It takes a village to raise a marriage

So THIS happened nearly nine years ago:

LesterBest0204 - Click to view full size photo

And in typical LB fashion, we are already planning a celebration for when we reach 10 years in one year, five months and two days time (but who’s counting!). We LBs do love to celebrate (well I do, and David’s caught the bug through osmosis); but our desire to have a big party, blessing or some sort of celebration with friends & family goes deeper than just wanting to dress up, eat, drink, dance and generally have fun.

In our wedding service, as with all weddings to which I’ve been, our Vicar asked the congregation ‘do you, the family and friends of David and Natalia promise to support and uphold them in their marriage?’ And, as with every other wedding, everyone exclaimed ‘WE WILL!’.

Now, it has been said (on more than one occasion) that I take words too literally and seriously so maybe this is just me. But, to me, when I make this claim, when I shout out to my friends or family at the alter, making the biggest promise they’ll ever make, that I’ll support them in that, I mean it. But the number of people who announce their divorce to friends, family & acquaintances who are totally shocked shows that those friends or family likely haven’t been upholding or proactively supporting their marriage, or there wouldn’t be such shocked faces…and maybe there’d be fewer divorces.

But this isn’t just to tap away & judge the people who came, celebrated, ate, danced, meant well, gave a gift, and then buggered off.  As adults, if we want support then we need to show that we are open to it. Yes, other people need to prioritise asking more than just superficial questions to which they expect and accept ‘yeh, we’re great thanks’ responses; we can ask ‘what’s been a highlight and challenge of marriage so far?’ or ‘what’s made you want to get divorced (this week!) and what’s made you glad you chose each other?’ etc. But we also need to be open to such input and, importantly, to provide opportunities for people to be part of our marriage (in a non-breaking of vows kinda way 😉 )…for me, that’s part of the reason I have a WhatsApp group with a couple of close, married mates wherein we can vent, seek advice, challenge & support each other.

And this part of the reason why we intend on marking our marriage milestones not just the two of us (though we do that as well), but as celebration within our community of family & friends. I love that because we so often have people live with us, they see the cuddles, the thoughtfulness, the not leaving the house without kissing each other goodbye of our LB marriage. They also see the griping, moaning, occasional shouting & swearing too (all me). Because of how open, honest & authentic we are (well, we try to be) our friends & family know that they can speak up, nudge, enquire etc about us. And what better opportunity to celebrate with, support and uphold us than at a big anniversary? Because our marriage is not just between the two of us-it’s a commitment and relationship which embraces and hopefully blesses and supports and help grow others we love too-and they, in turn, help us grow and be happier and better.

group wedding pic blurred
24.10.09 | image blurred for data protection yada yada

Faithful hands

Why,

when I fell asleep

turned away from you,

do I wake with

our legs entwined,

my hand in yours,

and a smile on my face

when I feel this?

God bless my wiser,

faithful, hands and heart

for remembering the truth:

I Love You

far far more

than I’m (trying

to be) annoyed.

Image: David Lester-Bush

You (Don’t) Complete Me…and That’s OK!

Any movie fan or anyone with ears recognises the line ‘You complete me’, those heart-warming words uttered at the end of the movie Jerry Maguire that prompted a collective ‘awwww’ from cinema audiences across the world.

They are, however, bollox.

Ok, I overstated that for attention (gotcha!). But it’s a sentiment with which I’m definitely in conflict.  See, in many ways, yes, my husband completes me-I feel ‘home’ when in his arms and all that jazz and if everyone else around me got sucked into an earthquake crater, I’d be ‘OK’ with having just him survive (sorry folks).  Obviously, I’d be miserable and distraught but he’s the one human I root for before all others and the one whom I love the most.

But he does not ‘complete’ me (whatever that phrase even means!)…  And nor should he.  I am a multi-faceted person who enjoys philosophical, intellectual discussions one minute and Bunny Suicide cartoons the next; I love sociological films and also The Avengers; I have enjoyed reading Shakespeare and also Fifty Shades (judge away but there are several similar themes-Juliet and Anastasia are both insipid characters!).  So no, my husband, one human being, does not complete me; that is what God made friends for. And music. And books. And TED talks. And work. And colleagues. And films. And travel. And sunshine. And gin. And prayer. And good food. (you get the gist).  No one person completes me and nor should they.

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And yet we see the myth of Romanticism take hold of so many relationships; the myth that our spouse/partner/other half is supposed to ‘complete us’ and be that one person to whom we turn before all others.

WHY the hell should he be that I ask? Why should the person with whom I share my bed & my life also have to be the one with whom I share my thoughts and feelings if they aren’t the best person for that particular job? Personally, I am blessed with some close friends who share my social joys, intellectual passions and mirror my own emotional intelligence and interests. Some who love watching Grey’s Anatomy and discussing the ‘characters’ as if they’re our friends; others who love discussing sociological, political or relationship ideas, and who allow me to hone and critique my thoughts by listening to their views on issues that are my equivalent of mental/emotional oxygen… and the equivalent of disposable scented razors to David (yes, they are ACTUALLY a thing, ugh).

So no, my beloved, wonderful partner does not ‘complete me’. And for me, THIS is the splendidly ingenious recipe of being ‘completed’… My husband gives me the support and confidence to think (& use him as a sounding board when like-minded & interested friends are unavailable) and the loving space to actively seek & invest in relationships with people who will nurture & stimulate me in the interests & areas where we diverge (and I do the same for him).

And in THIS gracious, creative way we go some way to completing each other far more than we ever could in and of ourselves.  By supporting me in finding my people, reading the books, listening to the talks, dancing to the music, preaching the sermons, travelling to the places (without him), laughing at different comedy & socialising with friends he doesn’t wanna spend an evening with (& those he does!) my husband does help to complete me.

So let’s please discard the deceitful myth of a partner’s role being to complete us. And breathe life into the truth that a partner’s role is instead to nurture us to seek out & find the beautiful variation of people, ideas, and ways of life which, along with our partner’s deep love & faithful support, pour life into us-not to ever be ‘complete’… but to be grown.

 

 

The 3 Ts for Love

Through a ranty, rambly convo with my Vicar’s wife a few years ago, during one of those inevitable bad patches of marriage, I coined what I call the Three Ts; they’re basically my 3-point guide for regular health-checks on my marriage. What’s great about them is if they’re both diagnostic & curative…hope they help you too:

T1: TIME… We are both really busy (who isn’t!) so we need to really try to spend quality time together having fun & making memories together.  Just ‘being’ in the same room, home or even bed (well…) together doesn’t connect a couple as does a round of crazy golf & a cocktail!   When I start my week & people ask ‘what did you do this weekend?’ I don’t want all the fun I had to be with other people and all the sitting on the sofa to be with my husband…my friendships would quickly tire & die if we just sat watching TV & discussing our schedules each time we met so common sense says my marriage will fade if we don’t have fun together too: cue Date Night.

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T2: TALKING… I’m a talker, hub is not, but we both try more & more to talk to each other about our days, about our gripes, about our plans &, yes, about our feelings. This ranges from touching-base re what we are up to socially to the more in depth ‘this is bugging me’ chats.  There are many times I have a problem and David is nottt the person I need to talk to: I need a girlfriend (usually one with whom I can swear!).  But while I could be tempted to then shut David out, instead I make a point of sharing it with him anyway even though he won’t know exactly what to say like my girlfriends will. He doesn’t need to be my counsellor or genie but he’s my husband so I make sure he’s connected with what’s going on in my head and in my life-and the more I share, the more he knows me & the better he gets at supporting me.  And vice versa.

T3: TOUCHING…like having fun together & communicating well (!!!), sex is a vital relationship glue and one which uniquely sets marriage apart from friendships.  Intimacy breeds intimacy so prioritising time to be sexual, to be creative, naked & vulnerable is vital.  When one first starts dating it is such a struggle to leave the house on time and not stay home kissing like a teenager (sorry about that Char Char!).  But then you’re married and they’re always ‘there’ and so quickly sleep can begin to feel more important than sex which can be had any day.  NO! The more sex we have the more we want it (good ol hormones!) and the more connected & in love we feel. That said, there is more to touching than sex!  As a teenager, I remember kissing til my lips were sore! The hand holding, shoulder-rubbing, face stroking, & kissing *just because we want to kiss* are fun ways to physically & emotionally connect us, not just as a key to open the sex-door.

Pink lotus blossoms or water lily flowers blooming on pond

So they’re my 3Ts…of course lots of patience & forgiveness needed too but they don’t begin with T! If they help, share them, and please comment & share our own good tips too!

On the floor for Love

Except for in a Hipster office, working on the floor is widely seen as unseemly, lowly, or even dirty-in our culture it’s servant work. And yet as I think back to this day seven years ago what comes to mind is how many of my beloveds *literally* got on their hands & knees to serve & help me. This time seven years ago I was to be married in 24hours and still had 101 small but important things to do. And so my friends and beloveds held us up and got us to the Finish (well the Start!) Line; there was Katie on the floor with her paintbrushes making unique paintings of Ghanaian symbols in our ‘wedding colours’ for decoration; there was Sweet P not only driving me around for my final errands but who had been on the floor while I was laid up unable to walk, helping me wrap gift-bags of hand-decorated Thank You cups to thank our helpful friends; there were Payal & Dilanie on the floor laboriously tacking not one but two layers of cream cloth to make the beautiful aisle for our entrance a few hours away. And all of this floor-work after the dayssss of shopping & faffing & rehearsing! (& I expect lots of private swearing!!😉)

These girls physically *got on the floor* in devoted love & service and so many others did so figuratively-Rachel who designed invitations, became my PA, checked my emails to protect me from unnecessary stress when I had so much of my own, and who listened & comforted as I prayerfully sweared upon receipt of some sad family news; my big brother who flew across the world & then graciously hoovered my house the morning of my wedding, humbly transforming from Brother of the Bride to Janitor (i.e. life saver!) in seconds! There were Nick & Jonny, Rob & Mike, Phil & Alice & James variously catching planes, driving cars & rehearsing songs…and everrrryone carrying tables & chairs, laying tablecloths & petals all before The Day itself! And yet others joined the servant-hearted throng on our Marriage Day, decorating, getting me ready and to church, directing cars, ushering guests, serving Pimms, lighting candles, cutting cake, filming & photoing, doing speeches, doing flips, setting off fireworks, tidying up etc etc etccccccc all in the name of *Love* love LOVE for us.

      

So today I reflect on our seven year medley of joyous experiences; of daily-grind made easier by companionship & support; of challenges faced & survived by carrying the burden on two sets of shoulders; of triumphs achieved growth with mutual support & sacrifice; of personal growth continued & of so much fun had! And yet…today I thank not my unparalleled, *exceptional* husband but our range of generous, considerate friends & family who whether then or now, have served us without (much😉) complaint & who have shown us in various ways what it is to ‘love patiently, kindly & without self-seeking‘.

(Too?) High Fidelity

While this may sound bizarre to admit even though it’s a common sense fact: I know my husband may cheat on me (as may I on him). I’ve seen adultery a plenty in my life and have a great cheating & bullshit detector…I’m sure we all know the classic lines from the Cheaters Handbook, the oh so popular ‘s/he doesn’t understand me but you do’ & the tried & tested ‘I’m only staying for the children’ lines!


Hence I recognise this obvious truth: my darling, devoted, absolutely incredible husband may cheat on me (& I on him!).  Nearly every couple meant their wedding vows on the day, but things can change… distance & resentment can creep in and so, seeds for cheating can germinate, as shown so well by my beloved fictional friends Steve & Miranda in Sex & the City: if devoted, dependable Steve can, anyone can!! Adultery doesn’t have to destroy a marriage –  breaks can be beautifully repaired. But I’d rather avoid the pain & damage if I can… so I take precautions against it for us both. For myself, I don’t hang out too closely or frequently with anyone I’m sexually attracted to (a girl is only human after all). And re hub, as well as the private detective and secret tracker in his boxers (kidding!), I utilise the best defences I have: observation & communication. I pay diligent attention to our relationship and, just like checking one’s breasts or scrotum for monthly changes, I check in on the quality of our relationship frequently and both of us try to share & listen to any concerns or unhappinesses creeping in.

Importantly though, I think understanding why people cheat is a valuable protection against adultery & the damage it can cause, so here’s a short, humorous but erudite animated talk by the oh so wise Alain de Botton: https://youtu.be/d079McwlBRE

Crying for strangers

It pains me to type these words-it actually hurts me: BEN AFFLECK and JENNIFER GARNER are divorcing! What The Beep?! Now, admittedly, I don’t know these people and yet I nonetheless have opinions and attachments and expectations- and now disappointment and sadness.

I cried. I tried not to, rationalising that they’re strangers and hey, ‘it’s Hollywood so why am I surprised?’… But still, I gave in and cried. Because they seem so lovely, and happy, and chilled, and like they’re really good friends-in sum, a beacon of light in the Hollywood relationship darkness. And they have three children whose lives are now shaken – and not in the fun cocktail-making way.

So I am SAD. I am sad that they are sad and that they, and their children, have lost what was once good and bright and life-giving. I am sad that what was full of hope is now deflated; what was beautiful is now charred.  And added to this, I am sad that people don’t seem that ‘bovvered’; it’s just another divorce, another disappointment, another ‘Hollywood romance bites the dust’. There’s no weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth.

but, whatever the private pains and reasons, love, hope and security have died/dissolved/ended – a fight for love and hope has been lost, a bloody, tear-stained towel thrown in. I am sure divorcing is right for them and their family, and only they know what is best and right for them.. but, when the fight is lost, for whatever reasons, that loss is worth a little of our grief.