Today my husband and I celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. Our gift to one another is a new landscaping plan for our garden that we can work on together over the years as the budget allows. It’s fun to learn together about native Pennsylvania plants and how to make a garden work well for a contemporary home. It’s just another thing we’re learning together.
I’ve been thinking about how thankful I am for my husband and how our lives have grown more together year after year. We’ve learned to fight what Sheldon Vanauken called “creeping separateness” in his love story A Severe Mercy. I remember when new opportunities unfolded in each of our lives. We learned to ask, “Will this build oneness or take us away from each other?” That question has kept us together instead of drifting apart into separate pursuits as the years go on.
I’m starting to think that building oneness matters most in marriage.
Sometimes, when an offer comes our way that doesn’t seem to build oneness–but it does seem like God’s plan for him or me–we have to work to build the oneness. When I started writing books (a solitary pursuit), Ashley would print out my manuscripts, go to the coffee shop, and read my books so we could talk about them. When I increased my teaching load, he would ask about my students and lesson plans over dinner.
Likewise, when new opportunities in ministry opened for Ashley, I had to choose oneness. I had to enter in and ask good questions. We both had to guard against creeping separateness with increasing travel. Mostly, it’s about communication, but it’s about the kind of passionate interest in someone else’s life journey. You realize it’s your journey, too. And you learn to put your marriage above your career and even your own children.
Early in our marriage, we had to choose activities that would build oneness. It might mean a television series we loved together, a weekly excursion to a new restaurant, or the summer we hiked as many Pennsylvania trails as we could. We have friends our age that joined a birding club together. I want to do that next.
Now, when one of us has an errand to run, we’ll go together just to enjoy each other’s company. Yesterday, we drove down country roads to the fruit farm to buy pies. I filled a bag with peaches, plums, and apricots. As we drove home, I ate plums with my feet up on the dashboard. We sang to the song on the radio, and it felt like we were young and dating again.
Later that night, I asked if he remembered the first time he ever held my hand.
He did. We’ve been together ever since.