Before I started dating E, I hung out with a lot of married couples. Some might call this masochism, others might consider it purely inevitable since I attend a seminary where 60 or 70 percent of the population is married. Maybe I simply missed married folks and family life since I had left G&J’s last summer. Or perhaps it’s because I was desperate for good cooking and free meals.
The truth is, I did it on purpose, so option (b) definitely doesn’t hold up. There were plenty of singles at my church and in my social circles at school. But if I could choose who I would spend the majority of my time with, it’d definitely be married couples. New or experienced, I love hanging out with married folks.
The younger married couples in my life, such as N&L are sweet and fun. They are also working out a lot of their ish as they’ve only just passed their first year anniversary. They argue, they cry, they fail to meet each other needs, they fail to even know what those needs are! But they pick themselves up and they keep on moving forward. I love N&L as they are so honest about their struggles in adjusting to married life. It reminded me that I didn’t have to be perfect and I should expect some amount of struggle and adjustment whenever I started dating someone. Now that I’m with E, I love hearing their stories even more because I am encouraged that our arguments are not unhealthy or abnormal. In fact, we probably fight less then most of our married friends–though, that’s because we don’t live together and I don’t have to clean up after him every single day.*
I also love my more intermediate friends. These are people like J&K who have been married for a couple of years and are past that first stage of adjustment. They recognize that some things are disappointing but that those things are just “life” especially given the stage we are in–things like having opposite class and work schedules and not always being on the same page about life’s little details. There are also couples like A&J who have a few kids and are on the next stage: parenting. They have made it past the hurdles of one another’s sin and have ventured into bringing more depravity into their home: children!! They are full of wisdom about loving each other and learning what it means to hand that love over to easily shaped minds and hearts. I love watching them work with each other–or try to–and I enjoy learning how they serve one another in the midst of family life. It’s a real encouragement to me and a huge challenge as I’m dating E. I am so selfish, I realize, and it is hard to put myself aside for one man whom I dearly appreciate. Watching men and women do that with their spouses and their children is even more powerful. It’s a witness to the Gospel, that we can love one another like that.
The last group are the more experienced folk. People like G&J who exude wisdom with everything they do. Even simple FB updates and texts contain those nuggets. And I don’t mean just cheesy simplistic stuff. I mean, these people are so full of wisdom and experience, love and hope that it just pours out no matter what they say or do. You can almost feel it when you walk into their house. It’s like Narnia when Aslan was on the move: you can feel the difference in the air. This group also includes older couples whose kids are grown and they’ve made it past the last long jump–living with each other (again). They still love and care for one another, more deeply perhaps, after all they’ve walked through together. I think that’s amazing. Love and longevity have never seemed to go together for me…doesn’t it end eventually? Being with these people while I was single was an encouragement that it could happen someday. Now that E and I are dating, it’s more a question of how does one make it happen? We know it’s possible, so how do we do it?
You don’t learn that kind of stuff from single folks. There are good things to learn from them. We remember how to have fun, that marriage isn’t the end game, that God can use anyone, that there is a healthy element to singleness. But there’s this weighty joy when I’m with married couples–even if I’m with them all by myself.
So it isn’t just coincidence or accident that I skimped on a paper due today in order to talk with a friend about him and his wife. It’s not because I’m nostalgic for when that happens to me or that I couldn’t have other friends. It’s because married folks are great. And I think every single person should have four or five couples in their life that they respect and look up to. Maybe if we loved married couples who are healthy and learned to emulate them even while we’re single…maybe we’d have fewer divorces. But that’s a big maybe. Which is for a much longer (and not forthcoming) post.
For now, thanks to N&L, J&K, M&R, K&I, S&D, J&G, A&J, P&J and many many more.
*I suppose this could go both ways. But I’m a neat freak, so it’s probably more like… he doesn’t have to untidy anything to make it feel like he’s not living in a hospital every single day.