“I could use a little HELP in here!” I raised my voice to a pitch that would reach from the girls’ back bedroom all the way out to the garage.
It’s not an easy bedtime, the Sunday night before the last week of school and on a particularly busy weekend. It goes beyond one-more-glass-of-water and moves toward tell-her-to-stop-doing-that-sound-with-her-mouth. Bunk beds breed many evenings of frustration among sisters.
“Well, I could use a little HELP out HERE!” my husband called back to me. Again. Frustration. I was just as tired as the girls, and when Mama’s tired, her nerves are as close to the surface as they can be.
I’m the one reading/kissing/praying with the kids who won’t stop arguing. I’m the one who needs a little emotional and parental support. He’s just closing down the house for the night, and by closing down the house, I mean checking his phone for TMZ updates.
I send an under-my-breath whatever in his general direction.
“Okay, girls.” I spend exactly three minutes breaking up the fight, two minutes kissing and praying (no reading tonight because it’s too late and Mama is D-O-N-E-done) and about 45 seconds finding the water bottle that’s rolled under the bed.
“See you in the morning,” I say as I turn out the light.
I walk toward the master bedroom and spend the next few minutes seething over the fact that yet again, he has told me that he would help me, and knowing how beyond exhausted I am, he decides something else is more important.
I make a decision to be angry that he spoke to me that way.
We meet in the door of our bedroom. He has, in fact, closed down the house and is ready to turn on Game of Thrones.
“You can’t talk to me like that,” I open with.
“Like what?” He’s disgusted that I’m even irritated at all.
And then we’re both mad that the other one is mad. It’s an infinite loop of marital crazy and no one wins at this kind of game. No one wins at this argument.
For the next twenty minutes we enter into a topsy-turvy conversation about tone of voice and respect and help and parenting and who does it best. All it serves to do is exhaust the both of us even further.
We collapse on the bed, and it isn’t the sinking-sighing collapse after a great day or a long weekend. It’s the collapsing of hearts and minds, and the fact that we fail to really see one another. After seventeen years and two energetic daughters, we really don’t see one another.
I’m convinced that if us married people told anyone how hard marriage is before we all said I DO, there might be a lot less wedding photographers and coordinators in business. Marriage is hard, hard work.
Of course, there are so many things we can do to shore things up. We can go to therapy, we can play more, take up a sport together, go on regular date nights, we can even stare into each other’s eyes for a full five minutes (try to do that without laughing, I dare you). We can do a lot of things that will help our relationships. And a lot of them work.
But if there is one thing I’ve learned after 17 years, it is that grace is the most important quotient in a marriage.
No one who is married is a stranger to difficulty. Every marriage goes through seasons, some harder than others, and every marriage goes through the rhythms of life as spouses grow and age. Being married is like hitting a moving target sometimes.
It’s not the answer for everything, but it really helps. I think it can be as simple as that: grace.
I looked at him. He made me simultaneously angry and hopeless. Will it ever change?
“Let’s do this,” I say, not even knowing if it will work. “Let’s agree that we probably don’t understand each other’s point of view and that we’ll both work to change that.”
He pressed his lips together and nodded.
It is grace. Grace on my side. Grace on his. We open ourselves up to grace for the other, even when it hurts to do it.
We open our hearts up to forgiving the other, even if they don’t explicitly ask for it. We open our hearts up to heal, because we decide to let grace into the conversation. And we do this because we’ve decided to be partners for life.
And sometimes grace is the only thing I have.
What is one indispensable thing you have learned about marriage?