— has been a definite crucible for me. Please don’t get me wrong: I am in no way saying that my particular husband is any more of a mess or harder to deal with than anyone else’s. Nor am I implying that our marriage has been one great big, hellish, horrible burden that I have been doomed to endure. I’m not saying that at all.
All I mean by comparing my marriage to a crucible is that, as its definition states, marriage has been a key vehicle through which God has changed me. Through my relationship with my husband, and through the inevitable friction that arises in the marital partnership, and through our determination to make this thing work no matter what (and to hopefully still be smiling and holding hands when we’re old and wrinkly and hunched over with age several decades from now), God has taught me a ton about myself, about Himself, about humankind, and about life in general. This journey of marriage has truly been “a place or situation in which different elements interacted to produce something new.” It has changed me.
And although I would absolutely choose this man all over again, and although I wouldn’t trade any of the lessons we’ve learned over the past decade and a half… I would be lying if I ever dared to say that any of this came easy. Any level of maturity or intimacy or affection we have in our marriage today has been hard won, that’s for sure.
There have certainly been times wherein I lost hope that things would ever be any better or different than they were. There have certainly been times when I have sobbed myself to sleep in absolute frustration and despair at how dysfunctional we have been at various times in our marriage. There have certainly been times when I have had to deliberately tell myself that “This is not “just a relationship” here— rather, we entered into the covenant of marriage when we said “I do” that sunny December afternoon all those years ago.”
There have certainly been times wherein I had to consciously and repeatedly remind myself that, regardless of how my husband is or is not behaving, HE does not hold the keys to my worth or my purpose. No matter how much I love him and desire a beautiful, healthy, thriving marriage, the truth is that my identity and my value are not wrapped up in my husband. Regardless of who he is and how he does or does not behave (assuming there is no abuse, of course), I am called to remain true to my wedding vows, do what is right, and remain focused on God and following God’s lead in my life.
And that is just ONE of the many lessons that have taken me more than a decade to finally learn and believe.
So rest assured when I tell you that I am well acquainted with the hardships and desperation that have come in marriage over the past 15 years.
I am also intimately acquainted with the beauty and joy and reward that marriage brings as well. After 15 years of consistently choosing to love and serve and pour into a fellow flawed human like myself— I have seen time and time again the benefits and rewards that are born via the unique environment of the marriage relationship.
And here is my point, friends: Yes. Marriage IS hard. There is nothing quite like being bound to someone for the rest of your life – by choice – and feeling both the vulnerability and the security and joy that commitment inherently brings. But I want to encourage you: just because it is hard doesn’t mean it’s not good or beautiful or worth all the tears and sweat and courage that comes with the territory.
It is a big deal. No matter how short or how long you’ve been on this journey: what you’re doing is an important, hard, mysterious, and intensely meaningful adventure.
Keep up the great work.
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If you are going through a hard season in your marriage (again, assuming there is no abuse), can I please just encourage you with this? Stick with it. Keep clinging to God. Keep finding your worth and identity in Him. And then continue to walk the audacious path of honesty and vulnerability and courageous connection with your spouse. Keep extending grace to him and keep praying for him and keeping holding at least a handful of hope whenever possible.
Sometimes walking the marriage path might mean that you look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself “I was born for this!” despite the fact that you feel completely ill-equipped to traverse the particular valley you and he are facing. (Did that one last week.) Sometimes it might mean that you get on your face and sob out your prayers and frustrations to God until you can hardly breath anymore. (Did that one a couple weeks ago, too.) Sometimes it might mean that you put aside your own agenda and just listen with empathy to your husband vent about work or whatever is burdening him (perhaps even for the thousandth time that week?). Sometimes it might mean that you go away just the two of you for a weekend of kid-free, technology-free, fresh air, good food, and meaningful conversation together. Sometimes it might mean choosing to smile over a cup of coffee when he walks into the room. Or simply hugging him and saying “I’m glad you’re home” when he walks through the door at the end of the day.
Whatever it looks like for you— today, in this season— I urge you to keep pressing forward. And know that I am doing the same. And most other spouses you come across in your daily life? They are somewhere along that journey as well. Most of us don’t talk about it in public because it’s all so personal and so unique to us and because we don’t want to slander our spouses or garner pity or hear ridiculous advice from well-meaning (but ignorant) people or anything like that. But the truth is, it is no easy thing remaining committed to one another and staying the course in marriage these days.
But let’s rise up and do it anyway. Let’s beat the stats. Let’s not just survive, but let’s thrive in our marriages. Let’s seek God for help, let’s search out other tools and teachings and friends that might be able to help us grow and get better and learn more helpful skills and all that… and let’s do this. Let’s face this crucible head on and gather all the lessons we can possibly gather from it.
And let’s become something new together.
And then, once we’re a little farther on our journey and have just a smidge more perspective, let’s extend our hands to someone nearby, share our stories of both victory and defeat with them, and let’s start a revolution of honest, open, courageously vulnerable marriages— so that those around us know they are not alone. That we’ve been to those dark places too. And we’ve come out alive on the other side.
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What about you?
How has marriage changed or grown you? What have been some unexpected lessons you have learned along the way?
Please share your journey or insights or helpful resources in the comment section below.