Taming baby elephants: the annual comment about marriage.


This weekend, Lane and I will hit the one year mark of marriage. That’s a whole 365 days of trying to love one another well.

Right after I got married, people started asking me to write posts about marriage. I’ve had to politely decline each request with the same answer, “I know little to nothing about marriage. I’ll write a post about marriage in 30 years.”

It’s true. I’m the most amateur when it comes to marriage. I’m still in marriage preschool and likely will be for a long time. Lane and I are not even on the cusp of figuring out how to be good stewards of this marriage thing.

I joked last December and said I would write a marriage post– just one– every anniversary. So here it is… my annual marriage post.

We’re not in the “honeymoon” season but I find myself telling people we are and I’m not sure why. It’s just an easy response. It sifts out the people who really want to know how the marriage is doing and the ones who want to nod their heads and agree, fine to know what they know about us.

There are “honeymoonish” things but I like reality better. I think about last year how, coming home from our honeymoon, we got stuck in the Denver airport for 36 hours. We slept on the floor beside all these other people wanting to go home for the holidays. I roamed the airport at 5am to find Lane a biscuit. We turned the seats of one of the crowded gates into a mini-movie theatre and binged on Stranger Things. When we arrived in Tampa, just one more flight away from our destination of Atlanta, my heart couldn’t handle one more canceled flight.  But there it was: our flight home canceled. We fought for a minute about getting a hotel in Tampa, threw our hands in the air, and got a rental car. We drove through the night, six hours home. It was there in that rental car, shoving Zaxby’s french fries into my mouth and listening to Christmas music, that I knew real life was better than the honeymoon. I like who we are, who we can be to one another when things don’t go perfectly.

My friend says those who say they’re in the honeymoon stages haven’t started really communicating yet. I laugh. She might be right. We’ve started communicating and we are figuring out, every dang day, how hard that one part of relationship really is.

 

It all boils down to communication. It comes down to what you believe you are articulating and what you are truly saying underneath all the language.

We think we are saying things like “can you do the dishes?” or “Do you like this outfit?” but it really is something so much deeper going on. We are asking essential questions of one another beneath the surface: Can you help me? Am I attractive to you? Can you be with me? Can you rally for me right now? 

Too easily, we get caught up in what is on the surface. The dishes. The suede pants. The hair in the drain. The budget. When we peel the layers of these things, I realize we are always asking the same question of one another over and over again: Are we in this together? Are you choosing me?

Marriage is not a honeymoon, where all the problems can be shelved for another week. Marriage is a building site where hard hats are required and not all of the construction crew is guaranteed to show up. Marriage is hard and holy work, each new day a chance to communicate better and find common ground. Marriage is honoring the vow we made to choose one another, and forsake all the others, to build something together that didn’t exist before.

 

Our friends Nate and T gave us some of the best marriage advice a few months ago and I find myself wanting to scream it from mountaintops. They told us it is okay, and probably smart, to spend an obnoxious amount of time with one another during these first years of marriage. This isn’t so you become obsessed with one another or hermits in your own love story. When you spend a ton of time together, you learn how to communicate well. You learn how to face the baby elephants in the room before they grow up, become too big, and stomp all over you. You learn how to fight and fight well. You learn fighting isn’t a bad thing nor does it need to become your default, the thing that sucks your joy away, but it’s a way of sorting things out and getting to the root of who you truly are as one.

You don’t shove things under the rug. Instead, you learn to look one another in the eye and face the disappointments. You forgive. And forgiveness is this tiny yet sprawling miracle that makes you think the stuff of the Bible is still happening all the time.

 

Beware of baby elephants. I guess that’s all the marriage advice I have gathered so far. Baby elephants will grow up to be bigger elephants if you don’t pay attention. Right now, Lane and I are training baby elephants. We are noticing the things about us that, if we don’t pay attention to them, could grow up to be a big disaster. In an effort to not trample one another, we are figuring out how to face the baby elephants. We are communicating about the baby elephants.

There’s a temptation every single day to not talk about the baby elephants and just let them roam. There’s a temptation to coast on by and not sweat the small stuff. But the small stuff grows into big stuff when you aren’t watching. Like weeds in a garden, the smallest “plants” learn how to suffocate the whole lot of beautiful things when you give them a chance to sprawl.

So you talk about the baby elephants. And you tame the baby elephants. And you love the other in spite of the baby elephants they walked into the marriage with. This is us one year into the marriage. It is him, and I, and elephants, and what God is doing in the midst of our messes. I love it.

Lane was named after the narrow road in the Bible, the one that so few people take because it’s harder and grittier than just going your own way. I love being married to a man who was named after a narrow road.

I was given a thousand roads to choose and they all looked pretty good. But this one, this narrow one where we wear the same jersey and cheer for the same team, is by far the best road.

10 thoughts on “Taming baby elephants: the annual comment about marriage.

  1. Been married 33 years and still soak up all advise I can get. Things that I think have made it last are that we keep each other’s secrets, we don’t criticize each other in public or private-concerns are different that criticisms, and we never have talked to our parents about issues we might be having-that way their view of your spouse is never influenced because you’re having an argument. I am amazed at how we’ve mellowed with age and our grace for each other grows along with that. It’s a sweet part of getting older.

  2. Hannah, deeply resonated with talking about and taming the baby elephants. ❤ Well stated. Happy Anniversary you beautiful human!
    I also loved how you stated: We are asking essential questions of one another beneath the surface: Can you help me? Am I attractive to you? Can you be with me? Can you rally for me right now?

    Too easily, we get caught up in what is on the surface. The dishes. The suede pants. The hair in the drain. The budget. When we peel the layers of these things, I realize we are always asking the same question of one another over and over again: Are we in this together? Are you choosing me?
    So much YES ❤ ❤

  3. This is exactly what I needed today. It’s been a tough week, and I needed a reminder this is normal and right – and, for those of us striving to love well and like Christ, even a bit beautiful.

    My husband, Micah, and I have been married about 7 months (we’re preschoolers, too!) and learning all about our baby elephants. The last week has seemed fraught with them as we’ve miscommunicated, wrestled with our hurt, and chosen each other over and over. Disappointment can be a big part of this for us, I guess with unmet expectations and our individual struggles in caring well for one another. How are you guys dealing with expectations? I feel like that is one elephant we can’t quite wrangle.

    ❤ Sarah

    On Tue, Dec 5, 2017 at 9:30 AM, hannah brencher. wrote:

    > hb. posted: ” This weekend, Lane and I will hit the one year mark of > marriage. That’s a whole 365 days of trying to love one another well. Right > after I got married, people started asking me to write posts about > marriage. I’ve had to politely decline each reques” >

  4. Never ever stop dating.
    I just wrote this about my hubby of 3 years: “I’m excited to fall in love again. To find new alleys and sidewalks in my husband’s heart and to learn them and walk them over and over again, until I memorize a new part of him. Like finding your way in a new city that you call home.”

    Keep the wonder and the mystery burning and alive. There will always be something new to discover in him. And for him, in you.

    Keep dating.

  5. I just love you and this is beautifully written (as always). Can you and lanes elephants meet up with justin and my elephants for a baby elephant party soon? Ayla would love it. But she’d pretend she was one of the baby elephants. What I’m really trying to say is that I love this article and I miss your face.

  6. What a breath of fresh air! Loving this input as I process my courtship and take steps towards marriage. My favourite part is “the heart behind the language.” Making me dig deeper wells with God and confront my heart.

  7. Hannah thank you so much for making that silly promise of posting about your marriage once a year, because this post was such a huge blessing. I want to take these words and memorize them and bathe in them until they permeate into my skin and become a part of my everyday. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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