Monday, January 18, 2010

Moments in Marriage

They had an incredible find-each-other, lose-each-other, find-each-other-again fairy tale story of love, crossing continents, languages, and time.

“And then they got married,” you smile, “and they lived happily ever after, right?”

Well, yes and no. They moved from China, where they had met and properly dated, to his home in the U.S. They were far away from the entire context of their relationship, and after almost a year passed, they weren’t sure they had made the right decision to marry.

There was still a language issue. Each had cultural preferences on which to continually compromise. There were differences in mind-set and personality. He said when they gathered with circles of friends, “They only asked us, ‘How did you meet?’ People never ask you, ‘How do you stay together?’”

That is the harder question. Not so romantic, maybe not as good a story. Nevertheless, I interview myself, who is a supposed expert in long-term marriage, having been married for thirty-six years. I ask myself, “So, Doris, how do YOU stay together, you two who are total opposites?” Great question! I respond, and my mind rifles through our many differences, some of them major differences that have produced vast and twisted misunderstandings. But I find the true answer: We work to accept each other.

I ask myself again, “So, Doris, how do you stay . . . together?” not meaning how we continue to exist together under the same roof, but rather wondering how we maintain intimacy over so many years. I think, It’s harder than it looks, but of course I don’t answer myself out loud because that answer is kind of a downer. My thoughts shuffle through some desert-dry stretches of our marriage during which it seems our efforts were all focused on cooperation: with the kids, the schedule, the careers, the ministries, the plans. But I come up with the answer: We work to renew ourselves, then to renew our relationship. In that growth, intimacy becomes fresh.

I ask myself a final time, “So, Doris, how, and I really mean how do you do it? How do you stay together?” It’s a miracle of God’s grace, I sigh, my eyes twinkling. But it’s not hard to come up with the real answer: We are committed to each other. We work hard to live out our commitment.

The story of your meeting, fresh romance, and how you fell in love can only sustain you for so long. As time passes, you need a more substantial “story” which will reach into your core and become as much a part of you as your own psyche feels a part of you. Familiar, yet, at least a little bit fascinating.

It takes work. But no one ever said becoming an expert is easy.


  1. When Amber and I got married we were truly infatuted with each other. After almost nine years of marriage; miscarriage, children in NICU, life threatening disease, and many other struggles, we are closer now then we were ever before. Its amazing how the Lord can give you so much love out of so much pain! Gods grace is abundant!


  2. James, you are crafting quite the substantial "story."