Last year, when we celebrated our 40th anniversary, each of our sons asked to have a few minutes to speak. I envisioned a lovely tribute to our marriage. I should have known better.
They were witnesses to our lives. They were there and saw it all. The good, the bad, the magic, and the tragic.
Cameron, our oldest, stepped up to the microphone: “Twenty years under their roof proved to me that my parents are not normal—at all. Not in an Adams Family kind of way. More like an America’s Funniest Home Videos kind of way.”
I admit, I got a little nervous in that moment.
Cameron continued, “I lived in a house of honest conversation—not necessarily always quiet conversation, but honest. You knew where you stood with Mom and Dad and you knew where Mom and Dad stood with each other. I lived in a house where ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘Will you forgive me?’ were modeled daily. That’s not natural, not normal.”
I took a deep breath. He got it right. Well, half right, anyway.
Fighting Isn’t Always Bad
As a couple, we experience what we prefer to call “intense moments of fellowship.” If you could hear us from the next room, you might think we were fighting. Well, you’d be right. That’s normal.
People always want to know what we found to fight about over the years. It was normal stuff: too many bills with too little breathing room. Kids that made my hair hurt with their bickering. Schedules that made time for romance and intimacy a distant memory. It’s the same stuff you experience.
Life pushes on us. Hard, at times.
If I had to identify one consistent practice that held us together and molded our individual lives into one, it would not be that we never argued or became upset with one another. We did. Often. Sometimes loudly with a bit of ugly thrown in for good measure.
In fact, those conflicts were actually good for us. How did they hold us together? Because if you keep all of that in—the hurt, the anger, and the disappointment—eventually something blows up. And sometimes the result is the death of the marriage. God grieves and everybody loses.
Choosing “Not Normal”
Now, after 41 years, I’m happy to say we have figured some things out—it just took us far longer than we wish it had. We had to fight through some difficult moments. By “difficult” I mean ugly, angry, painful moments that left a mark on our hearts and tried to suck the life out of our marriage.
For Further StudyDownloadable resources to go deeper
- Carolyn Custis James: What It Means to Be a Woman in MinistryeBook Format Available! Author and speaker Carolyn Custis James offers leadership insights for women.