5 Years

I am backdating this to the day that I wrote most of it. Because I can.

This month we celebrate five years of marriage. ¬†I have spent the past month or so thinking about our marriage in terms of the concept of flourishing (yeah, yeah, MacIntyre got me in the end. Whatever. This is my life, and I remember nothing directly from MacIntyre, so now he’s free to eat my mind out).

Anyway.

I made a mistake when I married Josh five years ago.

Sometime about a year or so ago Josh kindly explained to me that I am unusual in my eagerness** to admit mistakes. ¬†According to Josh, normal people are disinclined to admit their mistakes, and almost never do so when they have gotten away with the mistake. Apparently in Normal-People World, if one lucks out and does not suffer the just consequences of one’s mistake, then one is allowed to assert that no mistake could have possibly been made. Strange, strange stuff, this normal world!

I love to admit mistakes, because it allows for hope. If I made a mistake, then it means that there was an alternate path where I could have done better. And that means that perhaps I can make correct choices in the future that will allow for a previously unthinkable good life. If I messed up, then perhaps there is something that I can do to make up for what I did. Perhaps I cannot improve my own life, but I can at least serve as a conscious warning for others. Or something.

So I easily admit that in marrying Josh when I did I made a mistake. A beautiful mistake.

It is clear that I will not be able to coherently explain why it was a mistake, though goodness knows the hubris that goes into one thinking that one can defy the stats on young marriage and divorce in our culture. Stats and coherent explanations aside though, evidence of a mistake comes back to the concept of flourishing, or the absence thereof.

I have observed early*** marriage in general to be contrary to flourishing and that was certainly the case for Josh. By marrying the man I claimed to love too early, I reduced his potential quality of life significantly. I do not dwell on this fact for the joy of the pain. It is necessary for me to realize reality and remember the past in order to clean up the present and make space for a healthier future. If getting married five years ago was not best for Josh, does that mean anything about being married today? What do I need to do to make shared life good for him today? What can be done to build on the first too-early years to infuse value into the future?

The answers are scattered. Some things I need to do are trite, some are impossible.

On the very practical, uuuuuuuughhhhh side, I have been working on organizing the apartment. One day I happened to check Twitter and it was full of links to Organizational hacks for the rest of us. While I realize that the author is trying to be funny while posting something that builds traffic etc. etc. I had a punch-in-the-gut serious moment. The very un-funny truth is that much of that post reflects the reality of my approach to our living space and it simply is not okay. The “hey, I’ve got ADD and better things to do than maintain a physical space conducive to human flourishing” attitude results in surroundings that tell those we live with that they are not worth the effort of a clean and organized environment, even when such is within our control. At least in my life, this is pretty much the same as telling Josh that he simply is not worth enough for me to bother to change my life to improve his.

I have not yet succeeded in any of my attempts to make things better. Correcting mistakes is not that simple, even five years later. But I am aware, and regularly making feeble attempts at improvement. I do not know where redemption hides. Perhaps I will stumble over it as I celebrate the gift of five years that should not be.

**Granted, it may take quite a bit for me to realize that I have erred, but when I finally do realize it, then I tend to admit it readily.

**”Early” is, of course, a relative term, but perhaps that is part of the issue. Josh and I were married 4 & 6 years younger than the median age for first marriage in the state where we first lived together. Community wisdom is often found in averages, and we did not live in an Amish community with Amish expectations and Amish support for marriage that would have made our age rather perfect for marriage.

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10 thoughts on “5 Years

  1. Rebecca

    As you know, I work with engaged couples on an almost daily basis and those who are older when marrying face challenges that I do think are more difficult than those who are younger. The short explanation is that instead of building a life together (as young couples do – for better or worse), couples who marry older are faced with merging 2 lives. While both can be accomplished, and done so very well, the latter, when entering into a relationship that’s primary task is for you to lay down your life for the other, is much more challenging. Certainly, you can become great partners, but becoming one is much harder when the two individuals are much more firmly individual. I’m not meaning to argue with you, just hopefully give you a perspective in which you can say “I’m so glad I made this mistake.” :)

    1. Rae Post author

      Now you’ve gotten me thinking. I know there is so much about socioeconomic/education etc. etc., but I wonder whether the fact that it is more challenging to get married when one is older is part of the greater success rates for those who decide to marry? Perhaps the ease of marrying young doesn’t do anything to help divorce rates.

      I was raised with seemingly constant reminders about how people who didn’t marry and have babies while young would end up horribly selfish. But then I wonder what is more selfish than “finding” oneself and tearing apart one’s family.

      So, clearly I’m in the mood for negative spins on everything ;-) but I do wonder whether more challenging marriage prep might not be a *good* thing when the goal is not marriage, but lasting marriage?

      1. Rebecca

        Oh, I’m all for more challenging marriage prep :). I think a HUGE part of that has to be how to stay a married couple post-children. I saw a study (don’t ask me where, I can’t remember :)) that showed the fastest increase in divorce rates is happening to “empty nesters.” The kids move out and the parents don’t know the person they are married to anymore because they spent all their time and energy on the kids.

        So yes! More challenging marriage prep – Amen :).

  2. Mark S.

    Ok, Rae, this one got me. I think I follow the logic you propose but I am going to propose a different logic. The stream of life we live as individuals and as married couples have ripples and torrents and boulders and smooth patches. You are in the stream and Josh is with you. The universe exists as God created it and he is with you, and Josh and with you both as a couple. He is the stream, in a way. I think we can fool ourselves that there is an ultimate rightness to get down the stream, perhaps with fewer boulder crashes or less splashing but actually, I don’t think it is completely about getting somewhere unscathed. It seems to me rather to be partly the journey that you are on, together and separately with an ultimate destination in mind. Yeah, day to day choices are made that cause more or less rockiness but omission of something, as opposed to commission, is very hard to see except by looking back. Looking ahead one can seldom see much that one lacks. I think paddling together is the best analogy. Will it be perfect? No. Is it infinitely better than paddling alone? Yes…if your boat mate is your love and he is of God.

    1. Rae Post author

      Well said. The main problem is determining how to properly love considering past mistakes, and harming another is simply wrong.

      That said, you’ve actually beautifully expressed the hardest part of discernment for me. I eventually realized that (for me) it really didn’t matter what I did (or didn’t do). And “love God and do what you will” as misquoted as it may be, is pretty stinking challenging (in a good sense).

  3. waywardson23

    I understand where you are coming from. I often had the same thoughts about whether we married too soon. In retrospect, waiting another 18 months would have put us in a better position in many ways.

    Still, I think you are being too hard on yourself. That’s a rather shocking statement to say that marrying you “reduced Josh’s quality of life significantly” or was “contrary to flourishing”. It neglects the value of your presence in the relationship, which I believe Josh would say increased the quality of his life significantly and helped him to flourish. Perhaps some intuitive recognition of your value to him (and his value to you) is what pushed you to defy cultural norms and just get married?

    Even if deciding to marry when you did was the result of some character flaw or deficiency, who is to say that if you hadn’t made the same mistake again, that you wouldn’t have made different ones? Whatever character flaw you had would have manifested itself in some other way, and perhaps early marriage saved you both from other self-destructive choices.

    And this is why I am glad I made my mistake of getting married too young. Based on who I was at the time, I was young, impulsive, and impatient. But even my flaws were directed toward a noble and sacramental purpose, which, I believe, is one reason why it worked out so well.

    1. Rae Post author

      I really like the “if you think this is bad, imagine the alternative!” logic. :-) I also appreciate the fact that you’ll admit that something was (at least sort of) a mistake. It pains me that so many advise others to repeat their mistakes when it is too soon to probably even fully realize why it isn’t generally a wise idea.

      1. waywardson23

        I asked K about this. Her reply was “No, we would have just driven ourselves crazy for the extra time.”

        Either were truly drawn to each other because we intuitively knew we were good for each other or we were both equally impulsive and impatient…or both. Either way, it worked out well.

  4. alison

    I wont say you did or didn’t make a mistake, because it is entirely possible you have not shared all the details of your life on the internet (I know, shocking!) But I will comment on the later half of the post. Organizing for the good of the spouse! Our hands down biggest issue in our marriage because while he has bent over to accommodate for my needs in terms of relationship and closeness, I have kicked my heels in and all but refused to accommodate for his literal need for organization. So I entirely get wanting to blame the ADD but knowing its maybe just priorities. This will be a life struggle for me and something I do entirely for him. Although now with a kiddo I admit I see the function of his ocd-ness :)

  5. Michelle @ Endless Strength

    enjoyed this post! Missed it when you first posted it…three weeks ago…I was…um, not paying attention to the internet haha.

    Anyway, sometimes I wish I had been younger…but the man I would have married when I was younger was not right for me. The man I met when I was a little older and more grown up is much more suited to the marriage and family we have built together. Sometimes I shudder when I think about that man I had a long relationship with and whom I prayed hard I would marry knowing how I’ve turned out. :)

    Your point on how to make the living space better hit home with me. I am forever giving myself a “break” for the fact that husband and I are so tired from working full-time jobs and keeping our house on track with our five active children that we let our living space go. And we shouldn’t. Our children deserve better and the two of us deserve better. maybe I’ll go home and clean our bedroom or something tonight. :)

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