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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Productive Marriage

After all these years, I am productively married.

“Productively?!?” I can almost hear the sarcastic riposte: “Be still my beating heart - tell me more Romeo!” Admittedly, “productive” is probably not the word that would cause most women – at least not the one I know best – to swoon. But hear me out on this one.

First: I am happily married – yes. And I am grateful for that…whatever “happily married” actually means when one has 3 kids (including the resultant bills and a soccer carpool), a dog who relishes creating yellow stains on white carpet, a house in perpetual need of weekend work, the deep drive to feel successful in a career, and a checking account with occasional convulsions. Being married to Julie in the midst of all this is (of course!) blissful joy – EXCEPT when she is exhausted from caring for a preschooler, enduring hormonally-induced moodiness, or suggesting that we should spend money (ever).

In other words, EXCEPT when real life kicks in. 

That’s what this post is about – real life. It may be that exactly none of the above pressures on modern marriages create extra space for “happy”…at least not in the way that I think of “happy”…as sort of a pink, fluffy, cotton candy kind of experience.

Now - I have indeed felt many moments of “happy” with Julie. We have created endless (yes, endless) lighthearted moments together. You won’t hear me brag about it with the guys, but way back when we used to go see G Rated Disney movies together for fun…Aladdin, The Little Mer…. (Back then, the computer graphics in animation were kind of a new thing. Anyway….)

Happy is good. And I would not say that “happy” with Julie has evaporated. I would say that the spice ingredient called “happy” went into a meal called LIFE that demands – and promises - so much more.

Happiness, I think, is great in courtship. It is great in marriage at any stage, in the same way that digging around for that plastic toy in the Cracker Jack box used to be totally WORTH. IT.

But now there are other things on the plate besides caramel-coated crunchiness. There is meat that needs to be carefully chewed, and vegetables that are not always the tastiest (but they nourish). On the plate of marriage is something called human growth.

And this is the reason I am grateful for a “productive” marriage. Because I am still kind of gristly, and there is a lot of me that would probably never make it to the plate in a chic five-star restaurant. I try to act like it, but I don’t know if I am a five-star restaurant kind of guy…my genes tilt more toward the Woolworth’s lunch counter experience, actually. But God and Julie – they keep trimming off the gristle so that my soul can get lean. 

Maybe – long term – that’s where the meaning in marriage is to be found. It IS about “happy”…it IS about “romance”…AND maybe the significance of marriage over the long haul is also about the pain, challenge, promise, and deep gratification of soul-making. 

So perhaps if you are challenged (and even frustrated) in marriage, it could be that you have passed from one stage into another where there is some protein amidst the high-glycemic carbs.

In other words, into a wonderfully “productive” – nourshing - life. 

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