Dear Single Friend

ally mauro

I got married and had a baby in my early twenties. It wasn’t the life I’d planned. I never scoured wedding blogs or pined after maternity shops. I never meant to be the first of our friend group to start a family. I simply fell in love, and the rest followed naturally.

Meanwhile, you’re still single. I see you going to grad school, traveling the world, getting grown-up jobs. I hear about your parties, your brunches, and the Saturdays you spend alone with your Netflix.  

Our lives are different, but I think yours is lovely, too. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not.

If you’re beyond a certain age, you probably feel pressure to get married. You’re aware of biological timelines and parental expectations. Your Facebook insists that every single one of your friends is now engaged. And illogical as it is, marriage seems like some kind of personal success milestone. Like, Congrats on not being an unlovable spinster! We always knew you could get a husband if you just put your mind to it! 

Of course, getting married isn’t an achievement. Landing a job is an achievement. Making art is an achievement. Having a good marriage is an achievement. But nobody will celebrate these things with you as much as they should, and for that, I’m sorry.

Single life isn’t less important, but you’re more vulnerable to people telling you it is. Whenever I’m doubting my value, I have a husband to affirm me, and mom friends are the fiercest encouragers I’ve ever met. Plus, everyone tells me I’ve created the miracle of life, so I’m golden. You, on the other hand, have to prove yourself day in and day out. You have to show your boss that you’re not a kid. You have to justify your life choices to your parents. Somedays, you even have to prove to yourself that you’re doing alright.

For the record, I think you’re spectacular. You’re strong and brave, and you’re probably making a bigger impact that you think.

I know sometimes it’s hard to be alone. Whether you envy married life or are happily untethered, sometimes you just want to wake up next to someone who loves you. That is truly one of the best parts of being married. My husband has seen the ugliest corners of my heart, and he still wants to spoon with me every day. He still chooses to love me.

It’s not weak or shameful or naive to want that kind of love. I hope you don’t settle for anything less.

The truth is, I want my marriage to be enviable. I want to be so patient and kind and faithful that it makes you want to do those things, too. I believe in marriage. I believe in commitment, in the beauty of two people submitting to one another. I want you to experience the unique kind of stretching that marriage brings, and I want you to feel its comfort and safety, too. I want you to thrive in it, to live out of the knowledge that you’re loved.

Dear friend, if and when the time is right for you to get married, know that I will celebrate with you through the joyful parts and cheer you on through the hard. If and when the time isn’t right, I will celebrate what’s important to you and cheer you on when you feel weary or lonely.

Our friendship is never dependent on your relationship status. Even if I pop out a dozen kids and you remain single into your sixties, we can still have a rich friendship. We can still be curious about and empathetic towards each other’s lives. I want to hear about your promotions, your backpacking trips, and your awkward first dates. I want to tell you about my son’s new tooth and my husband’s music. I want us to meet between conferences and soccer practice, sipping coffee together and supporting one another through the good and hard seasons of life.

Because even in the busyness of life, marriage, and kids, you matter to me. I see you, I love you, and you are always worth my time.

Love,
Liz

 


This post is Part I of The Marriage Letters. Tune in next week for Part II: “Dear Almost Newlyweds,” in which I talk about wedding season and how to start marriage right.  


Photo: Ally Mauro, Creative Commons

 

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Life is Hard, Marriage is Easy

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After two and a half years of marriage, the phrase my husband and I return to again and again is this: “Life is hard, marriage is easy.”

I am painfully aware that this isn’t true for everyone. I know plenty of people with hard marriages, people who struggle to keep their relationships happy and healthy. But for us, marriage has been a pleasant surprise—not nearly as difficult as everyone warned us it would be, and a whole lot more joyful than we expected. 

Sometimes I think we just got lucky. I’m certain I married up, and Sam swears the same. Our personalities are fairly compatible, our work allows us to spend a lot of time together, and our families get along wonderfully.

But when I look at what we’ve gone through in the past two years—transitioning cultures, living under the poverty line, and dealing with high-stress mission work in Eastern Europe—it’s an absolute miracle that our relationship didn’t crumble under the “life is hard” weight. No amount of dumb luck could combat that kind of life. We had to be doing something right.

Sam and I have been talking it over lately, and here’s what we think makes our marriage easy.

 

We Both Lead and Submit

Sam and I are passionate egalitarians: we believe leadership is merited by gifting and God’s call rather than gender. So, in our marriage, there is no one leader and no pre-assigned roles. In most areas, we co-lead. In others, we default to whoever is more gifted or feels called to take the reigns. While this might appear chaotic to more traditional couples, we enjoy the dance of it all, and the steps come naturally. I love seeing Sam shine in his strengths, and he rests easy as I cover his weaknesses.

We also practice mutual submission, and believe that the best way to lead is to be the first to submit. We’re constantly preferring each other, rather than fighting to get our own way, and we deeply trust one another to meet our needs without having to demand anything (though we definitely ask for what we want, which is a healthy habit unto itself). This can be a difficult cycle to start, especially if you have trust issues, but I assure you that it’s worth the vulnerability. With time, it only gets better.

We Do Hard Things Together

I know I just said that the “life is hard” bit could have tanked our marriage, and that’s still true, but it also forced us to band together. In any good story, the heroes aren’t very heroic until they have a mutual enemy to vanquish. For us, that enemy looked like culture shock, financial anxiety, and exhaustion as we struggled to make a life in Kosovo. We absolutely had to love each other, or neither of us was going to survive.

Sam and I never bicker. Never. Because bickering expends energy, and we quickly got in the habit of ignoring small slights in favor of dealing with much bigger problems. When I hear most American couples fight, I hear a lot of boredom. If you find yourselves arguing over what carpet to get, you probably need to challenge yourselves a little more. There’s plenty of hard in the world, and your relationship deserves a better story than redecorating.

We Practice Gratitude

This is another habit we picked up in Kosovo. When life got tough, we forced each other to list things we were grateful for, and eventually it became second nature. Now, we thank each other for everything: cooking, laundry, sex, communication, thoughtfulness, protectiveness. And it’s not some phony show we put on—we are really and truly grateful for all these things.

Besides general respect and faithfulness, nothing in our relationship is an obligation. Everything is the cherry on top. Everything gets treated as special. This is another bonus of not having assigned gender roles. I get thanked for cooking as much as Sam does. He gets thanked for going to the bank. Even though we gravitate towards certain roles, we’re never expected to stay in them forever, and we’re appreciated wherever we are.

We Buck American Culture

As I read through Christmas cards last month, I couldn’t help but notice how often people used the word “busy” to describe their year. Americans love this word, almost as much as they love keeping busy, but I see it as an epidemic. I know far too many people who rarely see their spouse, all because they want to do everything all the time.

Working hard and challenging yourself is great, but it’s not worth sacrificing your marriage. Sam and I are constantly saying “no” to things because we want to stay home and do nothing together. There’s nothing really efficient about relationships, and I’m learning to love that. In this season, we’re on furlough, living with family, and working minimal hours. We could have chosen to work more, make more money, and be less dependent, but we decided to seize the opportunity to live slowly and focus on relationships instead. It’s been so healthy for both of us, and our marriage has never been sweeter.

 

What makes your marriage wonderful? I love hearing how people love each other well, and I’m still learning about this marriage thing. Tell me all about it.

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