We were 23 and 24 years old. We wore white and stood on a beach in front of 50 family members and friends and we swore we would see each other through thick and thin forever. Back then we thought we knew everything! We knew each other’s character, we knew what mattered to us in life (even if we didn’t exactly know what we would do with it), and we knew that we were in it for life. We would nail this marriage thing!
Something I had heard a lot of people older than I say regarding their divorces was that their spouse “had changed” or “wasn’t the person I married anymore”. Thankfully, I thought to myself, I don’t have to worry about that. My husband, Eric, will never change. He is who he is forever! I wasn’t the least bit afraid of the potential for that to become our reality, because I honestly didn’t think it would apply to us at all.
Almost a decade later, I’m able to laugh at my 23 year old self. Eric has changed. He is absolutely not the person I married. But I have changed too, and I’m not exactly the same girl who stood before him in a long white dress that hot August day. At our worst moments, we struggle with feeling disappointed that the other isn’t as perfect as we had believed 9 years ago. And at our worst moments, we also struggle with feeling like a disappointment ourselves.
But the truth is, I can honestly say I’m glad we’ve changed. Had my husband remained exactly the man I married he wouldn’t be nearly as good of a father, he wouldn’t have such a deep, personally-developed faith, and he wouldn’t be as confident in who he is. These are examples of the good kinds of change David wrote about a few weeks ago. Sure, sometimes the journey is exhausting and it might be easier if people never changed, but wouldn’t it be boring as well?
The more years of marriage we have under our belt, and the more I observe the healthiest marriages that I admire, the more I’m convinced that the key to a lifelong marriage isn’t found in not changing but in changing together. It’s in staying up for hours into the night talking about fears and dreams. It’s in spending time with older couples who are setting an admirable example of a committed marriage. It’s in going to counseling to help figure out what it looks like to change together. It’s in being one another’s #1 fan, a support system they can lean on when everything they thought they knew comes crashing down around them.
I’m not trying to oversimplify this. It’s hard work!. I realize that many people’s problems are much more difficult than Eric and mine. But I think it would help all of us to stop believing the lie that our spouses aren’t supposed to change. Instead, let’s assume that they will; and celebrate that we get to be the ones who have the front row seats to it.