When my wife Sarah and I were married, we agreed that we’d strive to reach 60 years in wedlock. I’ve no doubt Sarah will have a better chance of reaching 91 than I will of reaching 99 years and 9.5 months.
We’ve pondered what it feels like to have reached the 14-year mark. We’ve never been more grateful for life than we are now. Our home has housed us for just over three of those years, and we’ve just broken our record—because we’ve been in SIX homes in our fourteen years.
My mother and father have been in three homes in 40 years, and both of my brothers have had only three and two homes respectively over their last 20 years or so.
There’s a lot to be said for stability, yet we’ve had a pretty exciting time of it in our 15 years together counting our pre-marriage time.
On a previous anniversary, Sarah said, “My life hasn’t been the same since you came into my life.” Both our lives have changed so significantly. And marriage does that, doesn’t it? It changes things. It changes us. And ‘change’ in this context doesn’t need to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ‘otherwise’, but it can hang there in the breeze just as it is. Change doesn’t need judgment.
Yesterday, I sat in a hospital emergency department for several hours with my two oldest daughters. It was hardly an ideal time as my mother and their grandmother were assessed and admitted for the second time in two weeks. There were some honest moments there together, and today—a day later—we reflect on the strength of our relationships to endure the tensions of the previous day. It’s all the stress of envisaging the imminent passing of a truly remarkable mother and grandmother. Thankfully, it isn’t her time.
The ups and downs of marriage and family life prove that we do get through, that the goal is resolution, and that growth isn’t necessarily an absence of conflict, but relationships that bear conflict well.
Family reminds us of the folly of perfectionism. When we expect that things should be perfect, we’re tempted to hide in the shame that we cannot achieve it—that somehow there’s something wrong with us because we can’t get it right.
Or we project upon our world a mirage that everyone knows is crap—you know those ridiculous posts on social media that present a curated life. The worst thing is we covet an impossible goal and hold our partner, children, and anyone else to the unattainable—that’s abuse.
Sarah and I still regress from time to time, in conflicts we’ve always had. We normally see our fault relatively quickly, but occasionally it’s the next day—and we’ve learned that that’s okay. And our commitment to our faith ensures we forgive quickly. But we still fall into conflict easily. Conflict is part of healthy married life.
In terms of my adult children, we don’t agree on everything, and there have been times when I’ve had to remind myself that I cannot control them. I’m glad they’re autonomous human beings because even when I’m tempted to try and control them I’m reminded that it’s nonsensical. It’s the same with our eight-year-old—he’s allowed to disagree even if we know what’s best for him. It’s a gift for our family members to be able to disagree with us. It’s to be respected.
Indeed, we cannot manipulate our family and think that good things will come. They won’t. No matter what we think, what’s the point in coercing people?
Family teaches us how to interact with our world. If we can learn to accept the things we can’t change with family, we’ll be well equipped in transacting with our world.
And when we lose precious family, that too changes us irrevocably. Then we learn that despite the grief we can and we in fact do survive. But we’re changed. And that’s okay.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Tribework