Epiphanies of Marriage
Carl is pretty much the definition of a good guy. He is also a graduate student, like me, getting his PhD in comparative literature. He researches, get this, youth literature produced by the Nazis! How cool is that? Carl and his wife Robin and their boys are an awesome family and you totally get the sense that are really good at just rolling with the punches and keeping things in perspective. I think that really comes across in Carl’s great writing in this great post. – Rich
Epiphany 1: Don’t turn a folded towel into something it’s not.
Perhaps better stated, if it isn’t a big deal, don’t turn it in to one. This may sound obvious, but it was one of my first marriage-based epiphanies.
After Robin and I got married I moved into her apartment, which made me feel like something of a houseguest. This was, of course, in our brief pre-child era, in which our cleanliness standards (for, I was informed these were now our standards) seemed somewhat elevated to this particular 22 year-old male. The lessons seemed to come frequently and culminated in a guided course on correctly folding towels. Despite protesting internally, I obligingly learned the prescribed folding method just to make her happy, thinking that because I didn’t care how the towels were displayed, I might as well do it her way and rack up some points.
Another item that graces our living room is my oldest son’s attempt at a paper-mâché Yoda statue. It has stood nobly above the fireplace for a few years now, anticipating an eventual duel with, perhaps, a Play-Doh Darth Vader or an Emperor made out of pipe-cleaners. I love my son, and take every opportunity to praise his creativity and artistic skills, but this thing is hideous. Its skin is the epitome of elementary-school green, its eyes are two chipped gold beads, and it wears some sort of burlap toga. It looks more like an anthropomorphized frog in a sack than anything else. But there it sits in its place of pride.
Epiphany 2: Accept one another’s Yodas.
Let’s be honest with each other. Despite what we portray to the world, we’re a mess. Insecurities, personal failings, and physical/mental issues abound. As my former Intro to Special Education professor informed the class, “no one comes out clean.” We have to fake being “normal” so much out in the world that it sometimes becomes the default at home as well. As the calendar gets packed with endless lessons, activities, and requirements of increasingly tenuous importance (lawn mowing, paying bills, bathing), it becomes easy to only address these seemingly pressing issues with a spouse. My point here is that sometimes the daily stuff blocks out room for the important conversations and quiet moments. Part of a marriage, however, entails having these conversations, and being able to be completely and totally vulnerable around your partner, even when it comes to the least attractive parts of you, a.k.a. your Yodas. So, when your spouse ends up purposely or inadvertently revealing something embarrassing or particularly cringe-worthy, remember that you have your own Yodas as well. The more I learn about Robin, the more I love her. I am also astounded that she continues to put up with me despite my numerous Yodas. This knowledge helps us come closer as a couple and appreciate one another as wonderful, quirky individuals.
As I finish my scan around the room, I reflect upon the document frames hanging above our piano. The contents of these five frames make up the center around which my universe is built. In the middle hangs our marriage certificate, stating that (as we believe in the Mormon faith) our marriage lasts beyond this life, and is, in fact, eternal. Two of the remaining frames are statements issued by our church regarding the nature of Jesus Christ, and the importance of the family.
The final two frames, are the same statements, but in German (Robin and I both spent nearly 2 years as missionaries in Germany). Out of these five frames, it is the German version of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” that starts a lot of conversations. The title in German appears as “Die Familie”, which naturally raises some eyebrows due to the linguistic anomaly of the feminine German “the” (die) looking like the English “die”, as in “to perish”. Ironically, the message of the document itself is that families don’t have to be separated at death, and can actually continue on throughout eternity. More than anything, this helps to ground me and provides perspective.
I guess that leaves me with my final thought:
Epiphany 3: Marriage can be forever.
I do not write this as part of a sermon, but simply to say that viewing the everyday events of our marriage through a broader lens has provided context to our daily existence as a couple. Regardless of your chosen faith, viewing your marriage as a long-term friendship helps smooth over the rough parts of life that refuse to go away. Knowing that I can be with my best friend forever gives me comfort even if the next few months may provide significant stress as I finish a dissertation and begin looking for jobs.
And so, unable to draw any further meaning from the items gracing my living room, I conclude my epiphanies on marriage. I’ll just finish by saying that loving your spouse is more than an emotion, or a mindset. Loving your spouse means listening to them, doing the chores they hate doing, and admitting you’re wrong before embarking on a futile argument. As Robin and I work together as a team, we continue to learn more about each other, appreciate one another, and build the foundation of an eternal family.