The Number 5
Five seems to be a pretty awesome number. Five lions made up Voltron. There were Five Planeteers. Five main Power Rangers. Five Guys burgers and fries. Five star restaurants and hotels. Five stars on Yelp. Five fingers on each hand; five toes on each foot. Five senses. High fives (up high, down low…too slow!). Five finger discount. Pleading the fifth. Five o’clock is typically quitting time. When you’re a teenage boy, having a five o’clock shadow makes you feel manly, or it means you’ve failed 10th grade twice. $5 footlong. I got five on it. Walking five hundred miles. The Jackson 5. The Temptations. Maroon 5. AC/DC. Jazz and string quintets. Five member boy bands…and don’t fake – you know you liked Backstreet Boys and N’Sync. And now…five years of marriage.
Hard to believe, but my wife and I will be celebrating our five-year anniversary this weekend. Hard to believe b/c I made a terrible first impression on her. Hard to believe b/c I (allegedly) said, “I could never date someone like you” to her…I still maintain that statement may not be true or she took it out of context (not that context would help that much), but women usually don’t forget things like that, so she’s probably right. Hard to believe b/c it seems five years has just flown by.
We haven’t had a storybook or Hollywood romance…speaking of which, why do people say that? Do you really want your love life to start off well, enter a massive conflict through a series of events that increasingly lead you to believe the relationship won’t last/wasn’t meant to be, then through a plot twist, things begin to change, climaxing with a passionate embrace and happily ever after…until the sequel? So yeah, our relationship hasn’t been perfect; we’ve had our ups and downs.
We’ve laughed. We’ve cried. We agreed on some issues. On others, we argued. We’ve hugged. We’ve yelled at each other. We went into debt bought a house together. We struggled with handling finances no longer as individuals, but as a couple. We’ve traveled. We’ve stayed home together, watching movies and eating ice cream. We’ve done little things to make the other smile, like writing a note on a napkin that we placed in the other person’s lunch bag. We’ve done little things that we knew would anger the other person. We’ve had wonderful conversations while laying in bed, staring at the ceiling. We’ve had to have talks that start off with, “Hey…can we talk?” We’ve built each other up. We’ve inadvertently attempted to tear the other down. We’ve helped each other love God better. We’ve made the other wonder if God dislikes them so much that He would choose that person as their spouse. We thought we were infertile. We eagerly await our second child. We’ve had the joy of parenthood. We’ve asked each other, “What the heck were we thinking?” We’ve enjoyed spending time with our daughter. We’ve worried about her future.
In short, we’ve spent life together. And since life is full of seemingly opposing things: joy & sorrow; comfort & suffering; hope & despair; courage & fear; WIN & FAIL, our marriage naturally has those things as well. They say nothing that’s worth anything comes easy. This is definitely true when it comes to love. Navigating life’s highs and lows individually is difficult enough; to have to navigate it while taking another individual and their needs into consideration is even more challenging. But I realize I am a better man with her than without her and there’s no one else I’d rather navigate life with.
And this is true of most relationships for me. I love my friends and family, not b/c of the way they make me feel, but b/c I’d rather go through life with them than without.
So we’ve made it to five years – which in this day and age of rampant divorce, it seems like an accomplishment, and here are some things that I’ve learned in that time (in no particular order):
- Don’t start a point in an argument with “You always…” Instead, use a statement in the following form: “When you (something he/she does that bothers you) it makes me feel (negative emotion) b/c (reason for the negative emotion).” Using something like “You always…” typically causes the other person to get defensive.
- Divorce is never an option – my wife and I made it clear that we’d never consider the D word save for infidelity. We promised “till death do us part” not, “till something you do that I don’t think I can possibly live with do us part.”
- Build something together – don’t only pursue your own hopes and dreams, but hope and dream together. There are some things for which it’s best to be a bra: provide support. But make sure there are also things you are working on together. For my wife and I, we’re actively involved in church and we make it a point to work together on certain projects and initiatives.
- Remember that you’re on the same team. When we’ve had fights, it often felt like me vs. her and I would be so intent on winning the argument. If I’d simply stopped, calmed my emotions and remembered that she’s on my team, I would’ve saved myself a ton of grief.
- Resolve issues quickly, but not too quickly. Ephesians 4:26 “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” is often quoted by Christian couples, so if we got into an argument late at night, I’d say something like, “We have to resolve this issue before we go to sleep!” Naivety and the Bible out of context – quite possibly one of the most dangerous combinations around. In my haste, I’ve frequently, against all odds, shoved my foot deeper into my mouth and dug a deeper grave, which resulted in more nights of not being on good terms. This isn’t a hotel – extra nights aren’t a good thing. Typically, one person wants to resolve a conflict quickly while the other person needs time. For those that need to resolve quickly, try to understand that the other person needs time to sort through their emotions/thoughts. And for those that like to take their time, let the other person know you need some time – silence will kill the other person. Oddly, in the first few years of our marriage, I was the one who wanted to resolve conflicts right away, now it’s the other way around.
- Consult one another – common courtesy in the workplace dictates you consult with coworkers before doing drastic things, unless of course you’re a ladder-climbing, brown-nosing, backstabbing jerk. If your boss deserves your consideration, how much more your spouse? And you don’t consult w/ your spouse b/c u have to; you consult with them b/c you’re considering them more important than yourself. Mutually enacted, this makes for incredible harmony in the home and marriage.
- In a similar vein: compromise, compromise, compromise. I have a very hot body. No, seriously, I get really hot, especially when I sleep. So when you attach a 98 degree heater to me, imagine how hot I get. Still, my wife likes to go to sleep cuddling (CURSE YOU ALL YOU COMMERCIALS associated with sleep that show a couple happily cuddling as they sleep! CURSE YOU!), so yeah, sometimes I have to compromise.
- This one’s for the guys: if you say something you thought was funny and your wife responds with, “What did you just say?” That’s not actually an invitation to repeat what you just said b/c she couldn’t hear you.