“I just have to go to the bathroom!” I yelled down the hallway.
“So it’s come to this,” I thought as I slammed the door. Almost 12 years of marriage, and my first full sentence to my hard working husband at the end of a long day is just, well…potty talk.
I’m not sure what I envisioned married life would be like when my future husband placed that diamond on my finger so many years ago. I just know that time seems to accelerate with each passing year. Wedding bells suddenly gave way to baby cries. Gazing into my husband’s eyes was interrupted by the constant supervision that a busy toddler requires. And long conversations over a quiet, candlelit dinner have morphed into partial sentences shouted over a cloud of lively chatter.
Yes, here we are, 12 years later, five kids richer, and our original vision of romance completely redefined.
We have learned to seek romance in the daily tasks of life. We have learned to think outside the box of chocolates, and we’ve grown beyond the vase of flowers. While these traditional gestures of love are still much appreciated, we simply don’t have the time or resources to display our affections for one another in this way all of the time.
Instead, our daily habits consist of gestures like doing the breakfast dishes without being asked, taking the kids to the park so the other can rest in a quiet house, and reserving some energy for focusing on each other after the kids have gone to bed. We find ourselves asking each other things like, “Is it okay if I go out for a run right now?” “Would you like to go lie down for a few minutes?” and “Is it okay if I go to the bathroom?” Because even as we try to meet our most basic of personal needs while managing five lively children, we find ourselves looking out for the other. We find ourselves looking to give the gift of ourselves while accepting the gift of the other.
So what did my husband do after I stormed into the bathroom, feeling guilty about my attitude even as I shouted down the hallway at him? He saw my needs, and he gave me more. He saw that I had had a long day with a feisty toddler. He saw that I was tired and needed a break. And as I sheepishly emerged from the bathroom, he simply looked at me and said, “I’ll go to the store for milk, and I’ll take her with me.” My husband left with toddler in arms, and I was free to finish my dishes without 25 pounds of energy clinging to my leg or throwing tupperware underfoot.
This is the beauty of self-donative love. This is the beauty of mutual self-donative love–one spouse giving all he can to the other with the expectation and trust that his spouse will do the same for him. This kind of giving is not always 50/50. It’s not always both spouses giving 100%. Sometimes it’s one spouse shouldering the weight of the day for the other. Sometimes it’s one spouse doing all of the work for awhile until the other spouse is capable of pitching in.
This is the ebb and flow of being a gift to one another. This is the type of giving and accepting that renders score keeping irrelevant, and reveals the steadfast flame of real love.
“…giving becomes acceptance, and acceptance transforms itself into giving.” Saint John Paul II, Theology of the Body 17:4
When the line between giving and accepting becomes so blurred that only a deep joy can be seen, true marital unity has occurred.
This is our Ordinary Time of marriage. We’re a typical family with young children that juggles sports practices, bed times, and the struggle to sit quietly through Mass. But all of our routines are intertwined with this giving and accepting, accepting and giving.
This is our Ordinary Time that leads to extraordinary grace-filled moments. Like my husband and I lying in bed together listening to the silence of our sleeping household, when I suddenly hear the words, “You make me a better person” whispered in my ear. And I smile into the darkness–because that’s the whole point of our marriage. To get each other to heaven, even if we have to stop and ask each other if it’s okay to go to the bathroom along the way.
What is one small way you can show your spouse today that he/she is still the love of your life, even while in the trenches of daily life?
Copyright 2014, Charisse Tierney