Happiness in Marriage

It’s late on a Monday night and Henry is just getting home. He’s had an epic afternoon, going from piano lessons to swim team to his twice-monthly Boy Scouts. It doesn’t happen that often, him having such a booked social calendar, so I don’t freak out too much when it does (and as they say, he’ll sleep good tonight!).

So Henry’s coming in with daddy, who grabbed him on the way home from work. These two are coming in a few hours after the rest of us have eaten dinner, long after the table has been cleared and the dishes loaded. Henry finishes his first plate and asks for seconds. “Mom,” he calls, “can I have some more?”

Before I have a chance to get up from my spot across the room, Paul has grabbed Henry’s dish and refilled his plate. Just like that, this man who got home from work at 8:15 pm doesn’t complain about how tired he is, but quickly cares for the needy child.

That, my friend, is true love. He refills the plate and heats up the food and then, after delivering that load, brings Henry a napkin to wipe his exhausted little face.

I think about these moments often, the un-noticeable’s of marriage. There is such a push for husband and wife to be “equal” and share the load. The sign of a good marriage, the world tells us, is to be 50/50. True love, we hear, is a couple who is splitting things down the line.

But in marriage, in happy marriage, there is no split. It’s each member of the union giving 100 percent and praying, trusting, that this 200 percent will add up to happiness.

I think it does.

Throughout our day, our jobs as parents are not “defined.” Oh sure, I run the carpool (most days) because I’m going to the same place as my crew. We all load up and head off to school together. And Paul goes to work, where he will put in many, many more hours than we do at school. And then we will all reunite at home that evening, where no one will say “that’s not my job” (except a child, perhaps, who has not yet learned better). We will each do the tasks that must get done and pray they all get done soon. We like to relax, and it helps when we’re both moving toward that goal.

The kitchen gets cleaned, the babies get bathed. Homework is complete and lunches made. Laundry loads get switched over and one last carpool run. And in the midst of it all, it’s just each one of us doing what we must. The sun rises, the sun sets, and we are in this life together.

I’m not saying it’s perfect, that we never complain. But the thing I’ve found that most helps my attitude is the happy heart my husband always seems to have. He serves, and he does it with joy. When that is his attitude, I can’t help but do the same.

I dropped a wedding gift off today, a present to a cute little newlywed couple in our neighborhood just home from their honeymoon. Walking up to their front door brought me back to my days as a young bride, the energy and happiness of setting up a home and finding places for all the new serving ware and bath towels.

Paul and I still use the same set of dishes my mom bought us all those years ago and I think about the thousands of times those dishes have gone in and out of the dishwasher. Who knows who loaded them more? Was it Paul, or was it me?

Who cares.

What matters is it got done, that it gets done. We do it together. We do what we can, we do what we must. We grow in love and generosity with our yes to each other, and we pray that our small gifts of love bring us closer to Jesus along the way.

This originally appeared in The Southern Cross.

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