People will tell you your wedding day will be a blur. As you inch toward the end of your engagement, married couples will tell you, almost incessantly, that you won’t remember much of your wedding day. Maybe this is true for them, but it was not true for me.
I remember. I remember the buzz of morning tasks, the hustle of bridesmaids getting ready, the photographer looming over my shoulder to capture every mundane task. I remember looking at my dad as the wedding party made their way down the isle, creeping together closer and closer to the foot of that isle, and feeling the twinge of pain that change relentlessly brings. I remember getting to the alter, taking Austin’s hand, and hearing him say, with a wink, “This moment right here, I’ll remember it forever.” I remember repeating the vows with tears running down my neck and wondering if my dress was getting wet. I remember dancing silly at the reception, and thinking that never, ever again would we throw such a great party with all our friends. I remember getting in the car with Austin as we left the reception, the cheers and clatter of our guests now almost muted by the shutting of the car door, and being fully aware that I had never felt so safe and so confident of any decision I had ever made. I remember.
Our marriage has had a lot of transitions in these few early years. We have graduated from seminary, we have moved across the country, we have cumulatively worked five jobs, and have postured ourselves for a future ministry we wouldn’t have even considered eighteen months ago. We’ve endured some hardship, sustained each other during seasons of depression and struggle, and only grown in our companionship. Today, Austin and I are celebrating our three year anniversary. On the one hand, I feel like I just met Austin – just fell for him under the giant, aching oak on the lawn of our grad school. On the other hand, I feel like we have been together so much longer, and I can’t even remember what I was like before him.
Celebrations are special to us. Not because we like grand gestures or pomp and circumstance (which we sometimes do), but because we are a people of ceremony. We love our traditions, our ceremonies, even if only for little moments or memories. One of my traditions on our anniversary is to write down, generally in my journal, what I have learned about Austin and about marriage in that particular year. This year, I want to share this year’s three lessons, if for any reason but to cement them in my own heart and head.
This is Part I in a three-part mini-series.
1) In marriage, you chose to make your husband your best friend.
Friendships have always been a bit difficult for me. I’m the kind of person that almost always feels overwhelmingly guilty about not doing more in friendships. I’ll pay for coffee twice, you’ll pay for it once, and I’ll leave feeling like I didn’t do enough. I’m weird, I know. Because of this guilt that I carry in my friendships, it makes saying no to things unbearably difficult at times.
When Austin and I met, we were instant friends. We could talk for hours, we enjoyed all the same things, and every experience was improved by having the other join. Though I was not a girl who imagined herself getting married, I found myself dating this guy who I couldn’t imagine not having as my best friend.
When we were engaged, I sought out a married women in our community because I knew I needed to learn from someone, watch someone, be mentored by someone as we approached this transition. In one conversation with her, I divulged my deep-set guilt over spending more time with Austin than with my female roommates. When once the three girls and I were inseparable during the week and on the weekends, my evenings and weekends were increasingly being spent with Austin. I was conflicted: should I spend this time with my roommates now because soon I won’t live with them? Or should I spend time with Austin since we are going to soon be married? I was fully confident she would advise the former, but to my surprise she strongly supported the latter. “Austin is your partner,” she said. Yes, I still can hear her words to this day. “You are going to go everywhere with Austin, and you’re building the foundation for that now.” Her advice freed me from some of the guilt I was experiencing as other friendships were taking a back-seat to my friendship with Austin. For some reason, I needed the permission to be best friends with Austin, to give Austin the primary portion of my time, to give him my best energy. And with that freedom came such joy: this man, who I loved and enjoyed, could be my favored companion, and I couldn’t have been more grateful to live into that reality.
This year, Austin and I have grown in our friendship probably more than in any other aspect of our marriage. We’re companions. We like to hang out with each other. Most of the time, we would be much more content spending any given Saturday night just as the two of us than going out and meeting anyone. We like each other. We’re just, well, best friends.
I’ve learned, mostly the hard way, that friendship takes time and intentionality. While it is true that friendships develop in the little moments between the monumental moments, they take consistent, intentional time. I have learned that there are times that saying yes to another friendship means saying no to my friendship with Austin. Sometimes this is a fine exchange, but it cannot be the norm. I’m learning (note the present, ongoing tense) to say yes to my friend, my husband. I say yes to having a quiet night in, yes to reading and discussing a book together, yes to meeting for drinks after work.
Other friendships in my life have faded as a result. Some of them mark a natural shift in life circumstances: the end of grad school, moving away from our Gloucester church, transitioning to a new job, etc. The idea of fading friendships used to strike me down with guilt – what did I do wrong? will they resent me? But in marriage, you chose to make your spouse your best friend. And this best friendship needs time, attention, nurturing, just like any other friendship.
Solomon understood the friendship of marriage when he penned about his young bride, “This is my beloved, this is my friend.” (Song of Solomon 5:16) Austin will always be the one I want to sit across from at a coffee shop on a sleepy Saturday morning. When I read a new theology book, he will always be the first opinion I want to hear. When there’s a new restaurant, art museum, or shop in town he will always be the person I want to go with. He will always be my best friend. And, if I wake up one day and that is not the case, I will commit to the hard work of being intentional again, of remembering again, of taking the necessary time again until we find each other’s hands in the dark and whisper, “There you are, my friend.”