Jamie and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary this week. In July, my parents marked 50 years of marriage, and they found a way to host a small party with siblings, despite COVID-19 restrictions.
We played a video of aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and friends reflecting on my parents’ marriage. Two of my aunts remember singing a song called, “Each for the Other and Both for the Lord” at the wedding ceremony back in 1970.
Both of my aunts connected the title of that song to my parents’ real-life marriage for the next 50 years. My mom and dad each live to make the other one happy. Not every minute of every day, but I have surely seen each of them sacrifice for the other in big and small ways, over all these years.
On their album Delta, the band Mumford and Sons sings, “Does my love prefer the other? Or does my love just make me feel good?” The songwriter is talking about service to others rather than romantic love. But I think it crosses over to all interpersonal connections. It is an attitude of the heart. Do I prefer the other? Or am I doing something loving to make myself feel good?
This type of sentiment doesn’t come naturally – we are all self-centered. I have seen a shift in female thought-leadership in the last few years, towards insisting on getting what we want. Some popular books have titles like, “Untamed”, “Girl, Stop Apologizing”, and “Fierce, Free and Full of Fire.” I am the target demographic for these books (minivan-driving, career-oriented, Type-A moms in our 40s).
This fierce attitude may motivate me to go out and get what I want from life, but it also makes me feel entitled and anxious, personally. When I relax into an attitude of “each for the other,” life feels more generous, free and full of peace. And I can still feel motivated to go out and accomplish my goals. My mom has always been clear about what she wants in life – and she and my dad make decisions together, and both sacrifice accordingly.
It is a two-way street for sure. I heard an interview with Brene Brown recently, talking about her marriage. I didn’t capture an exact quote, but the gist of her example was that she and her husband Steve communicate in percentages. If she has a stressful week ahead and feels like she will be operating at 20% capacity, but Steve has a lighter week and says he is at 70% – then he gives more to the marriage and household that week, and vice versa. If they are both say they are overwhelmed and operating at 20%, they order pizza and takeout that week, and don’t try to hold their marriage and life to their regular highest standard for the time being. She says on good weeks, they are both aiming to give more than 50% effort to the marriage. That sounds healthy to me. Each partner attempts to out-give the other. In a season or day or week when there isn’t much to give on either end, they work harder at grace and acceptance.
These are the day to day sacrifices. What about the big ones? My husband made a huge sacrifice for me this year. An important decision had to be made in which we were directly opposed – one of us had to sacrifice in a giant way, and after several difficult weeks, it was Jamie who sacrificed. That kind of sacrifice is real, and it hurts. How do we go forward into the next 20 years of our marriage without resentment? The answer is complex, but it comes from the “both for the Lord” part.
“Each for the other, and both for the Lord.”
One reason my parents have been able to sacrifice for one another without resentment is because of the last clause – “both for the Lord”. They spend enough time praying and reading the actual words of Jesus that they pretty naturally come away with a humble attitude of “each for the other.”
I have watched my whole life as every morning they are quietly reading and praying before they start any day. Still today, if I have a prayer request, I text it over to them in the morning and I know where each of them is sitting, and what they are doing. They have been gradually strengthening the firm foundation of their marriage and lives all these years, readying themselves for the hard years that come and go.
We all want to have great love stories and make it to our 50th anniversary parties. Here are two things I’m working on to get there:
- Time with God:
The more time Jamie and I spend reading and praying every morning, the more naturally we develop the attitude of “each for the other” without forcing it.
- My own attitude:
“There are two types of people – those who come into a room and say, ‘Well, here I am!’, and those who come in and say, ‘Ah, there you are.’” – Frederick Collins. I’m trying to be an “Ah, there you are” type of person, especially with my husband.
2020 has been a hard season on a lot of marriages. What’s working to make yours stronger?