Lately, I have had several people comment to me how much my marriage with Jason inspires them in their own relationships. Of all the compliments I could ever recieve, this one is the most welcomed and the most humbling.
Of all the things in my life that I have poured myself into (and there are a fair amount of them...I've always been the 'passionate' type), being Jason's wife has been the most important to me. It forms the basis for all other aspects of my life: who I am as a parent, as a friend, and as a person.
I don't know any wise secrets to "happy marriages"- to be honest, I think that luck plays a much larger factor than most would want to admit- but I do know this: I learned almost everything I believe in from a handful of stories from my youth. Like, I am sure, all other avid readers out there, we have each encountered stories and characters who impacted us in ways that we could never have predicted when we first opened the book.
In my case, there are three stories that framed my worldview of romantic relationships. These, possibly more than any other factor, inspire me to live my marriage by certain codes. In a rare moment of intimacy (or as intimate as one can really be on a blog), I'd like to share these stories with you.
The Giving Tree:
For those unfamiliar with Shel Silverstein, I have but this to say: Get thee to the nearest book store and pick up anything you can by this famous children's author. His stories, generally marked with a certain amount of sardonic wit, are beautiful forays into human nature.
The Giving Tree is perhaps Silversteins tour de force, his opus if you will. Put simply, it is the story of a "boy who loved a tree" and she loved him. In this story, the tree literally gives the boy everything she has to give, asking for nothing in return but love.
Truth be told, it is more a story about parenthood than it is about marriage, but it taught me about unconditional love
When I was a child, I thought this book was very sad, mostly because the tree was never given anything in return. But as I grew and matured, I better understood the message: that giving to someone you love is, in and of itself, a gift to yourself. That love is the precious gift one can receive, and that it is worth sacrificing everything to have. This has created for me the foundation upon which I build my relationships. I want to be a giver. And I want to surround myself with other givers.
Anne of Green Gables/Anne of Avonlea/ Anne of the Island
Ok, ok...I know that this is actually three books. But it is one story, the story of a love unfolding from acquaintance, to enemy, to friend and- finally- to love.
Those who know our story wouldn't have to search hard to see the similarities between Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne and Gilbert's progression and Jason and mine's marriage. We too followed this exact progression over the course of eight long years. We met and were instantly intrigued by the other. We quarelled and spent several years believing that we hated each other. We were reunited in friendship, in one of the most unpredictable ways, when I fell ill with cancer. Through the illness, we grew to understand that we had transcended from friends to lovers. We've now been married five years, and have once doubted that this was the ending our story was meant to have.
"I don't want sunburst or marble halls", Anne finally tells her lover, whom she had previously rebuked because their friendship seemed too 'quaint'.
"All I want is you."
And with that, I came to realize that the love story lived in person would always trump the fantasy in my head. And I knew that I could never settle for anyone who was not also my very best friend.
The Gift of the Magi
I can not read this story without crying. It is quite literally impossible for me. I believe it to be a perfect piece of literature, and is without a doubt my favourite short story of all time.
Along the lines of The Giving Tree, O. Henry's story tells a tale of unconditional love. But this time, our characters are poor and madly in love. Without any money to buy each other gifts for Christmas, each character gives up their most prized possession in exchange fir buying the perfect gift for their loved one, ironically, rendering the gifts useless.
A little sad, and a lot bittersweet, our heroes remind us that when you love someone you give them everything you have. Like Anne learned, this is more than riches and luxury- it is the gift of oneself.
But what Henry also underscored is that true love is reciprocal. It is the original "gift that keeps on giving" because your loved one wants to return the love to you as unconditionally as you give it to them.
This truth, above all others, enlightened me as to what marriage should be about, and it is what I strive towards every day.
I can not properly express the joy and gratefulness that I feel for having found a partner like Jason. Sometimes it feels like we've been through it all together. Of course, then life has a way of reminding us just how untrue that is. There are many obstacles to face, many more bridges to cross and challenges to overcome. But, I am not afraid of these, because the foundation of my life is rooted in a love so deep that it overcomes against all odds. It is rooted in the giving fully, unconditionally and whole-heartedly to another human being, and the peace that comes from having this trust returned to you.
I'm not saying we're perfect- not by a long shot. But we are happy. And that feels pretty perfect.
So, sappy as it might be, I will always consider my marriage to be the rock upon which I build my life. As long as we have each other, and the family that our love has built, I will never be lacking.