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When Change Happens in a Marriage

I posted a photo yesterday on Instagram, one of two baby-faced people with the hashtag #childbride to highlight how young and completely different and dorky we looked 17 years ago. We were in our twenties, really not that young, but now looking at the picture it seems we were teenagers, much too fresh to know who we were or what we wanted. And yet I remember we DID know, as much as we could. In every part we knew we were perfect for each other then.

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Yesterday, holding the picture I thought how different we are today. How much we’ve changed. And what that change looks like. We’ve been through phases where “you’ve changed” has been an accusation. And I’ve been cheated, this is not what I’ve signed up for, how dare you become something different than you were. And other phases where “you’ve changed” has been a proclamation of relief, a gift, sometimes intentional sometimes not, that we’ve given each other because the old ways weren’t working.

Of course on our wedding day we didn’t know who we’d become or what we wanted because life doesn’t work that way. We didn’t know of the prayers, the decisions, the births, the houses, the jobs, the fights, the love, the purchases, the visits, the hospital stays, the defining moments that were ahead. We didn’t know how those turning points would change our direction or shape us. Though we want a point in time that announces “we’ve arrived”, there really isn’t such a benchmark. So we move with life and try to grow in the same direction.

And then today I read a post over on the MOPS blog that with tenderness and raw words displays the pain and resentment that can happen with the change. How pure determination says I will stick it out. And the process that moves us from then to now.

It’s the chasm between our expectations and the new reality that can throw us in the change process. We can’t get past the death of dreams to see how the new picture is beautiful in its own way. Life is rarely what we thought it would be but pushing past the disappointment, we find it is often better than we imagined on the other side.

I am not writing for everyone’s circumstance. I know sometimes the trust has been broken. We can’t control the other person. It’s dangerous to stay. I also know that I’m grateful for change in my marriage. Because I am a different person than I was 17 years ago. As is Derek. And so our relationship, the intersection of us, looks different than it did when we were that baby-faced couple. It is better.

I went on a trip last week with Krista, who was friends with both me and Derek before he and I knew each other. She has watched our relationship at every phase. Sprawled on our hotel beds catching up on kids and writing and husbands she commented, “You two are so perfectly suited for each other.” I nodded as the tears came because there was so much layered there.

We were suited when we met. It’s what attracted us to each other. And I’m grateful we were young when we married. I consider it one of God’s gifts to us. But the truth of the change is there too and there have been seasons where we didn’t feel as suited. Where the dissonance was loud, not just to us but to those who knew us well. And how grateful I am that we’ve grown and changed toward each other. Well suited still, but with different hues.

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Because of that #childbride element, we’ve grown up together, moved into adulthood side by side. I don’t know why it’s worked so well. Perhaps common passions. Shared calling and children. Grit to stick it out. Desire to be better. God’s mercy washing over us. And grace extended between us. Probably all of it together.

When I fear the future and the growing old uncertainties, my most earnest prayer is that my companion will still be at my side growing up with me. That God through his mercy, who gave me this treasure of a man, will give me the chance to change with him for years to come.

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