Tag - marriage

What I’ve Learned in Two Years of Marriage

Somehow, some way, a bit over twenty-four months have passed while I’ve been doing this marriage thing. What the pez!? You’ll recall I shared some of the lessons learned after one year of being hitched, and I thought it would be important to reflect again now that we’ve hit another milestone. I’m not sure how the first couple years are supposed to be, or tend to be. Are we still in the “honeymoon stage”? Are we past it? Are we unique in any way? Are we like every other young married couple at this stage? I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter.

Here’s what I do know. We’re doing great. I can say that without even the slightest qualification. And I’m so thankful for it and don’t take it for granted. My love for her is definitely growing stronger, not plateauing or weakening in any way. I shared in a letter I wrote to her before I went to Ireland this summer that I catch myself feeling increasingly vulnerable in terms of my love for her. Like, I’m losing control, like she has this power over me that makes me feel all liquefied inside. Not always, but definitely when I’m missing her a ton, or thinking about her in the midst of exhaustion or loneliness or work struggles.

At those times, if I were to let the emotions completely overcome me, I feel I would turn into a blubbery mess. Because in that moment, I want her, I need her, I love her so painfully much. I don’t allow my mind or feelings to go there, but that’s what marriage and doing life with her has done to me 🙂

But you’re not here to read about that. Let’s talk about what I have learned. Allow me to structure this in terms of two things I say to myself on a consistent basis. That will most profoundly illustrate how my thinking and my living have been affected.

“It doesn’t really matter.”

I say this a lot in my head. Early on, a handful of things bugged me. In my mind, she loads the dishwasher a little inefficiently. Almost every day, the floor and counter would have one or two small sticky spots from her cooking or making tea or something (I really hate stickiness. Really.)   She takes a while to do something that I would have already knocked out. She’s a couple minutes late getting ready when we’re off to be somewhere on time. Stuff like that.

But in the grand scheme of things, I have learned that it’s not a big deal.

And I believe she is doing her best and is well aware of what might annoy me, and I need to leave it at that.

She’s a separate person with a separate way of doing things, and it’s totally fine. It’s not fair for me to expect her to do everything in the exact same way as I would, at the exact same speed. Preserving harmony in the marriage takes precedent. “Us” is always more important than “me.” And seriously, I’m sure she bites her tongue every day when it comes to my idiosyncrasies and annoying habits. I wouldn’t want to do life with me. I’m so thankful she does. Being so intimately acquainted with my faults, it’s actually kind of miraculous.

Remember that the other person is doing their best. They are not trying to annoy you or irritate you in the least bit.

For those in long-term relationships or marriages, try to tell yourself often that “it doesn’t really matter.” There are very few hills you should die on. Yes, have convictions about the important things – the things that reflect integrity and industriousness and wisdom and kindness and faith – but try to let go about the comparatively trivial things. Remember that the other person is doing their best. They are not trying to annoy you or irritate you in the least bit. They are trying each day to be all you need them to be. And you should be thankful for all of the ways they are patient and gracious and ever-loving with you.

“Only one thing is necessary.”

I say this to myself a lot too. And it helps me to be a better person, which in turn helps me to be a better husband. It’s from Luke 10:42, when sisters Mary and Martha are hosting Jesus. Martha is running around the house trying to manage life and responsibilities and appearances and demands. Mary is just hanging out with the Lord, getting to know Him and His heart, and finding her worth and value in Him. And when Martha complains about Mary not helping her with all she has going on, Jesus lovingly admonishes Martha and praises Mary’s singular devotion and choice with the words, “Only one thing is necessary.”

It’s true. It’s so easy for me to get caught up in trying to stay on top of life. And pursuing that goal has the side-effect of pushing out my pursuit of God and my pursuit of Rachel. I start to think that sweeping the floor, or writing another paper, or preparing for tax season, or organizing my closet is more important right now than them. But they aren’t. Ever. Those tasks always come in second to the way I love my Lord and the way I love my wife. I’m not saying you have to let those things go; rather, you should make sure that your good intentions to get things done doesn’t undermine the best possible relationship you could ever have.

It’s so easy for me to get caught up in trying to stay on top of life. And pursuing that goal has the side-effect of pushing out my pursuit of God and my pursuit of Rachel.

I find this extremely tough. I hate mistakes and I hate problems because they get in the way of me living how I want each day (I do realize this is dysfunctional and selfish and prideful and controlling). And so I do all I can to avoid them by laboring in ways that prevent their possible occurrence. I’m always thinking ahead. I spray for bugs just in case we have a random infestation. I trim palm trees to keep them from possibly knocking down a gutter. I plan for old age. I maintain proper tire pressure in our vehicles. I stay on top of mail and bills and filing paperwork. There is always something else to do. Always. I’m never caught up the way I want to be. Ever.

But all of this takes so much time, time that I could be – and should be – giving to God and my wife. Obviously, I’m supposed to be a good steward, and take care of the domain over which He’s give me ownership. But I clearly need to trust Him more to hold everything together and not let the bottom fall out (which is fundamentally what I am afraid of). I’m trying. It’s going to be impossible for me to keep this up when we have children. I just have to trust more. And do less. And give myself to my most important relationships above all else.

It’s going to be impossible for me to keep this up when we have children. I just have to trust more. And do less. And give myself to my most important relationships above all else.

That’s it. Pretty simple, actually. There are so many lists in books and online with top tips for relationships and dating and marriages, but all of that can be subsumed under two succinct phrases for me: “it doesn’t really matter” and “only one thing is necessary.” Or, as Stephen Covey has said, “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” I feel like when I’ve concentrated my energies on living out these two overarching statements, everything else falls into place. Not perfectly (because we are broken people in a broken world), but pretty dang well – and marked by a good measure of peace, harmony, and even joy. That is all I want as Rachel and I enjoy each other’s love, laughter, and companionship, and team up to accomplish epic things for His people, purposes, and renown.

What My Pregnant Wife Needs From Me

pregnant wife needs
My wife Rachel is six months pregnant with our first child, and we’d both tell you that we’re enjoying this uniquely special time in our lives.  Part of me wishes Baby were here already so I could play with it.  It’s like, come on already, I want to hold you and cuddle you and love you to pieces!  The other part of me understands we need this to stretch out to the right number of weeks so Baby is as healthy as possible.  Rachel helps me keep things in perspective, and has a very mature and thoughtful outlook on this entire process.  This is probably because she’s spent a lot of time learning and researching about pregnancy and birth and newborns and motherhood over the last year, and I have spent a lot of time watching sports. 

Pregnancy hasn’t been a breeze.  I guess it’s probably not a breeze for anyone, ever.  Rachel had a really rough first fifteen weeks marked by a whole lot of nausea and vomiting, and it made me feel so helpless, and – yes – partly to blame.  When I could hear her in the bathroom hunched over the toilet sobbing and throwing up and coughing and spitting, I was like “I did this to her, this is my fault!”  But I understood that sometimes morning sickness happens, and she understood it too, and we got through it.  She was seriously such a champ in riding out the first trimester with such a good attitude.  I tried to love her well then, and seeing her “take one for the team” has inspired me to redouble my efforts to keep doing so.  Here’s what I’ve learned:

1) Rachel needs to feel emotionally safe.  Even more emotionally safe than ever before.  What she is going through is – to put it bluntly – traumatic.  It is.  You have something growing inside of you. You’re always thinking about it.  And if you stop for a moment to get back to doing life, it reminds you by taking from you – oxygen, food, and all kinds of energy and thought.   Or by kicking you.  All of this tires you out, runs you down, and leaves you very feeling very vulnerable.  Plus, if it’s your first baby, all of these feelings are so new and you get freaked out really easily.  The insides of your body are stretching and straining, hormones and chemicals are rising and falling and basically going haywire, and you have random weird pains all over your abdomen and nether regions.  It’s super scary. Mommy has no clear idea what all is going on inside of her, and just wants Baby to be okay.  I want that too as Daddy, but I’m not experiencing all of the super heavy physical and emotional stuff that Mommy is. 

It’s super scary. Mommy has no clear idea what all is going on inside of her, and just wants Baby to be okay.

And so I have to be extra thoughtful and sensitive in what I say, and how I say it.  I don’t want to pile on to her emotional load in any way, but instead just want to help her offload some of it onto my shoulders by being supportive, understanding, super patient, and simply a great listener and friend to her.  I need to avoid coming across as judgmental or questioning her decisions or choices (Note to self: don’t say stuff like “Chinese takeout and froyo AGAIN tonight?”). I need to reassure her in subtle and obvious ways that she’s physically beautiful and altogether lovely, that I’m always going to be here through thick and thin (you know what I mean), and that I’m strong enough to love her and keep pursuing her heart through all of these changes. 

In this environment, she can rest against the stability I provide.  She can let her guard down and just be herself without having to fake it.  And she can keep her own heart soft without having to harden it simply to get through.  Honestly, don’t we all want to live and love and grow in an environment like this? It’s freeing.

It’s nurturing. 
It’s without condition. 
It’s how family should always, always be.

2) Rachel needs practical help with her responsibilities and tasks, and I need to be available and eager to pitch in.  Before pregnancy, we sort of both knew our roles in terms of who took care of what.  Of course, we’d always offer the other a hand, but I’d say that we had a good system in place to avoid unnecessary stress and stay on top of life (as much as is humanly possible).  Since pregnancy, I just have to do a lot more.  Rachel would love to contribute in exactly the same ways as she did before, but on some days she physically and emotionally cannot.  She just can’t. 

I need to not think to myself, “Dangit, I’m totally exhausted too, and now I have to do all of these other things as well?!??!”

I need to not think to myself, “Dangit, I’m totally exhausted too, and now I have to do all of these other things as well?!??!” or “What the pez, she’s been lying on the couch all afternoon and we have so much to knock out!” or “Holy crap man, we just stopped for a bathroom eight minutes ago and she needs me to stop again!” I need to think to myself, “Wake up, you shortsighted goober. Remember the promises you made at the altar.  Your wife is contributing in gigantic ways every minute, every hour, every day by CARRYING YOUR CHILD IN HER WOMB.”

Rachel is shouldering pretty much everything in this pregnancy.  I did very little to start the proverbial ball rolling, and I’m doing pretty much nothing to feed or take care of Baby over these nine months.  I haven’t read any books on parenting yet, nor have I gone to any newborn-related classes.  I haven’t even built a crib.  I will do those things, but I haven’t yet.  My contribution so far has been like 1%. 

When we were dating, I didn’t love her best by focusing on her needs.  I loved her best by catching glimpses of her wants and surprising her with them.  The things that made her eyes light up, or made her burst out into laughter, or made her heart melt.

And so I need to keep my eyes open for ways I can serve her.  And not just when she asks, but sometimes before she asks.  And not just tackling things so her needs are met, but also working to remember her wants.  When we were dating, I didn’t love her best by focusing on her needs.  I loved her best by catching glimpses of her wants and surprising her with them.  The things that made her eyes light up, or made her burst out into laughter, or made her heart melt.  That stuff matters so much, and conveys love more powerfully and reassuringly than anything else because it reminds her that she isn’t an obligation or a responsibility, but a joyous treasure.  Now even more than before, I should meet not just her needs, but also her wants. 

This takes hard work. And time. And a lot of intentional thoughtfulness.  And margin. If I’m doing life at 100% (or 110% – which is my norm) I am going to be irritable and annoyed when she needs me.  And this has happened (although I hope she hasn’t noticed it because I try to push it down and always do the noble thing). I need to allocate space – and purposefully make more space – in my life to have room to be thoroughly patient and loving at all times. 

If I’m doing life at 100% (or 110% – which is my norm) I am going to be irritable and annoyed when she needs me.  And this has happened.

I’m thinking I need to do this so much more over the last three months of pregnancy. Because it’s going to get harder as she gets more uncomfortable in her own skin. I need to be ready. I’m spending way less time on Twitter and Instagram, even for work purposes.  I’m following my favorite sports team less (which is a singular joy to me, like food or conversation or Netflix is to others).  But these are small potatoes. These matter so little, comparatively speaking, to what lies before Rachel and me. These, and other matters, are going to fade in importance as Baby gets ready to burst onto the scene.

I’m ready to rise up and be the husband I’m called to be. These aren’t just words. I know I have a strength deep down given to me from God to do this.  I haven’t done it perfectly, and I know I will fall a bit short as these months elongate in front of us before we can celebrate Baby’s birth. But I’m determined to do my best.  I mean, what is more important in life than this?  When I consider all of the other out there that vie for my attention and affection, nothing should even come close to the priority of my marriage – and the miracle of the blessing being formed and finished inside my bride.

Rachel’s Thoughts On Marriage

Sameer and I celebrated our one-year anniversary on May 23rd of this year, and it was spectacular. Our first year has had its bumps and bruises and hiccups, but I am so happy to say that we are even more madly in love now than we were a year ago. I wanted to take some time to write about and share my thoughts on marriage after our first year with you. I think it could be beneficial and amusing to compare and contrast what he has learned with what I have learned. That said, I am fully aware that we are still very inexperienced – so please take these words with a grain of salt.

First, let’s talk about communication.  For our one-year anniversary date, Sameer took me to a place he knew I would love – a nice, upscale French restaurant because I am a “foodie.” You would think he would love this too, but the reality is that he doesn’t care if food tastes really good or not. His motto when it comes to eating is, “Food is fuel.” I find that a little weird and I don’t even know how to reconcile such a perception. Food is a family tradition in my parents’ home. Food brings everyone into the kitchen to nibble and chat. “Food” represents more than just food for me – it is a wonderful shared experience.  Sameer doesn’t think like that, but he does understand that food is important to me. And just like he is learning about how much I delight in deliciousness, he has been teaching me that sports is what he loves instead.

Food is a family tradition in my parents’ home. Food brings everyone into the kitchen to nibble and chat. “Food” represents more than just food for me – it is a wonderful shared experience.

Sameer works very hard and he loves taking time out of his busy schedule to watch his games. It invigorates him like nothing else, besides playing Frisbee. He likes to stay active so he usually stretches or works out or plays guitar while rooting for his teams: the St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs, and the San Antonio Spurs. He likes the Kansas City Blues too for Ice Hockey, but they aren’t on the same level. (The fact that I know the names and cities of these teams is a minor miracle). (PAUSE, Sameer says it’s the St. Louis Blues, not the Kansas City Blues – clearly I still have more to learn).

Anyway, sports brings him so much joy, just like good food brings me so much joy. And this is something I’ve learned during our first year together that I’d like to share as a practical point with you:  while communication is one of the most important components of a healthy marriage relationship, if you don’t speak the same language about certain topics (i.e. sports, food, relaxation, etc..), you should be creative and look for analogies!

I spontaneously do a little happy dance when I eat something yummy.  And Sameer busts a few moves when his team makes a great play or wins a game.  This shows us that at the root of both is the same feeling of bliss and pleasure. We just happen to enjoy very different things.

I spontaneously do a little happy dance when I eat something yummy.  And Sameer busts a few moves when his team makes a great play or wins a game.  This shows us that at the root of both is the same feeling of bliss and pleasure. We just happen to enjoy very different things, which is completely fine. Investing my time into sports makes Sameer very happy. This was hard for me to do until I realized that sports for Sameer was very much like food for me. It is a lot easier to really get into his passions when I equate them to my own. I get to feel more of what he feels for the games. And he now more fully understands how I feel about meal time, and chooses to love me in many food-related ways because he can empathize with me in my bliss. This realization has been so good for our marriage.

My second point is this: Together, as we submit both our strengths and weaknesses to God and each other, He will use them to knit us together into a holy, happy, healthy unit.

Let me explain with a story.

Sameer: “Fear is not of God!”

Rachel: “Neither is stupidity!”

We weren’t angry with each other. I promise. We were shouting only because of the distance between us and the howling wind around us as we walked along the White Cliffs of Dover on the East coast of England. While sightseeing, Sameer is all about pushing past limits and doing difficult things and getting an “epic shot” with his camera. And often, this involves some sketchy maneuver (in this case, along the cliff’s edge) that is beyond what I would consider to be safe. Thankfully, he heeded my statement and came back to the path. We then began to discuss our innate personality differences, and the need for both his bravery and my prudence when we are adventuring and otherwise doing life together.

I’m naturally very cautious. I am a protector at heart. And I am usually very aware of my surroundings and notice a lot of detail and potential dangers. Sameer sometimes calls me his “voice of reason” and that I’m going to keep our future kids alive with my intuition and tendency towards safety.  I believe that’s true, but even before we have children I definitely have saved Sameer’s life multiple times by paying close attention to oncoming traffic.

I definitely have saved Sameer’s life multiple times by paying close attention to oncoming traffic.

With that said, I know I can also become too cautious. Restricting and controlling every situation is incredibly unhealthy and unwise. Sameer helps yank me out of my comfort zone and into the wild, exhilarating unknown. He encourages me daily to trust God, to push past fear, and to really, fully live. This is one of my favorite things about being married to him. He helps me see situations from a different perspective and fills in where I am lacking. He gives me his strength when I am weak – when my caution or fear might hold us back from the best. In order for this to happen, we must allow each other into those weak places. We have to give each other permission to fill in the gap. This is one of the best things about our partnership.

My last point is this: We are on the same team. I know this sounds so simple and obvious, but when iron sharpens iron, sparks fly. And when we are called, through marriage, to reflect the heart of God toward His people, it will be attacked and distorted. When you feel pressure from your spouse (caused by proximity), your heart will naturally guard itself against them unless you remember that you are both on the same team. There is a friction in marriage that can be used by God to perfect us if we are willing. The friction isn’t comfortable. And though it creates a rawness that feels dangerous, if you fiercely protect your connection with God and listen to His voice and obey Him, He will bring you to a place of vulnerability and humility that ushers in deeper relational intimacy – not only with your spouse, but with God as well.

There is a friction in marriage that can be used by God to perfect us if we are willing.

We must also remember that there is a real enemy. This adversary hates our marriages. He hates connection and intimacy, so that is what he targets. What Sameer and I have found is that Satan tries to deceive us into thinking that our spouse is the enemy. But the truth is that if your spouse is living in the light, as a child of God, they are FOR you. Their intention is not to harm you, but to help you prosper. Just like your intention is for your spouse to prosper.

I know there is much more to learn about doing marriage well. And we have been so blessed to have a few awesome couples in our lives to esteem and emulate in this area. I’m super thankful for the teachable moments thus far, and I just want to remain humble, patient, and focused on growing together. Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts, and for the support we continue to receive from those who love us and know our hearts!

What I’ve learned in my first year of marriage

first year of marriage
Rachel and I just celebrated our first wedding anniversary on May 23rd. So here I am, starting my second year as a husband. I’m no longer a newlywed, and in the parlance of sports, my rookie year is over.

It’s been a great first year. I say that with hesitation because I know many, many couples have had a crappy first year as they get used to each other and learn how to put the other person first. Much like my years of singleness, some were rough and some were awesome, and I know we will move in and out of different types of seasons. “For better or worse,” and all that 🙂

Some of you will have read my blog entitled “What I’ve Learned in Six Months of Marriage” – I hope it provided you a nuanced picture of the struggles we did/do face. These are in the areas of communication (because we’re different people who can’t read each other’s minds!), the reality that I can never coast (demonstrating love in any great relationship must be consistent and enduring), time (because marriage takes a ton of time in order to do well), and watching my mouth (because it’s easy to betray frustration or impatience and be a bit of a jerk sometimes). I must stay ever vigilant and mindful about those matters – and have been. At this time, I wanted to intentionally reflect on the first twelve months of matrimony from two other angles.

This summer, we backpacked parts of Europe for a few weeks, and what struck me was the lack of wedding rings on young adults and even middle-aged adults. I never really used to look at people’s hands, but now I do – as if their ring finger gives me feedback about who they are as a person. I know there are a million reasons why a person may not be married or get married, but coupled with what I’ve learned about the culture in many European nations, most people don’t want the “marriage” sort of lifestyle. The responsibility. Being tied down. The perceived lack of independence. The weight of commitment.

This made me sad. I am all about solitude, and independence, doing what I want when I want, and charting my own course – but from my perspective now on the other side, marriage is not about the loss of all that. It’s about gain. The very, very best thing about marriage – in my opinion – is that I have Rachel in my corner. She cheers me on. She encourages me. She understands why I am the way I am – the way I mask certain insecurities, the way I try really hard and sometimes still fail, the way I struggle in certain situations, the way I fight the demons and doubts, the way I hope and dream. And she prays for me – and I know she does it with her whole heart, out of the purest of love, devotion, and commitment.

The very, very best thing about marriage – in my opinion – is that I have Rachel in my corner.

I kind of want that for everyone. It’s really wonderful and while God is and always will be my main anchor, Rachel through our marriage relationship provides another constant source of stability and strength and support.

I wish that so many more of those who I saw while walking the streets of London, or Paris, or Munich had that. Maybe they don’t want to get married. That is their choice, and a solid choice. But I hope that someone else in their life provides an anchor of unconditional love for them. I just think it makes life easier. My marriage to Rachel provides that for me.

The second observation I have after my first year of marriage occurred to me while doing a lot of hiking in the Swiss Alps. If you haven’t been or are not familiar, villages are spread up and down and across the mountainsides, and most tourists travel between them via train or cable car. A few people hike between villages. But what we realized was that most people travel via train or cable car to a higher village, and then hike down to one at a lower elevation. Rachel and I did the opposite. And we realized this while we were slogging our way upward and couples kept passing us on their way down. And I was like, what the pez, why do we always do things the hard way? But of course, I said it tongue-in-cheek and never actually wanted to do it the other way around. And neither did Rachel.

And after talking it out with her, this is what we realized…. We are not masochists. We don’t do it to prove our strength or endurance or mettle. And we’re definitely not better than anyone else for doing so. But we did think it was a metaphor for life. On one of the hikes, I started singing to Rachel improvised lines from Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl (“You’re my Uphill Girrrrrrrrl!!!“). Even though I couldn’t hit the high notes, it still made her smile.

I’m glad she is like that. I am glad we are like that. We choose to go uphill when everyone else is going downhill. We choose to climb when there is a much easier way to travel. And specific to marriage, she commented on a train ride a few days later that recently-married couples in a relationship will face a rough slog of it sometimes – and if they’ve never trained or prepared themselves for those times, it’s going to be brutal.

We allow the other the freedom to point out unhealthy patterns or destructive attitudes, and receive correction in love – reminding ourselves that the other person has our best at heart.

We continue to intentionally work on ourselves – individually and together – so that the uphill seasons of our married life aren’t as brutal as they could be. Yes, they will be tough (just like it was every single time we headed up a mountain trail). But they were doable. They were bearable. And they made us better. We regularly tackle our emotional health. We assess and adjust boundaries. We identify and articulate personal struggles. We stop and fix small conflicts or weirdnesses before they fester and metastasize. We allow each other the freedom to point out unhealthy patterns or destructive attitudes, and receive correction in love – reminding ourselves that the other person has our best at heart.

None of this is easy. It would be much simpler to just sweep those things under the proverbial rug and get on with working and paying the bills and dealing with health issues and in-laws and kids, and eking out a little comfort and pleasure when we can. And while we could definitely coast by taking the downhill path for a while, those problems will rear their ugly heads in much worst manifestations than if we dealt with them upon first notice. This has to remain our priority, perhaps above all else in our lives.

Every time we confront wounds from the past, or we ask the hard questions, or face the dysfunctions, or call out the false pretensions, we’re getting stronger.

Every time we confront wounds from the past, or we ask the hard questions, or face the dysfunctions, or call out the false pretensions, we’re getting stronger. And it’s not only increasing our ability and skillset, but also our confidence that we can overcome anything. Plus, anyone who has ascended a hill – let alone a mountain – knows the view is so much better and the air so much sweeter when you reach the summit. This is true literally, and it’s true figuratively – in education, business, and of course in relationships. Our love grows deeper every time we go uphill, and work together towards reaching the top. What is more, our intimacy becomes richer – on every level. This is the glory of marriage. I can’t even imagine what a lifetime of this will produce. God willing, we will keep climbing. For you, for me, the way is the same: one step at a time.

Now that I’m married, I can let myself go

Lately I have been reflecting on the passion, energy, and effort involved when a guy really likes a girl and just wants to be with her. You know, when he’s past the uncertainty and has made up his mind that she’s the one for him for forever, and he goes all gung-ho pursuing her and trying to win her heart. I mean, this hypothetical guy spends time in the gym to get ripped, and he works hard to look and dress his absolute best. He comes up with extravagant and creative ideas for dates, and he remembers pretty much everything she says. He texts her thoughtful sentiments just to let her know he’s thinking about her. He’s incredibly sweet, courteous, and patient and rarely has a bad attitude when she’s around. He is funny and light-hearted and witty, and he always wants to put his best foot forward. Honestly, his goal is for every interaction with her to leave her feeling loved, and like she’s floating on a breeze. And, just wanting more and more and more of him.

He comes up with extravagant and creative ideas for dates, and he remembers pretty much everything she says…. He texts her thoughtful sentiments just to let her know he’s thinking about her….

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.

The fear of being rejected fueled my desire to be as perfect as possible, and not introduce any unnecessary question marks into the relationship at an inopportune time.

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.

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.

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.

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

When I was first falling for Rachel, I tried to do everything to win her heart. I remember teaching her how to juggle, and showing her how to play guitar. I remember writing her poems and letters, and talking with her on the phone for hours, and gladly giving up time I could spend doing the things I’ve always done (my work, my fitness, whatever) just so that I could spend time with her. I just wanted to be in relationship with her, and do life with her. And it was beautiful – really, really beautiful.

We are married now, and coming up on nine months in. I still love her very well, and she would tell you the same. But without a doubt, the responsibilities of life are elbowing their way into our relationship and trying to force out the romance we share. Now obviously, the primary goal of the next 50 years is to make sure they don’t – to do all that we can to keep that from happening in ways that undermine the beauty of what we are together, and what we have together. But many couples have failed. Many couples have not been able to invest in their relationship as much as they did at the onset, and it has had devastating results. Admittedly, I’m scared of that happening to us as well. This fear isn’t paralyzing, nor does it weaken my ability to rise up and do what I need to do…it’s just a healthy concern that prompts a real mindfulness about it. I just flat out don’t want it to happen.

One of the things I’ve seen around me is that relationship partners start to see the other person as less thoughtful, patient, compassionate, loving, and romantic as in the past.

I guess one of the things I’ve seen around me is that relationship partners start to see the other person as less thoughtful, patient, compassionate, loving, and romantic as in the past (when they were dating or early on in their marriage, for example). And this allows a certain cancerous thought creeps in:

“What have you done for me lately?”

I hate that. I hate it so much. But I get it. I realize that all of us have the tendency to not see the log in our own eye, and easily fixate on the speck in someone else’s. I recognize that it’s a self-protective maneuver to justify ourselves, to defend ourselves, to get ourselves off the proverbial hook for our role and contribution to any problems at hand. And I understand that we naturally struggle remembering the good times of the past when we are mired in the bad times of the present and any foreseeably awful times in the future.

As a consequence, the relationship becomes infected with unfair expectations, comparisons, obligations, and other malignancies. It starts off slowly, perhaps, but it quickly snowballs. Both start to act in ways not marked by unconditional love but by judgment, condemnation, suspicion, and – ultimately – hatred.   And both parties pull away and put up walls. And intimacy gets broken. And each starts to think they don’t need the other person. And everything becomes diseased and ravaged in its wake. And the love that burned so brightly before flames out, and now dissipates in smoke and embers.

Rachel cares about the Chiefs and Cardinals and Spurs because I love my favorite sports teams. She supports my personal and individual goals she knows they matter to me. She keeps her feet clean because I’m big on clean feet (that is my only weird “thing”!). I’m grateful for all of this and so much more – for all the things she does for me. But I want to be more grateful for who she is.

Rachel just wants to be loved. Regardless of what she does or does not do. And honestly, I just want to be loved, regardless of what I do. It can’t always be about us “doing” things to validate our love. That makes a person feel exhausted, like he always has to prove his love over and over again. And that is not a safe place in which to live – it is a tenuous, eggshell-laden space.

Of course, this doesn’t mean it’s okay to ease up completely and just coast when it comes to being thoughtful and romantic and loving. That is not okay. But we don’t want to feel the obligation and pressure to do so. Rachel doesn’t want to be like, ah crap, for Sameer and I to be great, I need to constantly amaze him with awesome and new ways to tangibly show him I love him. I don’t want to be like, ah geez, for Rachel and I to be great, I have to keep coming up with unique date nights and epic ways to show my affection. This is draining even to think about.

Love sourced in obligation instead of desire isn’t love at all. God taught us that when He gave us free will back in the day, and didn’t pressure us to love Him back.

I just want Rachel to know me, and trust my heart, and give me the freedom to love her any way I choose – with no strings attached. And she wants the very same thing: for me to know her and her heart, and trust her, and give her the freedom to love me how she chooses. We all know what it’s like when we feel obliged to do something special for someone else. It kind of sucks out all of the specialness from it, and it’s a crappy experience for you (the giver) and oftentimes for the person (the receiver) because they can tell. But when you do it because you deeply want to do it – more than anything else – it makes it so much better. It makes it absolutely great for both parties.

Love sourced in obligation instead of desire isn’t love at all. God taught us that when He gave us free will back in the day, and didn’t pressure us to love Him back.

Love should be more about the person than what you can profit from them.

So then I started thinking about how I am with God. Honestly, though my words to Him don’t express it, my attitude toward Him often betrays the same egocentric sentiment: what have You done for me lately? It does. Not in a harsh, direct way, but in a subtle, backhanded, defiant way. And if I stare at it, I can see that it is tinged with disappointment, hurt, and sadness. I’m let down and bummed out about something in my life, and I put it on Him, as if it’s His fault. And the way I interact with Him is greatly affected.

I don’t say it out loud, but I have suggested to Him in quiet, pouting ways that it doesn’t really matter all that He’s done for me in the past – I just need Him to come through for me now. And I question and protest why He hasn’t. And I just don’t get it. It baffles me. And it makes me bitter. And I get more sad. And frustrated. And I can’t change anything. And I wonder why He won’t either. And it pulls me in the direction of self-judgment, self-condemnation, and suspicion of His goodness and His love. I ask myself, if He really loved me, why doesn’t He give me what I need right now? And still, nothing happens, and nothing keeps happening. And I spiral into hopelessness.

And here is where I am prone to pull away from Him, and put up walls. And my intimacy with God gets broken. And I start to think I don’t need this, I don’t need Him. And my entire relationship with Him has the very real potential to become diseased and completely ravaged. And the love I had for Him that burned so brightly before flames out, and dissipates in smoke and embers.

God just wants to be loved. And just like I don’t always want to have to be tangibly proving my love to Rachel, I am pretty positive He doesn’t want to always have to be proving His love to me. He has loved me so well, and in countless ways. He’s saved me, rescued me, protected me, and blessed me beyond my wildest dreams. And most of the time, He just wants me to know Him. He just wants me to trust His heart towards me, and give Him the freedom to do what He needs to do in my life. He just wants me be in relationship with Him, and do life with Him – without condition.

In those moments I forget that while He doesn’t love me out of obligation, I am not open to allowing His own desires to channel that love along His timeline and in His preferred ways.

But yet, I come up with conditions all the time. I have so many expectations of what I want Him to do for me, what I need for Him to do for me. And my stubborn will silently demands Him to come through for me in certain ways as a test of whether He does truly love me. And it’s messed up. And in those moments I forget that while He doesn’t love me out of obligation, I am not open to allowing His own desires to channel that love along His timeline and in His preferred ways. It is childish, and self-centered, and controlling. And clearly, I am prone to do it in my other relationships.

“What have you done for me lately?” is not a question that belongs in our relationships. It’s a toxic way of thinking, and it will corrode the most valuable parts of our lives. Love is allowing others the freedom and grace to be, and not demanding them to do. Love is remembering the best from the past, and using it to inspire the present. And love is always believing that their intentions towards you are as pure and noble as your intentions are towards them. This is really what it is all about – to me, to Rachel, and to God.

Sleeping With My Wife

A couple weeks ago, we were hanging out with our friends Becky and Jared, and we got to talking about marriage and sleeping together. It got me thinking about my own experience, and what I am learning, and what we are figuring out, and so I thought I would share it with you all.

First off, I’ve slept alone my entire life. I’ve never had to share a bed with a sibling, and I’ve always had at least a queen-sized bed to sleep in. I’m not going to lie, it’s been pretty awesome. Secondly, I love sleep. I don’t do it a ton, or too often, but one of the biggest joys in life – to me – is a great night’s sleep. Oh man, just thinking about it makes me feel seriously warm and fuzzy inside.  It’s the best.

So, I got married. And now I am no longer sleeping alone. And it’s…different. It’s not bad. But it’s not easy. And this is my own issue, not Rachel’s.

The stark reality is that at this stage of our marriage – eight months in – I still don’t sleep well when sharing a bed. I think it’s because I think about her, and simply do not want to wake her by my movements or noises (if I want to get some water, if the bed creaks while I shift, if I want to adjust my pillows or throw off the covers, if I have to cough, whatever). Also, I [currently] can’t be touching another human while sleeping. Because if she breaks away from me, I will realize that our skin is no longer touching, and I will wake up.

The thing is, I promised Rachel in our wedding vows that I would learn to fall asleep while cuddling. It was important to her, and so it is important to me. And believe it or not, I have done it a time or two during afternoon naps. But afternoon naps aren’t for solid, quality sleep. They are for resting. And if we fall asleep while cuddling, any movement she makes will definitely wake me, and any movement I make will likely wake her. But cuddling during naptime is all about intimacy rather than being refreshed and recharged. And I’m okay with that. But nighttime sleep is so very different. As I think anyone would agree.

I promised Rachel in our wedding vows that I would learn to fall asleep while cuddling. It was important to her, and so it is important to me.

We are blessed to have a king-sized bed. And I am pretty sure that it helps a lot. So here is what we’ve worked out: at night, after we’re done cuddling, she moves over to one side of the bed, and I move over to the other side, and we keep not one but two pillows side by side each other to form a barrier in between us. We tried a one-pillow barrier, but Rachel kept breaching it in her sleep, and I never could wake her to get her back over to her side (because that’s just mean, and I want to always be loving, and the loving thing to do is to let her sleep peacefully). While I make progress in becoming more comfortable with another person in the same bed, this is helping me for now so that her movements don’t wake me up when I’m asleep.

So there you have it. I know it’s a bit unique, and we both talked it out in great detail to make sure there were no hurt feelings at all, and a complete peace about it on both sides. All couples should do that with any decision like this.

Another issue worth discussing is that now that I am married, I seem to have a lot more on my mind that keeps me awake at night. I hate that. I can’t imagine how much harder it will be with kids to think about. I would, of course, rather have Rachel (and kids) in my life than less on my mind – less to think about and care about and pray about. That right there is something I obviously need to sort out between me and God. He’s pretty clear that I need to cast all my cares on Him. I’m working on it. All of this is still quite new to me, and I’m learning as I go.

That right there is something I obviously need to sort out between me and God. He’s pretty clear that I need to cast all my cares on Him. I’m working on it.

I should also be honest and say that I was/am definitely tempted to go to the guest room sometimes and once again experience sleeping soundly (but alone) in a bed all to myself. But in my heart, I absolutely know I can’t do that. I choose her. I choose closeness, and intimacy, and marriage. And I will get used to sleeping with her if I put in the time and effort (like everything else in my life). It’s not a big deal. I’m so lucky to have such a godly bombshell in my bed anyway. I know this. I’m not going to quit. And it’s going to get easier in time. I made that vow I mentioned earlier. I’m sticking to it no matter what, and God will help me figure this out.

Sleep really does matter a ton to me, though. I have the best days after the best nights. Truly, I am so much more productive, happy, thankful, energized, whimsical, fun, patient, and creative. And my profession is all about knowledge creation and dissemination. I need for my mind to be in the best shape possible to come up with the best ideas for my writing, teaching, researching, presenting, and innovating. And so I just constantly crave a great night’s sleep. Constantly. That’s the life I’m living now.

Rachel also says that when I’ve slept well, I am “a different person.” She says I am more sweet, more considerate, and less focused on what I need to do for the day and more attentive to her and how she is doing and what she wants and needs. That first made me feel like complete crap, because I don’t sleep amazingly most days, and so that means that I am not always the best possible husband I can be. But then I realized it’s true – I totally can love her better if I am properly rested.

What’s interesting is that Rachel says that after a great night’s sleep, I also can receive love better. I guess this means that I am more observant of what she does to bless me, and I perhaps take more time to enjoy a hug, or kiss, or snuggle time, or any other physical affection she wants to share with me. I am speculating here, but I think that makes sense too. When I’ve slept well, I feel less overwhelmed by all of my responsibilities. And that gives me the mental margin to be in the moment and enjoy the company and care of my wife.

I am more observant of what she does to bless me, and I perhaps take more time to enjoy a hug, or kiss, or snuggle time, or any other physical affection she wants to share with me.

Hmmm…what else have I learned? Well, we have also found that everything just works better if Rachel and I go to bed at the same time. If I come in late, or she comes in late, we disturb the other person. And if you’re that person being disturbed, it sucks to have to try to fall asleep again after you’ve powered down…because then your hard-drive mind starts spinning up again. That’s the worst. And then I’m like GAHHHH give it a rest, you crazy brain!

But if we go to bed together, we can cuddle, chat and catch up, pray together, tell each other “I love you,” share a kiss goodnight, and then separate to our sides to slip into slumber. I will say that this takes selflessness, because sometimes I want to get more work done at night, or watch a sporting event on TV while practicing guitar, or work on writing a blog entry like this one. But then I remind myself that all of those things can wait, and the priority should be a stable routine with my spouse where we finish the day together and avoid undermining each person’s goal for an undisturbed night’s sleep.

I think that’s all I want to say for now about sleeping with my wife. Life is good, and life requires growth. This is just part of it, and something I never really expected as an issue that I would face. But I’m actually glad for it because it’s stretching me, and allowing me to demonstrate that I’m willing to fight for what I want, and fight for what matters to both of us. I know it’s only sleep, but it’s a big deal. I’m looking forward to seeing how all of this gets sorted in time!