If you are not my husband, your definition of marriage is of little consequence to me. I might bend my ear to hear what you think, but in the end, what has any effect on my marriage is how my definition lines up with my husband’s.
I recently asked him, as far away from context as I could (I waited until we were talking about sausages—NO, not those sausages!)
“Hey, I have a question for you, and I want you to say the first thing that pops into your head.”
“Okay,” he looked at me curiously.
“What is your definition of marriage?”
I love that he barely moved his gaze from mine.
He was somber when he listed, “Companionship. Friendship. Someone being there through the hard times and good times. Being there to listen.”
I wrote it down, internally calculating how we were doing. My definition was almost exactly what he had said…which is a good thing. We both think that marriage should be a relationship built on friendship and propelled by commitment.
“How do you think we are doing…this time of year?” I pressed him.
“Horrible.” He admitted.
He’s right. We can hardly call ourselves companions when I see him maybe ten hours in a week. We are comfortable roommates during the summer months. The difference between us, and other couples who find themselves regularly passing each other in the hallway, is that the current state of our relationship is temporary. We will be close companions in a few months when we huddle in for the frigid Minnesota winter.
One of the questions on my marriage survey, distributed during my book research, asked about a definition of a successful marriage. There were 173 responders to the survey, and there were 173 unique definitions. The only way I could analyze the definitions was to take out the keywords and categorize them. Two words won out for the most important things to remember in a marriage relationship. RESPECT and COMMUNICATION. Thankfully, no matter how often I see him, I can still wholeheartedly respect him, and we can maintain good communication, even if we talk for a few minutes at a time.
My husband and I will celebrate our twelfth anniversary this August. Researchers have moved the seven-year itch to the twelfth-year turmoil and it’s probably important to take stock again. I’m so happy we are on the same page. It is comforting to know that he is as frustrated, in the moment, as I am, but that we are both still moving in the same direction.
At church yesterday, the priest used a timely analogy. He was talking about the Martha and Mary differences and whether it is better to serve or to be present. He commented about how it is more about the state of your heart than it is about the choice you make. The analogy he used was about marriage and when the spouses are forced to conduct their lives apart (I’m not kidding…this is what he talked about). He explained hearts that stay true in separation is how our relationship with God should be.
Our marriage definition… today…Friendship propelled by commitment with a goal of respect and open communication. We can do that!