That was me.
And then I got married.
I sometimes joke with my wife Rachel about the day she’s going to come home and find me relaxing all slouched and lumpy on the couch in front of the television watching some trashy reality TV show. I’ll just be laying there in my boxers, unshaven and unkempt. And there’s going to be wrappers and empty cans littered around me. And I’m going to be picking potato chip crumbs out of my chest hair while she looks on in horror….
Not a pretty sight, I know. But that image is hilarious to me; I’m smiling to myself just thinking about it. Now that I’m married, I can let myself go, right?
It’s not that I wasn’t myself while we were dating, it’s just that the fear of being rejected fueled my desire to be as perfect as possible (raise your hand if you’ve been there!), and not introduce any unnecessary question marks into the relationship at an inopportune time. Since then, we have had plenty of hard conversations before and after we were engaged so that we each understood each other’s struggles. Honesty and vulnerability has to happen prior to marriage. However, now that we are almost ten months after we made our vows, I don’t feel like I have to prove or earn my love for her. I just need to do my best every day to be all that she needs me to be – and that is enough. And I am doing my best, on all levels, when it comes to taking care of myself so I can be in great health to run around with our future kids (God willing), when it comes to making a living and managing the finances, when it comes to tackling major projects and being a good helpmate around the house, and when it comes to loving her in meaningful and tangible ways.
I tried to be the best boyfriend in the world, and now I am trying to be the best husband in the world. But those two seasons of life are, as I’m clearly realizing, totally different.
Now that I have won Rachel’s heart, and promised my unending and singular devotion to her and her alone – and received the same promise from her – I can feel safe in her love. I can take a deep breath, and exhale slowly. I can let the whole of myself show, warts and all, and know that it will be okay. I don’t need to keep scrambling and striving for perfection to get her to fall for me. I don’t have to compete with all the other guys who have rightfully vied for her attention and affection. We are together, and it is forever. She chose me, all of me. And I chose her, all of her.
And I am finally discovering on a personal, visceral level that this is where the truest form of intimacy is found, and the best part of the marriage relationship. I had heard a lot about marriage being awesome because of this “intimacy” thing for years before I got hitched, but now it’s actually making sense – not just in my head, but in my heart. And in my life.
Now that I am married, I can let myself go. It’s a living, breathing, ever-evolving process. I’m choosing to slowly reveal more and more of my heart to Rachel, trusting that she will choose to see the best in me. And as she hears more of my heartbeat, our relationship grows. And she is encouraged to let herself go. I don’t want her to feel like she has to be perfect and prove herself worthy of my love. I just want her to share more of her heartbeat with me, so that our relationship can keep growing. To be honest, some of it is messy, and doesn’t have the varnish with which we coated many things while dating. Instead, it’s more stark, and more real. And more human.
We are plumbing new depths.