I’d love to tell you the story about how they were childhood sweethearts who fell in love and graduated from high school together - dad in his letterman jacket and mom with her Annette Funicello haircut. Or about the beautiful wedding they had in a small country church surrounded by all of their friends and family. Or to tell you about what an amazing provider dad has always been and how mom’s starry eyed adoration for dad is just the cutest thing you’ll ever see. And I’d especially love to tell you all about how amazing, well-rounded, intelligent, physically attractive, and gifted in writing their children are.
But the truth is that mom and dad dropped out of high school. They met and got married pretty quickly. Mom wasn’t legally old enough to get married so they got a fake birth certificate, went to Michigan, and eloped above a funeral home where their ceremony was performed by a man who they found out years later wasn’t actually licensed to perform marriages (I still like to rub it in to them that I was a love child born out of wedlock). Early in the marriage dad couldn’t keep a job. Mom struggled with loving her husband, much less liking him and didn‘t really know how to be the wife God wanted her to be. They partied a lot and they both probably wanted to walk away from time to time. And the kids…well, let’s just say that the earlier description couldn’t have been any more accurate.
There is no such thing as a perfect marriage. Honestly, on the overall scale of perfection I would say that most normal marriages hover in the middle most of the time. There are periods in every union when that scale may slide dramatically to the left or to the right for a while - but don’t feel like a failure or feel disappointed that you and your Prince Charming (or Princess Charming) don’t seem to be living up to the fairy tale standard.
Marriage can be hard. Like REALLY hard. Like the kind of hard where you wonder how you’re going to make it through the day without throwing something or walking out the door.
But sometimes, the most impressive marriages aren’t the stories with the flowery pink details and the horse riding off into the sunset. They are the stories that show a love that has withstood the test of time. It’s the couple who despite repeatedly hurting each other’s feelings have remained vulnerable. It’s the men and women who have looked things like poverty, illness, betrayal, death, addiction, or dishonesty in the face and said, “that really sucked but we’re not giving up” that show what it means to really love. It’s the old man and woman who can sit next to each other when they are eighty and look back on their lives and see everything that they went through and then look at each other with pride knowing that they survived it together.
Mom and Dad eventually found their way to the Lord. Dad grew up, got his act together and became a wonderful provider for his family. He took care of his wife and kids until the day he retired. Mom fumbled through the early years but over time has become a woman who has been selfless in serving others - including (and especially) her husband. They’ve faced struggles that would’ve sent lesser couples to the courthouse but they stuck it out. They still get on each other’s nerves here and there but when you’ve been together for almost 50 years, I can imagine that’s probably pretty normal. Every day they still spend some time sitting in the living room checking the newspapers, creeping on people’s Facebook pages together, or hitting up the thrift stores.
Don’t let the phony standards portrayed in Hollywood or in Harlequin novels fool you. At times marriage can look a little less like Ward and June Cleaver and a little more like Dan and Roseanne Conner. There will be fights. There will be times when things seem cold and empty. There may even be times when you wish you would’ve never gotten married. But never underestimate the importance and the value of just sticking with each other through sickness and through health, through richer and through poorer.
It’s worth it.