“Experience shows us that Love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking together in the same direction.”
–Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand, and Stars
When you first get married, the amount of marital advice you receive can be quite daunting. From your mom to your friends to the person issuing your marriage license, everyone has their own “words of wisdom” to share with you. So many of these words can get lost in the excitement of the wedding and all that goes along with that, but some words (like “don’t fight over the butter”) stick with you. They echo in your head, from time to time, when you need to hear them.
I’ve been married for a little over six years, and there is only one piece of advice that I have remembered, word for word, in all of those years. At our rehearsal dinner, my dear, sweet Auntie Carrie called the attention of the room to propose a toast. She said that she doesn’t like speaking in front of a bunch of people, so she wanted to give her toast in the smaller crowd, and then she said,
“After almost fifteen years of marriage, if I can offer you any sort of advice, it’s this: never walk in front of or behind each other. Always walk side by side.”
This advice has been in the back of my mind ever since, and it has come to the forefront a few times. I didn’t realize how much truth there is to this statement until I’m in those moments when I DON’T want to walk next to him. Sometimes I want to rush ahead when we’ve had a fight and I get out of the car and walk into the store without waiting for him. When my pride or my hurt is so great that I’d rather speed ahead of him to get where we’re going than take my time and keep pace with him. Other times I feel like lagging behind him when we’re walking down the street in Chicago, and I’m crabby because I need a nap, but we’re heading out for the night, and I’m three steps behind him.
There are greater implications of this advice, too, that I’m finding as our life takes different twists and turns. Lately it has also begun to take on this additional meaning: not only to walk alongside one another, but to approach life with a united front. It is easy to do this at times and more stressful at others. Our life for the past year has been testing the limits of this advice. There have been times when I have felt like my husband is speeding ahead of me and leaving me in the dust, and as a result, there have been just as many times when I felt like I was holding him back.
This all gets to the heart of some very important truths of marriage, and I hope through explaining how it specifically applies to us that you will find how these truths apply to your own marriage. Within my aunt’s advice, there are some questions it obliges us to ask ourselves to ensure that we are keeping pace with our spouse in this walk through life.
Keeping Perfect Pace With Your Partner
Are you holding your partner back?
I married the World’s Biggest Dreamer. Ask anyone who knows my husband. His list of dreams is a mile long. The only way he’d be able to accomplish everything he wants to accomplish would be to live forever… and to this, he responds, “Well, you never know. With the scientific advances we make every year…” and then he’ll tell you all about an article he read in Popular Science about how they’re going to figure out how to make the average life span 100 years or something.
I’m the opposite. If I’m being honest, his dreams really scare me. Our brains operate very differently. I crave security. He would be content to have a different job every single day of the week. I’m one of those people more likely to think, “I’m happy at this job, and it’d be scary to search for another one, so I could stay here ‘til I die or somebody offers me a way out.”
This causes us to butt heads on many occasions. I tense up when he talks about the future and all that he wants to do. It’s not easy to be married to someone who succeeds at everything he tries.
For example? You know how some people watch cooking shows and think someday they might get around to making that recipe? My dreamer husband is also a talented do-er. He will make that recipe tomorrow. Also: we watch Project Runway together and one year, he decided to attempt to make me a winter coat. And he did. I still wear it.
He is talented, charming, and smart. I’m very lucky to be married to someone like that. But, sometimes his ambitions make me feel insecure.
I’ve had to learn how to appropriately communicate my insecurities, rather than let them color how I treat my husband. I can’t dig in my heels, become aloof, or hold it all inside until I explode. When I behave in those selfish ways, I’m making his dreams about me. I’m holding him back.
Here’s the problem: when it comes to following your dreams, it is best to surround yourself with people who are uplifting and encourage your success. I want to be that person for Jonah. If I’m not, reaching his dreams becomes that much more difficult. I don’t want to be the one holding him back, because more than anyone else, I recognize his potential. I don’t want to be the reason he’s not chasing his dreams. So it’s important that I learn how to support him in the way he needs to be supported. I know we can’t be the only couple who struggles with this. Michelle wrote a great post about this if you need somewhere to start!
Are you speeding ahead?
One of the hardest aspects of marriage, in my humble opinion, is dealing with change. The person you marry is not going to stay 100% the same for the entire course of your life together. People grow and they change– that’s life. What creates tension in a marriage (and in any relationship, really) is when one person changes at a rate that the other person either can’t keep up with or is resistant to. It’s important that when we are changing and moving forward in life, that we aren’t leaving those we love in the dust. Especially our spouse.
This becomes ever more the case when approaching the big changes in life– changing careers, relocating, having kids, buying a first home, or chasing dreams. It’s important to remember you’re in this together. It’s like taking your kid on a hike up a mountain. They’re not at the same physical level as you, so you aren’t just going to blaze ahead on the trail and assume they’ll be right behind you. You have to check in from time to time to make sure they aren’t getting burnt out.
My husband and I made a very big decision almost a year and a half ago: he was going to pursue his biggest dream. He was going to give becoming an actor a real shot. We were going to commit and take real steps towards making it happen. It’s been a bumpy ride, and if I can share anything with you from my experience in being the wife of a dreamer, it’s this.
If your spouse is giving you the gift of supporting your dreams, and making sacrifices of their own to support you, be cognizant of that sacrifice and respectful of time. Check in often. What are your spouse’s dreams? Do they still have time and opportunity of their own to pursue their passions? If all of your spouse’s energy is put into making your dreams come true, you could be leaving them behind. Even though it might feel like you’re in this together, your partner isn’t progressing in the same way that you are. He or she is running alongside you, potentially losing bits of him or her self in the process. If he’s scrambling to keep up with you, he can’t feel like a true partner. You want to be standing together when you reach the top of the mountain, right?
Are you walking together?
Practically, what does this look like in a marriage? I think it means having that united front. It means looking in the same direction. Often our biggest disagreements in marriage come from a difference in how we value certain things in life. So look at what you value as a couple and get on the same page. When you can’t get on the same page, get in the same chapter. Remember that you are teammates, and walking side-by-side in marriage means that you’re making sure that the vision you have for your life together aligns, so that you are looking in the same direction. If you’re finding that you’re having the same disagreements over and over, it might be a vision issue (stemming from a values issue). Stop and assess the view. Then grab your partner’s hand and keep walking.
What piece of marriage advice have you been given that has “stuck”? What words come to mind from time to time? Please feel free to post them in the comments section or on the #staymarried Facebook community page. Someone might need to hear the marriage truths in those words. For me and Jonah, it’s, “don’t walk in front of or behind each other.” When it comes to growth, change, and dream-chasing and marriage, I really think it is that simple. But simple isn’t always easy. Don’t hold each other back, and don’t drag each other along. Walk side-by-side. Hold hands. Face the world together and #staymarried.
Katie Saesan is the editor of the #staymarried blog. She doesn’t write here often, though her fingerprints are on every entry that’s ever been published. Tony and I are so incredibly thankful for the faithfulness, hard work, and enthusiasm she brings to the #staymarried mission. In fact, her last post, Does Your Marriage Need a Rebrand?, has been one of our most visited. If you’d like to hear more from her, you can find her on Twitter and her own blog where she writes about two of the things she loves most in life: running and reading.
Their teamwork in reaching for her husband Jonah’s goal of pursuing acting seems to be paying off. Check out his latest video that was recently featured on Clickhole, an affiliate of The Onion. Watch: Soldier Surprises Total Stranger
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