I have never been asked to be the one who gives the little talk during a bridal shower. Maybe it’s because of my tendency to say things that border on slightly inappropriate when stressed or because I can be a wee bit too honest about the hard times in marriage. For whatever reason, no one has asked for my wisdom on the subject. But I’m not waiting for an invitation anymore. I’m just going to give this speech. So put on your favorite sundress, grab one of those little cucumber sandwiches you are legally required to eat at bridal showers and let’s do this. Bride-to-Be, I’m ready to tell you what it is I think you need to hear.
My friend Sarah has my favorite Most Embarrassing Moment story. It’s so good, I’ve started telling it at random times without her even being present. It’s my happy thought when I’m at the dentist and feeling stressed. It isn’t about marriage, but I’ve found that it does seem to apply.
When Sarah was in high school she was in the Future Business Leaders of America club. I don’t know how exactly she ended up in this position of honor, but it was her job to deliver a speech at the statewide meeting of FBLA leaders from across Nebraska. Sarah had a carefully planned speech and she was going to start it with a famous quote. So she walked confidently across the stage (I think she was wearing some kind of pantsuit. . . at least that’s how it happened in my mind) and started her speech by saying, “Woody Allen has said that 80% of success is just showing up.” Except that isn’t what she ended up saying. She walked confidently across that stage and opened her speech by fumbling over her words and saying, “Woody Allen has said that 80% of sex is just showing up.” Because Sarah is a class act, she just kept on rolling like she didn’t just say the most embarrassing thing possible in front of a bunch of teenagers. I love her. And I will never stop laughing at this story.
But I love this story for one other big reason. I think her version of that quote is one of the most important things I would want a new bride to know. So much of having the kind of intimacy that will grow your relationship is just about showing up. Showing up when maybe you’d rather be absent—physically or emotionally. Showing up with energy to expend and forgiveness for however the day has gone wrong. Showing up with compassion for your tired body and your husband’s lack of charm by this point in the evening (and this point in your life. . . someday you’ll know what I mean). Just show up with expectations low, feeling free to be yourself and let the moment happen. Show up ready to laugh and love and accept your husband for who he is.
But contrary to what Sarah might have implied (accidentally), this showing up thing isn’t just about sex. It’s a great way to think about marriage in general.
Show up to his work with lunch sometimes. Surprise him with cupcakes and embarrass him in front of his coworkers. Show up and cheer at his pick-up soccer game. Show up to his favorite superhero movies even when then the plots are all the same and you can’t remember which are the good guys and which are the villains.
Show up for yourself when you’d rather check-out. Take that bubble bath. Show up to your appointments with the hairdresser and the dentist. Show up for cooking classes or art lessons or exercise groups. Find what refreshes you and don’t talk yourself out of pursuing the things that wake up your soul. Show up for fun and you will be a fun person to be around.
Show up for church, Bible studies and prayer time. Do the things that feed your soul and be consistent. Sitting next to your husband as you sing together, humble yourselves in confession, take The Lord’s Supper—these are ways we connect on a deeper level. Show up for the other people in your world who need you and the people who can mentor you. Sometimes marriage takes a community effort and you need to find the people who will show up for you when you need them to hear your struggles and normalize that marriage is hard.
Show up for dinner dates with this man you’re committing your life to. Show up for snuggle times on the couch when you’re too exhausted to be interesting anymore. Show up at each other’s weird work events and be content to be arm candy while your spouse shines. And when it matters, for the love, SHOW UP ON TIME.
Show up for counseling. Show up ready to be honest, to admit your own struggles, to hear and believe your spouse. Show up and do the hard work it takes to get that car out of the ditch and back up on the road. I know it’s hard to believe those moments might happen as you sit here, fully and totally in love, but if they do, you need to make that appointment and you need to show up. Show up for conflicts you’d rather avoid and compromises you know are necessary.
Bride-to-Be, I imagine right now showing up seems like the easiest, most romantic thing to do. But there may be times it requires a commitment level and determination you don’t even know you’re capable of right now. If you are blessed with many years and many seasons of marriage, there may come a time when you hear the whisper that tells you to not show up anymore. It may feel easier to check out, safer to build up walls, more comforting to hold on to resentments, and more fun to hang out with friends than show up for your family. You may want to back away and find a comfortable peace where you don’t have to show up for the hard work of marriage as long as you don’t rock the boat. And then one day you don’t show up at all or he doesn’t show up at all and you wonder where it all went wrong.
Showing up won’t prevent trauma and heartache from coming to you. Life is hard. Married life is not a cure for loneliness or a prevention strategy for avoiding a broken heart. Marriage gives someone the easiest, most intimate ways to break your heart a thousand times over. Showing up is not a guarantee for an easy marriage, but sometimes we do the right thing even when it’s hard. Even when showing up means facing your fears and choosing hope. We show up because that’s what we do, even when we don’t want to. Even when it’s hard. We can’t control our spouse, but we can make our own decisions. And we need to decide to show up. It doesn’t seem like a big thing to do, but I don’t know that there’s a big thing you CAN do that doesn’t begin with showing up. So we do it in the hope that showing up will give us that 80% chance of success.
may you laugh at his jokes,
may you find the way he ages adorable,
may you learn the ancient art of humoring a husband when he’s sick,
may you avoid accidentally offending your mother-in-law,
and may you always, ALWAYS show up.
(Raises glass of that pink punch that has a hunk of ice-cream in it)