I went to lunch with an old college friend a few months back. I genuinely love this person. I have known him for almost 25 years. He went to my first wedding. I went to his. He saw me through my subsequent divorce. I saw him through his. He came to my second wedding. I hope one day to go to his. When that will be, I don’t know. But I certainly hope he finds someone who will love him for all his good qualities and his less than beautiful ones. After fourteen years of marriage to Rex, I can honestly say I have found that myself.
Let me say that above statement was won with a lot of fighting. And by fighting, I mean he and I literally arguing, as well as me… punching my fists at how friggin hard marriage can be at times. That said, marriage could have been a heck of a lot easier had I surrendered – not to Rex – but to God.
By this, I simply mean that when I stopped fighting against what I wanted, and instead trusted what God had in store for me, I found a peace that transcended understanding. I felt courageous: strong enough to be vulnerable, even if it meant getting my heart broken. I felt brave: tough enough to hold my ground on things that truly mattered.
As we sat over our shared family style Chinese meal, my friend told me about his new girlfriend. He loves her, but he’s not sure if they’ll get married or not. He asked me, in all seriousness, “Do you believe in soul mates?”
I looked him straight in the eyes, and without hesitation or joking, I answered simply, “No, I do not.”
Perhaps that sounds very cynical.. like I’ve all but given up on true love. But the truth is, I have learned enough to know that no man… NO MAN... can make me happy. The only true love is God. It’s only in Him that I have a supernatural strength to make good choices for myself, my kids and my marriage. It’s only in Him that I can forgive myself when I fall short of this goal which, if we’re being real, is pretty much every single day.
There’s a fine line between being a strong woman and remaining soft, but my prayer for myself (and for you ladies) is that I am tough enough to keep myself protected, but soft enough to let God’s mercy, grace and wisdom enter into the very marrow of my bones.
To be very clear, mercy comes when I remember that I don’t have to be perfect. Grace comes I can’t seem to do enough in my own marriage. Wisdom comes when I remember to love my male friends, but don’t ever forget that Rex is the first man in my life.
Why does Rex deserve that honor – other than the obvious “Duh, he’s your spouse” response? Because Rex and I loved each other enough to look past each others’ flaws and move ahead toward something better.
Maybe you’re searching for your soul mate still. If you still believe that someone is worthy of that elusive title, please don’t look for me when Mr. Perfect turns out to play lead actor, Mr. Heartbreak, to your Miss Fantasy Land top actress billing. But if you’re willing to be vulnerable – to really open yourself up to what can happen if you let God break your heart and mend it together with someone amazing at your side – then here are a few tips of encouragement for you.
No Pain No Gain – Five Reasons It’s Worth It
1. Reality - A real partner loves you when the fake eyelashes come off and the fake personality fades. They also encourage you to not become a schlump. (No, baggy sweats are not cute as night wear. Not even if they are bedazzled and have the words “Princess” or “Diva” bedazzled on your velour colored butt cheeks.)
2. Authenticity - When you can trust someone enough to cry, scream and throw a perfectly amazing baby tantrum, you can trust them to be there when you grow up and mature into an amazing wife, mother and friend. A real partner let’s you be you (the yukky, ridiculous you who insists “No one respects me!” right after curtains have been hung while you’ve been out with your girlfriends all day. Um, yeah, that might have happened once. Two days ago.) A real partner spurns you on toward being the best you – the one who apologizes for acting like Fran Drescher on steroiods post menapausal hot flash. (Oh, that was a fun Saturday.)
3. Laughter - Fights can suck, but they make for some pretty hilarious stories once you get through them. “Rex, remember the time I got you so mad about my dog you slept in the car?” (Oooh, bad at the time. Funny now. Though he still gets the occasional neck cramp. Note: A six foot four man should NOT sleep in a Volkswagen Jetta.)
4. Togetherness - My spouse is my teammate. Since we got through the roughest times together, including job loss, kid issues, ill parents and more, I know I can trust him with the little things, too. Like knowing that when he says he’ll pick up the kids from school… and the neighbor’s kids from school… and fix our renter’s internet and hang blinds for my mom in his “free time” he’ll do it. I don’t need to hen peck. I only have to say “Thank you.” Because I am grateful.
5. Trust - I’m fond of saying, “My husband would never cheat on me. He can’t multitask.” But joking aside, he is straight as an arrow when it comes to integrity, honor and commitment. Without this, what would our marriage be? With so many of my friends divorcing with young kids, I can say that all of our effort to put our union above our individual grievances has made all the difference for us. Does it mean we are always blissed out? No. But my long term vision – a stable household – forces me to make better choices in the short run. Ex: I cannot have sex with Hugh Jackman. Like, never. Even if my husband was in a coma and Hugh Jackman promised me a maid, a cook and a driver. Big points for me!
Listen Up, Gals – Single and Married
I don’t know where you are in your life, but I do know that getting vulnerable, transparent and real is the only way to land someone of integrity. It’s worth the wait.
Let me know how you fare! I’ll be praying for ya!
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Photo taken a few months back on our vacation at Rock Creek. I am comfortable enough with my spouse to say, “Babe, no fishing for me again.” I hope I didn’t cause too much heartbreak, but like my article last week, I had to set down some boundaries!