Thursday, March 28, 2019

Dostoyevsky, Venn Diagrams, and Marriage

Note: This is (basically) the "marriage advice" talk that Herb and I gave to our dear friends and spirit kids, Grace and Zack at their wedding. We were so humbled when they asked us to speak, and now they probably wish they hadn't. We went 100% against the grain of what two other people had said, so ... there's that. But this is what we have learned from almost 16 years of marriage — and prior failed marriages as well. So, here it is, rewritten as if I were the only speaker.
I knew that Grace was the daughter I never had when she told me she was getting married in March. Smack dab in the middle of Lent. Who gets married in Lent? The church I grew up in literally would not perform a wedding ceremony in Lent. You had to wait until after Easter. But Herb and I got married in Lent and ya know what? It’s a lot easier to find a caterer in Lent. Just sayin’.

The liturgical color for Lent is purple. It’s also Herb's favorite color. I want you to keep purple in your mind, because we’re going to come back to that.

So while contemplating what wisdom we could share with you two, I stumbled across an article entitled "Anna Dostoyevskaya on the Secret to a Happy Marriage." Perfect! If I read this, I’ll know! Then I can talk about it and sound really smart.

Anna said this about her marriage to the Russian author Dostoyevsky:
Throughout my life it has always seemed a kind of mystery to me that my good husband not only loved and respected me as many husbands love and respect their wives, but almost worshipped me, as though I were some special being created just for him. And this was true not only at the beginning of our marriage but through all the remaining years of it, up to his very death.
 So that’s it? The secret to a happy marriage is to find a guy who worships you? I had that. Herb has always let me know that he thinks I’m amazing. He thinks I’m smarter than I am, more beautiful than I am, and funnier than I am. I actually will get mad at him when I feel like he’s put me on a pedestal.

“I’m not perfect!” I yell.

“No, you’re not. But you’re perfect for me!” he yells back.

If that was the secret to a happy marriage … and if I had that … then why was marriage so stinkin’ hard?

I read on.

In truth, my husband and I were persons of “quite different construction, different bent, completely dissimilar views.” But we always remained ourselves, in no way echoing nor currying favor with one another, neither of us trying to meddle with the other’s soul, neither I with his psyche nor he with mine. And in this way my good husband and I, both of us, felt ourselves free in spirit.

Credit: Strawberry Luna Cards. Click on link to purchase!
Oh. That. Hmmm … That we hadn’t always done so well.

OK, that took me back to Lent. And to a Venn diagram. And marriage.

Picture a circle that’s blue and a circle that’s red. That’s us before we got married. And it’s you two also. We’re red and blue. Different, but complementary. As we got to know each other … as we scooted closer and closer to one another … we saw that there were parts of us that blended really well and made a really nice shade of purple.

But one thing that’s easy to do in marriage is to forget your primary color … your red.
Or your blue.
And focus exclusively on the purple.
Or worse … to begin to see the red and blue as negative. To give up your individuality for the sake of the marriage.

For each person, forgetting your primary color will look different. It could manifest itself in something you give up or take on.
It could be giving up a hobby you love.
Or not spending time with your friends that are just your friends.
Or adopting the other person’s opinions as your own.

But we were our primary colors before we met. I was attracted to his blue, and he was attracted to my red. And when we don’t nourish what originally attracted us to one another, it withers. And the marriage can’t grow stronger if either of the individuals is growing weaker.

So it is so important that each of the three be nourished and protected: You, Zack … and you, Grace … and the marriage you are birthing today.

Remember who you are now. Before your life becomes all about the purple.

Be willing to fight for your individuality. And be willing to let the other person be an individual. It’s going to be hard. It’s actually going to be WORK.

And you’ll find that who you are as an individual will change the longer you’re together. Herb and I have always said that our idea of heaven is being perpetually in college but without those pesky grades. You’ll be growing and learning and discovering new things for the next 50-plus years. And some of them will excite you both, and you’ll love exploring them together!

But some of them will only excite one of you. And that’s OK too.

As the red and blue circles grow bigger, to incorporate all this new learning, the purple part will grow too.

But there will be times when he embraces his blue and you see it as a rejection of your red … of you personally. But let him be himself anyway.
Right about here I would put in a quote from 1 Corinthians 13 about “love not insisting on its own way,” but we were told we would receive 30 lashes with a wet noodle if we quoted 1 Corinthians 13 …  so I won’t.

 And there will be times when the reverse is true. When she wants to cultivate her red and it feels like she’s rejecting your blue. But let her be herself anyway.

Do the things you love to do together, but also the things you love to do alone.
Learn to disagree while respecting the other person.
But also support the other person when they are just being themselves … who God made them to be … the person you fell in love with.  
Suck it up and watch the movies you don’t want to watch … like Deadpool (me) … and Harry Potter (him) … but not at the expense of neglecting yourself and your own opinions.

In other words, you only have to watch Deadpool ONCE.

Remember that the purple area in the middle of the Venn diagram — that's what makes a marriage. 

But the red and the blue … the parts of you that stay distinct and separate — that’s what makes a marriage work. 
In both senses of the word.

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