In Praise of My Wife

When my wife and I got married in 2005, I had been twenty years-old for eleven days. Just so you know, there was no shotgun involved. In fact, there was nothing aside from our own desires us propelling us. (If this were a Nicholas Sparks movie, one of us would’ve had a fatal disease. Thank the Lord we don’t live in a Nicholas Sparks movie. For a lot of reasons.) We were in love and wanted to be married, so we were.

We spent one semester of our junior year in college living in a modest, low-rent apartment and commuting to the University of Kentucky a few days a week. We both worked jobs with weird hours (her at Home Depot, me at the YMCA), and our schedules often meant that we didn’t see much of each other some days. At the end of that semester, Sara decided not to register for Spring classes. She said she could work full-time (like me, she wasn’t sure how her degree would translate into a livelihood after college, and so pursuing the degree blindly made little sense). It made financial sense for us, though it unquestionably changed the dynamic of our relationship.

Because Sara was working full-time (at a job that she didn’t find particularly enjoyable or rewarding, it must be noted) and contributing much more financially than I was able to while still a student, I began to feel an unspoken pressure. I knew that Sara was making a sacrifice so that I could finish my degree and presumably pursue a career that would reward me in all the ways we hope to be rewarded by what we do for a living. Not a job, but a vocation. This sacrifice continued for two and a half years. Sara continued to work; I finished school. Sara continued to work; I found part-time employment as a substitute teacher. (Surprise, surprise: there’s no window at which to line up for a job upon attaining an English degree.) Sara continued to work; I waffled about my career choices.

Tensions mounted considerably. It was hard feeling like I was letting my wife down, not providing for us in all the ways I’d hoped I would be able to once I finished my degree. I imagine it was harder for her, watching her husband grow surly and despondent and combative, unjustifiably treating her like she was part of the problem and only rarely showing any comforting level of initiative or planning about what to do next. Blame and dissension and resentment festered between us. It’s easy to say that these things are nobody’s fault, that circumstances can’t always be changed for the better. It is what it is, we might say.

But that’s garbage. A comforting platitude that allows us to skirt responsibility.

Luke 6:45 tells us that what comes out of our mouths correlates directly to what fills – and then overflows – our hearts. I’ll assume that “what comes out of our mouths” can be reasonably replaced with “what we put on our blogs.”

The tension was my fault. Yes, things were stressful, and I don’t respond well – at all – to anxiety. I become cold, distant, argumentative, and easily angered. I isolate myself because it’s way more comfortable for me to “deal with things” (read: sit around and wallow in the stress, exacerbating the whole problem) away from other people. This is a terrible habit. At least it’s also predictable. At least I can start to understand and address the behavior in a responsible way. That’s the idea, anyway.

The reason I bring this up is because in the five years since this period of immense strain, I have been able to, at least to some degree, repay the favor that my wife once did for me. I say “to some degree” because during that five years, we’ve produced a son, now three years-old, who reliably disguises himself as a wrecking ball, careening around our home much in the style of the Tasmanian Devil (to the point that he causes the frequent mixing of metaphors). By himself, he would be enough to take the bounce out of a super ball, but Sara also manages to care for three other children, all under the age of two, from early in the morning till late in the afternoon. She has also started and grown an increasingly successful photography business, shooting senior pictures, families, newborns, children, and the live births of children!

And on top of it all, she’s married to me, the very same surly, selfish, lazy lout described above. Think of it like co-habitating with a particularly unpleasant bear.

I eventually understood that the sacrifice Sara had made in the early years of our marriage was a symptom of the promises we had made each other on our wedding day, promises that I had been much less eager, in my selfishness, to fulfill. This is not to say that understanding has always led to appropriate responses on my part. Remember: unpleasant bear.

 

I’ve thought a lot about gratitude recently, and more specifically, how little of it I show, how much I take for granted. I complain about the time her photography takes up, but she’s never once even mentioned the hours I spend writing. (She encourages me! How dare she be so openly supportive when I grumble about the pursuit of her passion?) I whine about the stresses of my job ten times more than she complains about the three jobs she’s undertaken. She meets all this discontentment with more grace and patience than should reasonably be expected of any human.

When, in Jeremiah 29:11, God says that He has plans to prosper me and give me a hope and a future, I’m pretty sure He fulfilled that promise directly by sending me the people I needed to help get me through life. He started with  my wife and continued with my son, and mostly I just find ways not to see all the ways they keep me sane and bring me comfort and joy and make life tolerable from day to day.

I’ve come to see writing as a lot like prayer: a manifestation of my deepest fears, concerns, joys, and hopes. If that’s the case, then I need to write this a lot more often: I need to be grateful, I need to pay attention, I need to be a husband who works to deserve the kind of love and support Sara has provided and who apologizes humbly every time I fail. Give me the capacity to do these things. May the jungle will grow less dense; may my steps grow steadier.

Amen.

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Categories: A First Faint Gleam

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2 Comments on “In Praise of My Wife”

  1. Aingealsile
    November 1, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    Tell her or better yet, show her this post. Sometimes, just the acknowledgement that your partner sees the things you sacrifice for them makes it easier to communicate. My husband and I didn’t learn that until our marriage was in pieces around us, and we were in a very similar situation. Take heart though–we were able to repair, and rebuild, stronger than ever. Your wife is a blessing! 🙂 Make sure she knows you feel that way, too.

  2. Bob Taylor
    November 1, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    Well done my friend.

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