With two decades of marriage to my husband, Rich, under my belt, I've experienced my share of moments when I've decided I couldn't live with him. They've usually occurred after we've argued about something or when my hormones have been on full battle alert. Rich and I have struggled through the challenges of raising teenagers, battled cancer together, survived job stresses, a layoff, and a tumultuous relocation that didn't pan out. Over the years, tensions have run high as we've had to grit our teeth and hold tight to that commitment we made before God and our friends and family many years ago. We've been childish, selfish, and have both said things we regret. We each entered into our union with unique baggage and unrealistic expectations of each other that still crop up even after years of loving and living together.
Yet even during those moments when I'm tempted to mutter, "I can't live with him," I know I'd marry Rich again in a heartbeat. Here are five reasons why I love being married.
1. Exclusive Membership
While my husband certainly can't read my mind, he does know how to read my body language. He knows that particular glance we use at social functions that says, I'm ready to leave—now! He recognizes the phrase we always use to break the ice after an argument: "Do you love me anyway?" Together Rich and I have coined the funny nicknames we've used for ourselves, our kids, even our dog. We have private jokes that crack us—and only us—up. These demonstrate one way we've become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). After all, part of what binds you together are the unique looks, gestures, phrases, and memories that become part of your marriage's DNA.
It's hard to find someone in this world who gets you. But that's one of the great things about marriage. It means you can enjoy the privileges of a club of which you and your spouse are the only members. No other human being knows better what I like, what I worry about, what I cry or laugh over, than my husband—and vice versa.
2. Double Your Pleasure
Remember that Doublemint chewing gum ad with the slogan, "Double your pleasure, double your fun"? I've learned that my spouse's passions and hobbies can expand the scope of my interests and double my fun.
For instance, last weekend Rich and I took a spin to one of our favorite local destinations: Illinois's Starved Rock State Park. But we didn't get there by car. Oh, no—we went dressed in black leather, riding on our motorcycle.
If you'd asked me six years ago if I ever envisioned myself a "biker babe," I'd have scoffed at the possibility. But then Rich purchased a motorcycle five years ago to celebrate the end of his radiation therapy. I knew this was something he enjoyed and, while I was nervous at first (the phrase "road pizza" ran through my mind), I hopped on the back, clutching my husband for dear life. As we gained more experience, my inhibitions retreated, and now I'm having a blast. Would I have hopped on a bike on my own? Never. It was only because of Rich's newfound love of biking—and my choice to sidestep my innate timidity.
My friend Sharon and her husband, Phil, realized they lacked some shared couple fun, so they tried photography lessons. It never clicked. Then they tried golfing lessons but their interest waned. Convinced couple time was important, Sharon finally decided her husband's love of fishing was worth investigating. Now they're doubling their pleasure when she joins him on an occasional Saturday morning, helping him hook "the one that got away."
3. The Power of Two
Rich is what I call "stoic." At times, his detached manner has frustrated me to no end. I typically react to circumstances based on feelings, while he depends on logic. I bring fun and enthusiasm into our relationship; he brings reason and practicality. But then I also excel at envisioning worst-case scenarios while Rich sometimes comes across as unemotional.
The reality is, our traits have upsides and downsides. But amazingly, most of the time we balance each other. Individually, we're each a little incomplete, but together, we comprise a good team, whether it's serving together in our church's annual food drive, entertaining in our home, or parenting our kids. In marriage, God combines two struggling, incomplete people, brings them into intimate community, and transforms them into a unit with the potential to accomplish so much more than they'd ever be able to do alone.
4. A Shoulder to Lean On
Right now we're going through a tough season that's bruised us—my husband's out of work, plus his brother's struggling with advanced lung cancer. That's why it's so healing to start and end each day in each other's arms. When circumstances drag us down, strip us of self-confidence, or pile on the stress, it's wonderful to know we have each other to lean on. I don't have to impress my husband, earn his love, or have all the answers to a problem for him to love, accept, and encourage me. There's great comfort in knowing that in marriage, we don't have to face hardships alone. If Rich is feeling battle-weary, I'm right there on the front lines with him, ready to buffer the blows for a while. And he'll do the same for me.
We're not perfect comforters for each other; only the Holy Spirit can be. But I love the intimacy of finding and giving comfort to the one who loves me warts and all.
5. Higher Goals
Marriage for marriage's sake is self-serving. But marriage for believers owns a higher purpose, a larger mission in life than a series of accomplishments and acquisitions, or an attempt to end loneliness: It's to reflect Christ's relationship with his church to a watching world.
I'm convinced God intends marriage to stretch us in ways it's hard to experience otherwise. After all, you're in the trenches of living daily with another flawed human being in need of grace, forgiveness, patience, and love, just as you are. Through the years I've been married, I've been caught short by my appallingly selfish and controlling nature—and exhilarated by moments of utter selflessness. As I'm willing, God uses the most mundane aspects of our life together to transform me to become more Christlike. So even during those moments of "can't live with him" (or his moments of "can't live with her"), marriage is teaching us constancy, commitment, and faithfulness. It isn't always easy or pleasant—but I love being married and watching God at work.
Jane Johnson Struck, editor of sister publication Today's Christian Woman magazine, lives with her family in Illinois.
2002 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.