This picture makes me very happy. It's my wife, Jennifer, and I on our wedding day - absolutely ecstatic about the journey that we had begun just a couple of hours earlier. And I'm excited to say that it was taken exactly five years ago today. Yep, today is our five year wedding anniversary!
To be honest, I can't remember our wedding day as vividly as I'd like to. Of course it was a very special, very meaningful day, but I mostly remember it in snapshots. I remember riding on the little shuttle bus that took the wedding party up to the chapel. I remember when the chapel doors opened and I saw Jennifer in her dress for the first time. I remember walking out of the chapel with a big, goofy grin on my face. After this, the next several hours are kind of a blur. I know that we had a good time at the reception, celebrating with our friends and family. I know that there was lots of food and dancing. But I apologetically admit that I don't remember a single conversation I had with anybody at the reception. It's partly because I have the memory span of a goldfish but it's also because there really was just so much happening in a very short period of time that it was nearly impossible to take it all in.
I feel like the past five years have been no different. A whirlwind of joys and hardships, triumphs and tragedies, blessings and challenges - looking back it's tough to remember it all. But naturally, on this first considerable milestone in our marriage, I'm feeling very introspective. All day long my mind has been bouncing back and forth between "it feels like it was just yesterday" and "that feels like forever ago". I realize that doesn't make much sense but as much as my mind boggles at the life events, both good and bad, that we've experienced in the past five years, the truth is that the old adage "it goes by in the blink of an eye" has never felt more accurate.
Tonight, as we had dinner together at one of our favorite restaurants in Greenville, Lemongrass, we did something that has become somewhat of a tradition on our anniversaries. We asked each other questions (in a fun way, not like an interrogation) about the past however many years, such as:
What has been your favorite memory?
When have you laughed the hardest?
What do you think was the biggest hardship we faced?It's always enjoyable and lighthearted asking and answering these questions to each other, but something felt a little different tonight. Five years just feels like a much bigger deal than the previous anniversaries and, therefore, our discourse seemed to carry a little more weight. Like we needed to pay close attention to our own words so as not to miss an important nugget of information that would help us to understand why our marriage has been successful for the past five years, and how we can ensure that it remains successful for the next 50.
So I thought I'd share what I walked away from that dinner with - the "nuggets of information", if you will. These are the elements that I think are essential to the success of any personal relationship, not just marriage. Here it goes:
This one seems to go without saying but I'll say it again because we're all imperfect people who need a firm reminder - BE HONEST! In any relationship, the goal is to know somebody and to be known. This intimate knowledge is impossible unless you are honest with others and also honest with yourself.
Vulnerability goes hand-in-hand with honesty, but it more or less takes it to another level. Honesty is simply the practice of being truthful and not deceptive. If somebody asked me what my name was, I would be honest to say "my name is Jeffrey". But when my wife doesn't even have to ask me something before I approach her and tell her that I'm struggling with a difficult situation and need her help, that's vulnerability. It assures the other half of your relationship, as well as yourself, that you need them - an incredibly valuable act of humility.
Intentionality is the hardest action to pinpoint but I think the most important in any relationship. Heck, it's necessary for any other good relational quality. Intentionally honest, intentionally vulnerable, intentionally intentional (there's some fun circular logic for you), the list goes on and on. As simply as I could possibly define it, it means "to choose to do something because you give a crap!" I realize that's not quite verbatim from Merriam-Webster but for me that's pretty much what it boils down to. I have a vested interest in the success of my marriage and, therefore, I'm going to choose to be intentional about building my wife up and perhaps even more intentional about not tearing her down. I'm going to choose to be intentional about being honest and being vulnerable.
Lastly, I don't want to give anybody the impression that I think I've "got it all figured out". Let me assure you, I don't. As any seasoned veteran of marriage, perhaps of ones lasting 30+ years, would tell you (and hopefully some are willing to share their wisdom in the comments section below), a relationship is based on hard work - no other way around it. But in my experience, the above three items are incredibly helpful to gain focus. It takes the hundreds of qualities that are important to the success of a relationship and reduces them down to their core elements.
Although it's been so enjoyable, there's no doubt that the last five years have been hard work. Yet, I couldn't be more excited about the next 50!