Growing my relationship with my future wife was a lot of fun, but it wasn’t always easy. In fact, it was often scary and difficult. There were a lot of things about myself that I wasn’t thrilled to think of Jenn discovering.
Over the period of many months, I slowly revealed the skeletons in my closet, the past mistakes, the nasty history of substance abuse in my family, et cetera. Jenn also shared parts of her past that she was reluctant to tell me about.
My future wife’s reaction to my past mistakes deepened my love for her. If she felt shock, she hid it well and instead showed compassion and love for me. Someone who didn’t love me would not have reacted the way she did.
In the same way, I tried to show her acceptance and compassion when listening to the stories she told me. We came to stop idealizing one another as the perfect woman or perfect man. We instead started to recognize our past and current faults and learned to love each other through these failings.
With each story we shared, our commitment grew deeper.
Jenn shared with me a phrase I’ll never forget. She said she was grateful that I loved her in spite of her “mess.” As soon as we began to understand each other’s imperfections, we had to choose to either cut things off or keep working through our failings. Loving in spite of a “mess” meant that the mess of the moment didn’t define us. It meant that we understood that both of us were more than our failings.
I take great comfort knowing that no matter what, we will continue to work on loving each other through our collective messes. My wife and I are very imperfect people. But that’s okay.
In times of struggle, Jenn is also fond of saying that there is no one else she’d rather be struggling through something with than me. Saying “I love you” is easy. But saying, “I love you in spite of the ‘mess,'” or “I’m glad to be struggling through this with you,” is hard because you say it during the bad times. It conveys the same meaning as “I love you,” but with greater depth.
This is important because I know that love in real life is tough. Hearing or saying those words helps assure the other that we are in it for better or worse. It’s a reminder that we promised each other on our wedding day that we would work through these difficult seasons in life together.