Our son and his wife left a "Happy Anniversary voice message the other day when they couldn't reach me in person. I laughed when I heard the smile in his voice and a laugh from his wife at his side: "We're glad you're still married."
So am I.
During the first decade or two of our marriage when many thunderstorms of conflict seared our souls with pain, David and I frequently reminded ourselves that we had meant our vows of lifetime commitment to each other, and we would not consider divorce as a viable option of "solving" our problems. At one point we even agreed not to wield it as a verbal weapon in our fights - just as we promised not to storm off angry or hurt in a motorized vehicle, setting ourselves up for vehicular manslaughter or suicide.
There were a few occasions when each thought the other so disgusted or disappointed on multiple relationship fronts that we wondered aloud if our partner desired divorce ; but always, upon further reflection, the answer was "no - divorce would make more problems than it would solve."
We have been married long enough now for each to have gone through some pretty devastating dashing of hopes, desires and expectations in our relationship. We have each had, at different times, to very deliberately choose to find ways to live with, love, respect and support each other in the face of (still!) unyielding differences of values, motivations, and goals.
When I look back now, I see the first twenty years of our union as necessary training to strengthen our "humilty muscles" to prepare us for complete exposure within the transparency of our relationship. We needed the humility practice to be willing to allow the skin of self-protective reasoning to be pulled back, to see the tentacles of SELF beneath so many actions and motives we had previously labelled pure.
It has been our attempts these past 15 years or so to know, communicate and reconcile the deep, unyielding differences between us that have really stripped the scales from our eyes to see our "SELF" motivations and agendas, to empathetically feel, not simply know, just how much we have unintentionally wounded the other - simply by being ourselves, by pursuing our goals, powered by our differing pasts, values, sin patterns, and ego drives.
This truth-telling and stripping, painful as it has been, is one of the treasures to me of our long-term relationship. Like Eustace's experience in C.S. Lewis' The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, it has taken Another, with better eyesight, sharper claws, and a willingness to tear deep to the diseased underlayers, to uncover and strip us of our deepest layers of SELF.
I'm not saying that the process is done. Only that the divine claws within the paws of our mate have done what we, by ourself, cannot do, even with the best intentions and disciplines.