It’s not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages. (Friedrich Nietzcsche)
This weekend marks the 27th anniversary of the date Allen and I said “I do,” May 18, 1991 (cute pic, don’t you think??). The weeks and months leading up to the big event were filled with all the romance human beings can muster: a promise ring given as the sun rises in the east and George Winston’s “Pachelbel Canon in D” plays in the background, love notes communicating the eager anticipation of our future lifetime together, passionate dates ending with lingering kisses , celebrations of our love in the forms of showers and parties with family and friends, and hearts that long for the knitting together of our bodies and souls.
The day finally arrives and the romance continues in all the typical wedding fare: songs declaring promises that “I Will Be Here,” vows exclaiming our undying love and commitment to one another, pictures of eyes gazing into each other, a big celebration with family and friends where I was told that the three most important words in a marriage were the following (from Allen’s dad, our very Pittsburghy Best Man): “Pirates, Penguins, Steelers” (okay not so romantic, but I digress), and a wedding night filled with dinner, candles and “you know.”
The romance is prolonged for the next 10 days as we spend our Honeymoon in a cabin nestled in the heart of the Smokey Mountains exploring underground caverns, dining at white-laced tablecloth eateries, white-water rafting, watching “The Hunt for Red October” (again, NOT so romantic and NOT one of Allen’s finer moments), bike-riding, long, lazy talks about our future, hiking to water falls through quiet walkways, spending uninterrupted time together (no cell phones in those olden days), and more “you know.” Life is just as I imagined it should and would be for the next 50 years: filled with the excitement and mystery of these things called love and marriage.
Enter reality: home rental with option to purchase, unexpected pregnancy only two short months in, long work hours, church commitments, and normal, every-day activities like paperwork, food prep, and yard work. Not sounding too romantic anymore. My dream is mildly shattered. Is this really what makes up marriage? How will we last? This just seems like a lot of hard work. And yes, yes it was and still is.
So without all the constant romance (which we still have after 27 years in fits and starts and are committed to), where does the rubber really meet the road? What is the force that weaves our hearts tightly together? I would hazard a guess that it finally dawned on us on our 10th anniversary, the first weekend we spent away from our four young children: FRIENDSHIP (there you have it, the 6th of the 10 “WTF’s” for marriage…see first five at end of post). I remember it like it was yesterday. We were hiking the Appalachian Trail, running desperately from a swarm of mosquitoes, hysterically laughing at ourselves and we just looked at each other and one of us said, “This is why we are married. We actually like each other.”
Without even knowing it, we had spent the first 10 years of our marriage cultivating a long-lasting friendship. We had, as Elisabeth Foley, describes, forged a relationship that “doubles your joy and divides your grief,” and we encountered the beautiful discovery that “true friends can grow separately without growing apart.”
Friendship is absolutely VITAL to the health of any marriage. It is forged through mutual trust, unconditional support and selflessness, all things that must be fought for and worked through. Marriage requires these marks of true and abiding friendship: equality, attachment, honesty, companionship, emotional safety, respect, understanding, vulnerability and closeness. There’s just no way around it.
To be candid, I am not always a good friend to Allen, nor he to me. We tend, in our humanness, to find fault, treat each other with contempt, push each other away, become too busy, listen half-heartedly, hide and shut down. And for these times, just as any true friendship needs, grace and compassion must flow out of our hearts for ourselves and each other. After all, this is really the stuff that makes up a lifetime of babies and home ownership, job changes and heart-breaking losses, bill paying and love-making.
So on this 27th anniversary (such a weird, random number), I write what I texted a friend this morning:
“I am actually in Pittsburgh spending the weekend with Allen, celebrating our anniversary. So so so thankful for my long-lasting friendship with him. That’s what my post will be about this weekend: our friendship in our marriage. I can’t even imagine what my life would be like without his constant companionship and friendship.” 😊
I love this man, my husband, from the depths of my soul. He has all that it takes to make a great friend: loyalty, kindness, compassion, grace, integrity, respect and understanding. What a gift he has given me.
One last aside. There is another piece to this puzzle that our Pittsburghy best man understood about marriage: entering into and embracing what is important to the other person is paramount to true and abiding friendship! It is telling the person: I will love what you love! As you can see below, I have done my best to make it a reality!
Happy Anniversary, Allen John Goetz! You have truly “doubled my joy and divided my grief!” Here’s to 27 (at least) more!