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The Challenge of Loving your Spouse

By August 11, 2016 11 Comments

by Kate Kooyman

(image by Flickr user ckhatri1)

So many of my friends in the last few weeks have been populating their social media feeds with photos of them and their spouses, and touching notes declaring their love for one another. It’s called the “Love your Spouse Challenge.” It’s been fun to see the happiness that my friends find in their relationships.

I’m also married, and I would add happily so, and I have to admit that I found this blogpost which critiques the “Love Your Spouse” challenge to be so relatable. “We compare one hundred percent of our own life to THE BEST five percent of everyone else’s,” the writer proclaimed, and I think this is true. I see those adorable snuggle-selfies and assume those couples never fight about credit cards or cabinet doors left open. They go on a date every week, they like each other that much (and budget that well).

I was the matron of honor in a wedding this weekend. The pastor wove in a beautiful quote from C.S. Lewis during his message, declaring that the love between spouses is like “patches of Godlight in the woods of our experience.” And I think this is also true. It has been true for me today — strep throat has seriously got me beat down, and I don’t know how I could have made my own soup or kept my children alive feeling the way I do. My spouse was a patch of light to me today.

But I don’t always feel that way, and I know he doesn’t either. It’s also worth noting (though perhaps not in a wedding homily) that the experience of marriage can be its own darkness — the place we most constantly are presented with someone’s failures and our own. Marriage is the place we can feel most beloved, and most estranged.

Before I got married, I read a book about how marriage was not meant to make us happy; instead, it was meant to make us holy. This has proven to be true for me. I’m glad I didn’t have the expectation that my spouse would be “the perfect person” for me, or that we would meet one another’s every need. I know far too many vibrant single folks who are not cherished by a partner — and they’re leading very meaningful lives.

Maybe on her first anniversary, I’ll send my friend a card that names my real hopes for her. Not that she and her partner would have a lifetime of happiness; but instead receive the blessing of being forced to do the hard work of becoming more holy.

May the Lord bless you with enough frustration in this relationship
that you are forced to say what you really mean,
even when it scares you.
May the Lord bless you with fights that are stupid and petty
so you will be forced to forgive and be forgiven
again and again.
May the Lord bless you with enough money problems
that the stingy one has to loosen up, and the spendthrift has to buckle down,
because sometimes love looks like changing.
May the Lord send you the same fight,
over and over,
so you learn to keep listening, and keep trying to be heard.
May you sometimes be a patch of Godlight to one another,
and may you sometimes be one another’s darkness.
God could make you holy a hundred different ways,
but God gave this guy to you.
And God gave you to him.
God is hilarious, doncha think?

Kate Kooyman

Rev. Kate Kooyman is a minister of the Reformed Church in America who lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


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