Being married twenty-seven years is better than being married one year and one reason is that I have changed. If the t-shirt slogan: “I love you, you are perfect, now change.” is funny, it is only because the second premise of the argument (“you are perfect”), contradicts the conclusion.
Nobody, ever, should marry a person hd thinks is perfect.
First, it would be a crime against perfection unless both parties are perfect and anybody believing he is perfect and that she is perfect should be institutionalized, but in an institution more restraining than marriage.
Second, unless undead, people change and the increase in makeup use from one Twilight movie to the next suggests the undead lie when they say they are immune to age. The twenty-two year old who married me is not the forty-nine year old who is married to me. If she was “perfect” then, has she improved? The other option is too dreadful to consider. How could a perfect person improve?
Maybe the t-shirt should read that “she is perfect for me,” but once again unless I am very fortunate changes in me make it unlikely that somebody perfect for me will stay the same over time. And what does it mean to be “perfect for me?” Do I want to center life in me?
I take it then that nobody marries a perfect spouse who is not named Joseph and that even Joseph did not have an easy time of it.
As a romantic person marrying a Christian woman turned out to be disappointing to my expectations. My pagan romanticism, disguised as Christian love, got no help from Hope. I would say: “I want to love you absolutely.” She would say, “Under God, I love you.”
Her goal was to be one flesh, but not one soul. I imagined a union that had more in common with Aristophanes concept of radical union than the Christian ideal of submission and growth.
I was wrong.
And so if I wanted to love Hope I had to change or leave. Duty,morality, and the Faith were all on the side of staying so I knew I had to change beginning with my desire for a “grand passion.” It had to go, all of it, and though the temptation is not gone to this day, it is much reduced.
My desires are learning, slowly but surely, their proper role in God’s order. Meantime, I am glad there is grace in growth!
My second discover was that I was a “words” person. I love hearing words, going to sleep with audio books, inviting sales people to the apartment just to hear their pitch. Long conversations about feelings are my idea of getting to know another soul and (like my Mom!) I enjoy getting to the bottom of any problem or idea. So deeply engrained was this pattern in my personal and professional life that it was easy to imagine that it was virtuous.
Hope is quiet and finds words intrusive. She prefers a date where we sit and have coffee and read. I prefer a date where we “share.” We both disappoint each other. She was used to handy men . . . I cannot fix anything. She is very holy by instinct, my attention, heart, and mind wander easily.
And so if we were both to flourish, then we had to change. I am learning (still!) to be quiet, to temper my desires to what should be, and to love Hope as she is becoming. Hope is learning to share her feelings and tolerate my ineptitudes.
This is not easy. At times both of us wish we were married to Someone Else Who Would Be Just Like Our Spouse Except Better. We have learned to share those ups and downs. Our pastor helps us when we need it, but fundamentally we are saved from failure by our commitment to Jesus and to love.
Oddly, we are happier than we have ever been . . . and more aware when we are unhappy with each other. I don’t think she is perfect, she knows I am not, but that means we both can let time and God change us. The process is very slow, just like the results of any spiritual discipline, but certain.
I know Hope sometimes wishes I was a quiet, solid rock of virtue, but God has made me quieter, more solid, and even (a bit!) more virtuous. She knows my weaknesses, but also knows my heart desire to let God change me. Trust me it is no fun to share my failings with her. It is no fun to hear her failings either. We are becoming more ourselves, different, while also growing closer.
That is very good.
Thank God I married Hope who would say: “I love you, now change, but not into my vision of you, but into Christ’s vision of you.”
Time to go home and see what Hope is doing.