My aunt Lynda Kope said this to me before we were married:
“When you get married you do it because of this and because of that.
You stay married in spite of this and in spite of that.”
She was right.
One of my lifelong friends told me something before I’d met Erin about marriage that always stuck with me. “Corey, there are three things that make a good marriage. ______, ______, and a whole lot of forgiving” (I can’t remember the first two, don’t judge me). He was right about the forgiveness thing and I never forgot that part.
When you’re single you tend to think marriage will be like moving in with a buddy from high school. “You want to watch football?” “Sure!”. What could there possibly be to fight about? You can see having an argument about something once, but after that issue is sorted out you should be good to go?
I entered marriage with all the arrogance that comes from belonging in a home where my folks had a great relationship. I figured I knew all there was to know and how hard could it be anyways? Some people enter marriage with the assumption that they grew up seeing everything wrong and stupid about divorce and will never make those mistakes. The world is a small place when you’re twenty. Mostly because you’re still sitting in the centre of it so how big could it be?
15 years into the complexity and abundance and pain of marriage and I realize I’m more committed to the process than I ever was. Not because everything has gone well. Not because I haven’t screwed things up from time to time. When I got married I never looked back. I can’t really remember what life was like before and I don’t really care. This is my life now and any imagined freedom or independence I had I would trade in a heartbeat for the riches I live in now and the good things coming.
I’m not saying we’ve worked everything out or agreed about… anything sometimes:) It is what it is and I’m Irish so naturally I’m a little scrappy and take to fighting like I take to talkin’. Not sure how we would have been if Erin was Italian but… it’s funny to think about too. I always sort of thought we’d run out of things to talk about after a year or two but when we do we end up fighting about something, which gives us something to talk (and laugh) about again. At least it’s not boring, I would have hated that:) Dead serious!
I still remember the first time I talked to Erin on the phone. We were setting up a band to play at the University of Calgary Campus and she said something about the musicality of the bass player who was our only option that week. She let me know he was a bit of a question mark in a very politely loaded comment that observed the laws of Canadian decency and got the point across without really coming out and saying it. I laughed out loud and thought “Here’s a girl who can think!” Now everyone is good at something, but not everyone can think like that. My mind has always had a way of cutting through things and getting to the issue as quickly as possible and, around people who take loads of time to figure things out (or even loads of time to say a sentence), my mind tends to wander and not be noticed in the wandering. I had to be on my toes with this girl though!
Erin’s backup is the most sincere love for people I have ever experienced. She is someone who bleeds when people betray or hurt her, or when they betray or hurt her friends. I’m built for something else and this was new to me. Now I love people intensely, but I’m the guy you want on your side when it all falls apart because I don’t. I compartmentalize pain and fear and deal with them when I can, but in the crunch my mind is clear and decisions uncannily close to what they should be. I walk in and through pain as a normal part of my life, but I rarely bleed. Our close friends admire the way I take on hard decisions when I already know that painful, and even senseless personal pushback is coming, but if I’m honest I’d be terrified to live like Erin!
Her strength is the strength of someone who gives me the reason to go on. Any amount of pain can be justified with the incredible backbone of purpose and fighting for a cause that is so much greater than ourselves, but there are times when I’m tired and frustrated by the very people I’m trying to help. We see the pain and repeated patterns that sabotage families and we try to help them through it, or prevent it in the first place if at all possible, and honestly some people hate us for it in the end. “They couldn’t possibly hate you for it?” Have you ever actually worked with… well … people? (What’s really odd is that I’m like this some days too:) But there are other days when it seems easier to me just to let the world be what it is and die in peace but I can’t seem to do it and it takes its toll. Erin’s moral strength and love keep me moving. She makes sense of what people are doing by letting me in on how they’re feeling and I always listen when she does. It’s her thing and I’d be crazy not to.
She is ok with me when I’m not ok with me. This sounds weird but I really mean it. I’ve never had a comfortable day in my life but she is cool with things when they’re not the way they could be and it is a constant reminder that I might as well relax a bit or face the worst disappointment which will be the rest of my life!
I always say “She’s the easiest person in the world to live with, the only problem is that I have to live with her”.
I’m not being a jerk, I’m only saying that her strengths mean she has weaknesses and I’m ok with that, just like she is ok with me. Just to be clear we fight about things all the time but we’re getting better at fighting so that’s good. She’s stopped calling me “That stupid lazy fat guy” and I’ve stopped saying “I forgive you” in the middle of an argument she’s winning. Actually she’s never said that to me but no one who knows us both would pick my side of a conflict no matter what she allegedly did or didn’t say, and that’s sickening. But I have to/get to live with her so it all works out in the end.
Something I’ll say that might be interpreted wrong (but this is my anniversary and my wife so deal with it) is this: she’s ok when I’m in the spotlight and she’s not. This is not to say I’m great or anything stupid like that, but she sort of likes going under the radar and being part of the team that is invaluable but not always obvious to those outside. She really has no ego and can build bridges between people because they sense that. On the other hand she can be tough as nails when she has to; let’s just say you don’t want to be the one she taps on the shoulder when you’re being a selfish jerk. She’ll hold a mirror up and ask you if you like what you see? I’m always mildly amused when she gets fired up about something and puts the boxing gloves on:)
Her capacity for love is endless. She would (and has) loved me in impossible situations and would bleed until there was nothing left if that’s what was asked of her. She would do it with no guarantees and no hope until the floor fell out beneath her. She has accepted me much in the way my Saviour Jesus has. She said she would and she has. She always will, not because of what I can give but because Jesus asked it of her. I would that my love could reflect that and I’m working towards it, but it’s both good (and irritating) to live with someone who mentors me constantly in the ways of kindness.
One last thing:
It’s been 15 years baby! We’ve had ups and downs but we did it together! I got what I didn’t deserve and I like it:)