Sunday, January 4, 2009

Gratitude and Marriage

My wife is a good writer and though it has never been her profession, she does occaisionally submit pieces to magazines and has been published at times.

Tonight she shared a new piece with me. In brief, it's the story of her transit through a turbulent, emotionally-charged time, and how by the end of that time she came to see our marriage as our shared strength and the source of our individual happiness and security.

She was nervous to share this with me. Not long ago we had an argument over a blog post she wrote; when I read it I felt slighted and frankly, humiliated although I know that was far from her intent. This was fresh in her mind when she handed me the pages and explained that I might find in them some challenges of my own.

It is the best thing she's ever written. Seriously. Mechanically speaking it's her best work by far, with deft phrasing and a structure that builds palpable tension as she contemplates one choice after the next and as she reflects on herself, her past, the present of her marriage, and her future.

Moreover I think it's great because it's a reminder that a marriage is a living thing, and like other things it needs care and feeding. The care and feeding it needs most, I think, is choice and generosity. Successfully married people choose their partners every day. Perhaps more importantly they give their spouses the room to do the same, or not.

At the end of this story my wife makes a conscious and deep choice, not just to be with me, but to be the vital whole of our marriage. It is not an easy choice - I have many flaws and no small number of vastly annoying idiosyncracies (and a real propensity for being sanctimonious as this post will assure you) - and yet it is her choice, and my choice too, and ours together.

If you are married or in a longstanding relationship you have doubtless run across these choice points too. Some are emotionally charged, sort of "long waves" that roll out over weeks or months, and others are just the daily stuff of sharing a house with someone who has a different way of doing the dishes. Do you ever stop to think about them? Do you talk about them? We don't have a regular, structured practice of stopping to talk about the nature of our relationship. Do you? What is it?

As for me, at this moment I am powerfully moved by how much I love my wife. The source of that love is my gratitude, not just for her, but also for the voyage of discovery we're on together. No doubt on this voyage there are hard miles to cover in the wilderness. No doubt there will be opportunities for both of us to check out and take a different journey.

By trusting me tonight to read her piece, by making herself vulnerable and trusting that my reaction to her story would be honest and authentic, she led us to a new and high point on our voyage together. She chose me in the story, and she chose me when she handed me the pages despite the tremble in her voice and fingers. I am blessed.