Can I confess something to you about this wedding photo? It’s not what it seems. Despite those “flames of passion” burning in the background, and the Photoshop filter and longing looks, my husband and I were not having the kind of happy moment we appear to be having. The picture was actually taken five months after we said “I do” and we were both reeling from an unresolved argument.
Still newlyweds, but five months into marriage, we were invited to dress up again for a photo shoot to help our photographers start a new business. The morning of the shoot, Greg and I got into a pretty bitter conflict. I honestly don’t remember what it was about, but I do know that both of us were not at our best when we arrived all dressed up and ready to go through the motions of the “happiest day of our lives.”
I remember getting ready; doing my hair, putting on the veil, and glancing back at Greg in disdain as I put on my make-up. How ironic. How very, very wrong it felt to be posing in wedding garb with such anger in my heart. I was flustered. I didn’t know how to communicate my feelings and I chose to give him the silent treatment rather than try. It was easier that way. But uglier too. And the tension just ruminated between us like a thick fog.
Nevertheless, we stepped onto the scene with smiles and did our best “newlywed” impressions through the first half of the photo shoot (which was easy since at first we did individual shots). We posed and laughed and honestly had a great time as we went along. But then came time for the more romantic couple shots and we were asked to lean in, be intimate, and “whisper sweet nothings.” The trouble is, “sweet nothings” are generally based on feelings, and that day we literally had nothing sweet to say. Only sarcasm and criticism.
Greg and I used to call the fluttery, young-love feelings, “wummies.” But wummies tend to ebb and flow as time goes on. The veil is lifted, the flaws are discovered. And when you’re just not “feeling” the love, you begin to understand why they’re called sweet “nothings.” Because they truly don’t hold up in the storm of real conflict.
In the moment of that photo, we really had to face each other. Up close…. I mean AWKWARDLY close. And you just can’t fake it when you’re that close. We had to disarm. And we both found ourselves challenged to do the hardest, most humbling thing: Apologize.
We both whispered our love and apologies while the photographers adjusted lighting and snapped away. And it was sweet, but it wasn’t a “sweet nothing.” In some ways, it was everything. It was a pivotal heart-turning moment in a day that, until then, had been all about me.
I look back on those pictures knowing that they represent something so much deeper than they were ever meant to. Although our real wedding day was beautiful and so meaningful, the day of this photo shoot represents a time when my husband and I realized that “fake it till you make it”…even in full wedding garb…just isn’t enough.
We both accepted a challenge to live up to the vows we had made just months before; to be less about ourselves, and more about the other, to grow a little bit more in our understanding of what true love and true commitment really looks like. And it doesn’t look like a tux and a dress and smiling, happy people. It looks like hard work, and choosing to love someone when they are unlovely. And giving the benefit of the doubt. And setting aside pride so that the other person has a chance to understand you, and you have a chance to understand them. And both being willing to change. And listening.
Lot’s of listening.
Sweet nothings and wummies can’t sustain a marriage. And if you, like me, sometimes fall prey to envying the hundreds of “squeaky clean” (false!) images on social media pointing to hundreds of “squeaky clean” marriages and families, take captive those thoughts and know that there is always more to the story. We all have baggage and bad habits. Every marriage is wrought with challenges because human beings are involved!! We are bound to bump up against each others egos in marriage. And when we do, how are we going to respond? In prideful disdain? Through hurtful words or putting up walls? By walking away when it gets hard?
LET THE VEIL BE LIFTED ON MARRIAGE!!
Let us face the music! Let us have the courage to embrace the one God gave us, even in their messiness, as God embraces us in our messiness. And yes, let’s celebrate the good times and post the pictures, but let’s be REAL about our need for grace. Let’s find the good in the hard times. Let’s make the MOST of our conflicts and differences, knowing that with each little battle fought and won through grace and forgiveness, we grow into a love more profound and meaningful than we could have ever imagined. A love that looks outside of ourselves and hopes in something bigger than our own fleeting affections.
To truly know and be known, in all the imperfections, yet still seek to serve and love the other….
That is true intimacy.
That is something worth fighting for.