The Expectations of Love
I am sitting, laughing, drinking a whiskey and talking to another couple on the beach about marriage. As is often the case, my affectionate husband has made his impression on other people and they have asked what the secret to our 13 years has been.
I always laugh when I get this question. My response usually catches people off guard. The secret to everlasting love is to never set the expectation of everlasting love. The look the sweet couple who is starting out on their own life together is a mix between fear and disappointment. What could I possibly mean? Am I not committed to forever?
If the question is as simple as whether or not I wake up and think about my marriage as forever, then I guess the simple answer is no. More importantly, I learned seven years into my marriage – after we had nearly burned our love to the ground, that if I was going to stay married I had to reset my expectations, not just of my husband but also of myself. I had to let go of the optics of never wanting to have a bad day for fear it meant we would fail at forever. Instead, we agreed to take it one day at a time. I had to allow myself to believe that if it didn’t work, I would be ok and so would Eddy. I had to accept the expectation that it was entirely possible that no matter how hard we tried, we might not have what it takes for the long haul. We agreed to commit to each other one day at a time. In the moment where we were facing down the mess we had made and could barely summon the energy even to commit to another minute of trying, lowering our expectation was the only way forward. And then something magical happened in our union. We ignored the expectations of time frame and focused on our expectations of how we would treat each other during the time we had.
Right after this, I remember waking up every day for a while wanting to give my husband a better version of myself because I didn’t take for granted that he would stay forever. I found myself appreciating little things he did that I hadn’t noticed before. Or maybe he hadn’t done them before and he too was waking up and committing to fight hard for our tomorrow. We had never understood how to be married really. We tried hard, but we avoided the realities of our potential downfall. We were so scared to fail that we put up with receiving less from each other than we should have. The moment we said, I can’t tell who I am going to be in 10 years and whether or not that person is someone you will still want to choose, was the very moment we found peace. Now, we tell each other, I love you and so tomorrow I will be my very best for you even if the day is hard. I will not just commit to you tomorrow, I will treat you with commitment tomorrow.
It’s been 7 years since we remixed our commitment to one another. We have days that don’t turn out the way we wish. We blow our commitments of being our best and we show up in ways we later have to apologize for. But we keep showing up, one day at a time. And one day at a time, has turned into 7 years of a love and appreciation I never thought I was capable of. It’s funny how the rebalance of our expectations, our focus on who we are right now as life partners, and an intentional desire to show up better has changed us. It’s hard to tell someone you can be your best in 10 years when you don’t know what life will bring. The pressure of that causes people to live secretly and to stop communicating when they feel the shifts in themselves.
It’s interesting how focusing on showing up daily for someone drowns out the outside influences. I want Eddy to choose me again tomorrow, so it keeps me in the here and now. It keeps the lines of communications open. When I am not my best, I tell my husband why. I tell him when I am stressed, moody or disappointed in him or myself. I do it because I don’t want him to guess wrong and decide tomorrow might now be for us. And he does the same for me. I pray God’s favor over us and that he continues to bless us forever. I pray I will wake up 30 years from now and think of Eddy and wanting to be my best for me. Deep down I believe the desire to be my best today and hopefully a little better tomorrow is exactly what happens. He makes me better, which gives me hope that whatever I go through, it will be him by my side as I navigate it. But I’ll worry about that when I am there. As for right now, I am pretty lucky that I will be married to Eddy Shoots tomorrow and I will commit to do my best with the days we are given with one another.