What Marriage Is

dancing

As I have approached my third year of marriage, I find myself surprised that it has only been that long. Our love feels ancient. It feels stretched. Torn. Weathered. At times faded, but in just the right light it blazes with all of its ethereal, ancient beauty.

I met my husband nearly a decade ago, we began dating a couple of years later and were quickly engaged though not quickly married. A three year engagement would drive most people crazy, but it was perfect for us.

Once we were married, I finally felt like I was home. Our lives folded beautifully together. We got a little house, a little cat, then a little struggle.

My health was not the best. His grandfather died. I went through a huge transition at work. We got pregnant. That was year one.

Year two brought more growth. I quit my job.  We had a new baby. We were submersed in postpartum life and all its unpredictable glory. My grandpa died.

The third year was strained. How do you take care of an ever changing baby? I still don’t know. I started a business. Constant baby talk can make you no talk so good to each other. I got really, really sick. My beloved grandmother died. Oh, and surprise, I’m pregnant again.

Somehow through all of that and the in between that I left out, we managed to hold it together. We still love each other. I dare say we love each other more today than we did two weeks ago.

That’s because marriage is hard. It’s not for the weak of heart. It’s for warriors. Two people fighting for the same cause. Those who do not quit no matter how many times they want to slam open the door and run like hell. It’s for those who say no to other things they find a little more attractive in a fleeting moment.

Marriage is laughing so hard at something that other people would probably find gross or disturbing. It’s safe. It’s even fun. It’s inside jokes, and knowing looks that need no words.

Marriage is going to the grocery store late at night because your pregnant wife needs anything and everything that you do not have in the comfort of your own home.

It’s listening to the same old stories and knowing the inflection and hand gestures that go with them.

Marriage is taking it slow, even for only five minutes because you just realized you haven’t hugged all day in a couple of days.

It is admitting what is wrong and determining to fix it. It is raw, unedited, and pure.

Marriage is holding your sobbing wife behind closed doors when she just can’t.

Marriage is teamwork. You got the dishes, I’ll fold the laundry. You watch the baby, I’ll mow the lawn. It blossoms in the mundane.

Marriage is doing the boring stuff: chores, bills, budgets, making a living. It is planning, home-making, life building.

It is doing something for the other person just because you think they’d like it. It’s giving without always taking, encouraging, and supporting.

Marriage is footsy in bed because you better not think about anything else. It’s learning the difference between quality love making verses quantity and knowing that a little quantity isn’t bad either.

It is hand holding, back rubbing, distant winking, seeing someone attractive across the room and having this sensational realization that, “Hey, they’re with me.”It is random romance. It is passionate. It is intimate, vulnerable, and sacred.

Marriage is Friday night snuggles because there is no place else you’d rather be.

It is trusting, being kind, finding ways to overlook idiosyncrasies.

It is humbling, inspiring, and at times overwhelming.

Marriage is a worthy challenge because every part of you is invaluable to me. Marriage is an honor, a gift, happiness, and fulfilling.

It’s I love you, now and forever not because of this overwhelming feeling or desire I have right now but because I promised to.

Marriage is having the flame go out only to quickly stoke the flame to light it up again.

It is commitment. It is sharing, care-taking, compromise, you give 100% and I will too.

It is forgiving, letting go, fighting hard while choosing your battles.

Marriage is taking care of yourself so that you can better serve the other. It is mutual respect, sacrifice, learning to be selfless.

It is allowing the other to have the space they need to regroup, unwind, and recharge.

It is having a partner, a friend, and ally, and I am so glad you are on my side. Marriage is family.

Marriage is many wonderful and intimidating things, and it’s so much more than this little summary.

My marriage is basically a toddler though our relationship as a whole will soon be preparing for middle school. I only know a very little, and I bask in the wisdom of the marriage elders who have been at it for decades. This little nugget is just what I’ve learned so far, and I look forward to learning so much more.

Here’s to 33+33 more! Cheers, my dear! You are a most cherished blessing.

Cheers, Two Years to Come

Scratching my head, I consider the years that have flipped by us so quickly. Like the pages of the best books, they draw me in yet leave me hungering for more. I feel as though we have been married for more than just two years, and I say that without the slightest trace of negativity.

We’ve had a rather full two years of marriage, and an even fuller seven years of friendship. I remember when I came to the grand realization that you were the only person that I could ever see myself with, now I get to live out that realization everyday. To me it seems as though we were always together, a constant continuation of each other. Where you leave off, I pick up. Where you stop, I start.

I thank God for my every thought of you, every memory with you, every moment spent in your sweet presence. Your name means Jehovah’s gift, and you my dear most certainly are. If death were to ever come between us, I could search for a thousand lifetimes yet never find someone who so perfectly matches me as you do. Even the way my hand fits into yours is a testament to how we were created to fit together.

I don’t much care for fighting, but I’ll always fight for you. I still choose to love you, even when I don’t like you, although that is rare indeed. You are the one my heart loves, and I will not release you from my grasp until the day the Lord calls one of us home.

I love you, respect you, admire you, and wish nothing but the best for you. You are my best friend, my true companion, and I absolutely look forward to our third year of marriage. You are the best thing in my life, and I count it an honor to grow old with you.

Happy 2nd Anniversary, cheers to the many years to come.

Happy One Year Anniversary, My Dear.

My husband is a darling. Always patient, always kind, he lacks envious haughtiness. He is incredibly humble, is concerned about others feelings, and always places himself last. He is very evenly tempered, and easily forgives. He delights in truth in whatever form it may come in. He is a wonderful protector and provider. He is trustworthy and offers me his trust in return. He is relentless in hope and optimism, and he never gives up, never gives in.

My husband speaks wisdom and offers fervent prayer for our family. He is the first to rise and the last to fall asleep. He has a spirit of peace that emanates from his presence.

My husband is a gift that only God could have given me, and through him, the Lord has shown me just how much He loves me.

So on this day exactly one year ago, I married my best friend, the one my heart adores. Here’s to many, many, many more years full of amazing adventures, consuming laughter, and fiercely determined love.

When we first saw each other... Oh the tears.

When we first saw each other… Oh the tears.

I do, now until eternity.

I do, now until eternity.

My Beef with 50 Shades…

Warning: this post contains strong opinions about explicit material. There are no images in this post.

I was recently disturbed when I read the phrase “50 Shades of Grey baby boom.” This suggests that a book is forecasted to trigger a rise in the population.

I read somewhere (I’ve scoured the internet trying to find it, but it was probably in print so I can’t cite it) that this woman “actually wanted to have sex with her husband” after reading the book and it led to their conception.

Ouch? How would you like it if your husband said “I really want to have sex with you now that I’ve watched this video.” Conjecturing that he wouldn’t want to have sex with you otherwise, talk about hurtful.

Becoming recently pregnant, I spend a lot of time on pregnancy/birth forums trying to soak up as much as I can  and finding sanity in the fact that I’m not alone in the way I feel about certain things.

I was scrolling through, and this woman was lamenting about how awful and depressed she was because her husband would not even touch her. She was seven months pregnant and felt that in her mind her husband found her disgusting and would not even look at her.

At this moment, I wanted to pat her on the back and say, “he’s probably just concerned about your health and the health of the baby, he doesn’t want to hurt you.”

But I continued to read, and she broke my heart when she wailed about how he would just go into another room, watch some porn and take care of business.

She was devastated because she did not feel adequate enough for her man.

Many other women ardently shared her pain. One woman’s boyfriend had enough gall to tell her she looked ridiculous in her lingerie. She was only five months pregnant, and he too would resort to pornography before even looking at her.

Most women get riled up at the thought of their companions watching porn. They feel abandoned, hurt, and cheated on as one writer so bitterly admitted.

So if women in general feel so betrayed by their partners for watching porn, why is it OK for women to read porn?

Some people may not think of certain literature as porn, but the dictionary has something else to say.

Pornography defined:

1 : the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement

2: material (as books or a photograph) that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement

3: the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction <the pornography of violence>[1]

Pornography has the same effect on your brain as a drug would. Your brain is malleable and can be molded and moved by ever forming connections.

A vital role for dopamine is in pleasure experience, reward, and learning. Drugs such as cocaine target the dopaminergic system to release great amounts of dopamine which results in experiencing a “high,” often leading to addiction. A number of studies have implicated dopamine in either the anticipation or the direct experience of pleasure. Depending on the brain area, dopamine can be released either prior to or during the moments of heightened pleasure. When released, dopamine strengthens and reinforces the new connections that are being made in the brain while an activity is undertaken.  This in turn acts to encourage the individual to repeat the activity again so they can feel that pleasure once more

How is this relevant to pornography? As the images are displayed on the screen, an arousal takes place and the dopaminergic system is triggered just like it would be by drugs such as cocaine. The newly formed connections in the brain from watching pornographic images become greatly reinforced by the massive amounts of dopamine being released. Rather than going into short term memory, where these images can be forgotten after the screen is turned off, the dopamine reinforcement ensures they’re moved into the long-term memory stores where they can be stuck in replay mode in the person’s mind. The troublesome fact about this is that the more something is recalled, the more it solidifies it in the brain. [2]

By continually stimulating your brain with pornographic images, you are constantly drawn back to it, and over a short amount of time you can form an addiction.

Another aspect of the addiction that makes it scientifically legitimate is the changes that occur in the brain when one engages in activities involving pornography. When an addict looks at porn, testosterone, dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin are released, creating what Dr. Judith Reisman refers to as an “erototoxin.” The chemical change, which causes the person engaging in the act to have a temporary feeling of euphoria, becomes a necessity for the person to function. Like any other type of addict, porn addicts become trapped within their disorder, and the difference between casually watching pornography and being an addict hinges on the chemical makeup of the brain. [3]

Not only can porn damage your way of thinking, which in my opinion is similar to actual brain damage, it can damage your relationships.

It damages your relationship by removing the action of love. Sex is sacred. It is something that is transcendent. If you bring in images of others doing the deed, it can distract you from your partner. It can cause you to rely on outside stimulation to just make it through. It strips this aspect of your relationship from true intimacy by forging in your brain a fantasy, something that is not real.

Why would you prefer an obsessive fantasy over your husband when you can be far more creative together than any perverted piece of trash that likes to the disguise itself as wholly satisfying?

Sex without intimacy will never be wholly satisfying.

The 50 Shades books have been rightfully deemed “mommy porn,” but why is getting off so easy? If we were to start calling porn sites “daddy porn,” would that make it less wrong?

No it wouldn’t. There is no double standard. If you have a problem with your husband preferring pornographic images over your sexy self, you should have a problem with indulging yourself in the exact same thing. Just because it does not contain pictures does not mean that the pictures are not being drawn in your mind.

There are plenty of things that you and your partner can do to stimulate your sex life that do not involve porn. Remember the old days, take time for each other, look at each other, hold each other, openly talk to each other about e v e r y t h i n g. Do not fall prey to the lie that you need to have porn to improve your sex life. There are other ways.

If you or your partner struggle with this, there are many things that you can do. You can seek counseling (especially in cases of addiction), get a site blocker that requires a password, you can seek out accountability partners. There is hope. Your brain can be re-wired. You can have a wholly satisfying experience with your partner.

You always want to do unto others as you would have them do unto you, that’s the golden rule after all. So if you shutter at the thought of your husband watching porn, think about how he might feel if you preferred a fictional, fantastical relationship over him.

[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com

[2]http://www.suhaibwebb.com/ummah/men/how-watching-pornography-changes-the-brain/

[3] http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/345

I Resolve

I make resolutions every year, and by June I cannot even remember what they were. However, I feel this year is the year, the year I resolve to keep my resolutions.

I am an efficiency nerd and always categorize each list I make into sections, so I shall do the same here.

First Section: Marriage                                             Second Section:Pregnancy/Birth

  1. Keep all of these resolutions.                           1. Keep these resolutions.
  2. Pray with my husband more.                           2. Pray for baby more specifically.
  3. Read with him more.                                        3. Only gain between 25-30lbs.
  4. Give him more attention.                                  4. Document every step of this journey
  5. Do more kind deeds for him.                            5. Choose healthy foods.
  6. Compliment him everyday.                               6. Learn as much as I can.
  7. Be a better listener.                                           7. Create a circle of support.
  8. Better document our memories.                       8. Lose all weight by Christmas.

Third Section: Art                                                       Fourth Section: Spirituality

  1. Keep these resolutions.                                    1. Definitely keep these.
  2. Learn a new instrument.                                   2. Pray, pray, pray.
  3. Get better at what I already know.                    3. Give more of myself away.
  4. Gather inspiration from reading more.             4. Read the Bible entirely.
  5. Make more things with my hands.                   5. Memorize more.
  6. Sell something I’ve made.                                6. Read more books.
  7. Give things to other people.                              7. Learn to love more.
  8. Dance more.                                                     8. Learn more than I teach.

These are things that I want to accomplish in 2013, but I do not want to forget what I’ve lived, learned, and adored in 2012.

I am so thankful my best friend married me this year. It has been an amazing experience, and I am looking forward to this next year hand in hand.

I have learned that health is not a guarantee, and I am thankful for the journey of healing I have been on.

I have adored combining my little family with my husband’s, and now we are starting our own little branch.

Thank you for reading, please keep me accountable. What are somethings that you’ve resolved to do this new year?

Happy New Year from my mountain home to yours!

Marriage, a blessing.

You are blessed, Lord our God, the sovereign of the world, who created joy and celebration, groom and bride, rejoicing, jubilation, pleasure and delight, love and brotherhood, peace and friendship.  May there soon be heard, Lord our God, in the cities of Judea and in the streets of Jerusalem, the sound of joy and the sound of celebration, the voice of a groom and the voice of a bride, the happy shouting of grooms from their weddings and of young men from their feasts of song.  You are blessed, Lord, who makes the groom and the bride rejoice together. [1]

This beautiful Jewish wedding blessing captures the rapturous joy that marriage is supposed to be. In other versions I have read, it reads something to the effect of you are blessed oh Lord who gladdens the groom with the bride. No matter how it is worded, it is a beautiful blessing that is uplifting and exhilarating.

My husband and I had the immense pleasure of being a part of two of our dearest friends’ wedding this past weekend. My husband was the best man, and I had the honor of providing the music.

The event was incredibly picturesque set in a large cabin by the lake surrounded by trees and mild air. They were married standing in front  of a fireplace surrounded by about 70 of their closest friends and family.

My favorite part, their glow. The way they were completely lost in each others sight made the toughest heart crack. The fact that without omission I was genuinely and truly happy that they were getting married, that they were joining their lives.

Sometimes you hear of people getting married, and you think “How long will this last?” Not that anyone has the right to judge the validity of another’s love, but sometimes people get married on a whim. Sometimes people get married to someone they barely know. I just can’t be happy for people who enter into a marriage contract so lightly.

Marriage is hard work. Marriage is not for the weak. Marriage is serious business. Marriage is a privilege. Marriage is an honor. Marriage is a blessing.

[1] http://www.alljewishlinks.com/the-7-jewish-wedding-blessing/

Wedded Bliss: Survival Guide to the First Six Months of Marriage

Marriage is a beautiful thing. Many people dream of growing up, becoming something, getting a job, AND getting married and having children. Even if you don’t  want the last two things, you’ve at least considered it even without expecting to.

I was one of those people who did NOT want to get married, and I definitely didn’t want children. Ever.

Then one day out of the  blue, a wave hit me. It overtook me and pulled me under and there was no turning back.I wanted a serious relationship, and I wanted someone very specific. And when he became available, I made myself available.

Four months after we started dating, we got engaged. Then a little over three years after that, we got hitched.

Now, six months after “I- Do,” our first year of marriage is nearly over. There are a few things that I wish others would have told me before we got married.

Your first year is not going to be that bad.

Upon getting married, your first year will be unbearably difficult. ” Also, “It will make or break you.”

These are things that I was told. These are also things that are lies. If you are smart and prepare yourself for marriage, not just for your wedding, your first year will not excruciating.

Just wait until the honeymoon phase is over.

At least for my husband and I, the honeymoon phase ended far before we got married. I heard a pastor say “Never get married until you’ve weathered at least two seasons together.” I couldn’t agree more. We all go through phases and seasons through our lives, and it’s in times of difficultly when our true character is revealed.

My husband and I faced two car wrecks, some unexpected legal trouble, my battle with chronic depression, watching the health of my beloved grandparents wither, a few different jobs, AND living at least two hours away from each other for over half of our engagement. We were over the honeymoon phase a long time ago. By the time we got married, we knew how the other handled tough situations and we still wanted to marry each other.

Not that the honeymoon phase is bad, you just need to know that marriage is not all daisies and sausages and be sure that you are prepared for when the fire comes.

Expectations. Expectations. Expectations.

I would recommend getting pre marriage counseling. You will be asked questions that you probably haven’t thought of, like “Why are marrying this person?”

“What is your definition of love?”

“How do you know that you can commit to a lifetime with this person?”

“Do you want children?”

“What do you expect from your spouse?” Yes, there are things that you expect from your spouse even if you do not realize it. For instance, “I can’t wait to get married so that we can have sex all of the time.” Expectation here is “I want a lot of sex.” Your spouse may not want that, so there will have to be a compromise. Or “I expect that all dirty clothing makes from the body to the hamper.” You might be marrying someone who is used to piling them on the floor.

Discuss these things no matter how small or insignificant they may seem.

Make New Discoveries

After getting married, continue to get to know each other. Go on dates, ask questions, try new things. My husband and I found out that we love to read together on a trip to Florida. I had just bought The Hunger Games (Spoiler alert, it’s a pretty great series), and we took turns reading it aloud until we finished the series. This is something that we never did pre-marriage and really enjoy doing.
Be Kind

In my wedding vows I told my husband that I would actively love him even when I didn’t like him. There are so many times that we do not like our spouses, but that is usually short lived. In those times, be kind. Your words and actions if hurtful can take years to take back.