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On my ninth anniversary
There’s this idea in society that marriage is hard. Pick up any anniversary card at your local Target and you’ll find unnecessarily long paragraphs of flowery prose about the ups and downs of married life. It’s odd how prevalent this idea actually is, especially considering that so much of society is still structured around Marriage as the Ultimate Goal. Throw the biggest party you can, they say, because after this your life is over. Ball and chain.
Yet, these contradictions exist simultaneously, almost codependently, and with a dogged persistence. It’s an especially prevalent idea among Christian women, who mention it in nearly every Instagram reel. They’ve Christianized the “ball and chain” language by talking about what a ministry it is to serve their husbands self-sacrificially, who post Bible verses about finding “joy in the Lord” so often that it starts to feel less like an affirmation and more like a thinly-veiled cry for help.
On my one-month anniversary, I posted a photo on Instagram of a peach cobbler I had made. My caption said something like, “One month married. It’s not all been peaches and cream but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” At the time, I truly believed what I had written. It had been a rough month. Our apartment had flooded while we were on our honeymoon, which meant we lived in a work zone that first week while they repaired the water damaged floors. We were learning how to merge two lives together; a messy process no matter how much you love someone. And we were recovering from a very stressful six-plus months of wedding planning.
I was not one of those girls who had been dreaming of her wedding day since she was three so nearly every minute of the planning process was a struggle. As much as I wanted to get married, I was glad when it was over. My goal had never been to be a Wife and once I was married, I actively resisted all the stereotypes I’d been taught. Still, here I was, parroting the language that had been given to me. Marriage was tough and, but by the grace of God, I was surviving it.
Today is my nine year anniversary. It’s a shocking milestone in that the past nine years feel both shorter and longer than I expected them to. In fact, a lot of what it is to be married is not what I expected it to be. Not wanting one of the marriages that was modeled for me, I approached my marriage simply and pragmatically. Marrying my spouse was something I wanted. It was also a thing that was expected of me. I was, after all, trained to be a stay-at-home mom, so getting married was the capstone of that education.
My marriage has been filled with too many twists and turns to name. Marriage is hard not because it’s marriage, but because people are complicated. Life is complicated. At the end of the day, marriage doesn’t really seem to have a lot to do with it. All the women (and it’s always women) who make it their brand to talk about how difficult marriage is seem to be just participating in a weird kind of virtue signaling, as if their suffering signals how morally superior they are to you (and maybe how much holier their marriage is). They’re suffering because Jesus suffered. Their husbands, however, seem to be exempt from this suffering.
As I was thinking about the last nine years while I made the bed this morning, I shook my head when I remembered that Instagram post. My intentions were sincere, albeit naive. Things were difficult then; not because I was married, but moreso because we were both young and there wasn’t a lot of money and – despite all the marriage advice we got literally our whole lives – we hadn’t been adequately advised on how to have a healthy relationship. We had to figure that out on our own. We had to throw away the assumptions that come with labels like “husband” and “wife”. And, over time, we learned to see each other as we were: just people.
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