Three Essentials of Marriage: # 2–Tell Your Story

In honor of the three wedding dishes that have survived 16.5 years of marriage, I am writing about the three things that I have found to be essential to married life. Number One, I said, is Praying Out Loud.

IMG_0408The second essential is about truth. I suppose it goes without saying that truth is important in marriage. Well, maybe it doesn’t go without saying. Truth is important in marriage. I have never lied to Heather. I have never told a half-lie, or a half-truth. I don’t mean that to sound braggy; I say it because it has been one of our principles; understood but not ever actually talked about, to my recollection.

That being said, the truth telling that has been essential to our marriage has not been the not-lying variety, but rather the practice of telling our story. Both of us love this story; it’s maybe our favorite, which is saying a lot for two people who love literature. We tell it all the time, to anyone who will listen; most importantly, we tell it to ourselves. On a long car ride; on a ski lift; on a date. We tell ourselves, over and over, how we met, how we started dating, how she dumped me and why, the year after that when we became best friends (involving many meetings of our “book club” in which never once did we discuss a book), how I tried to get over her but couldn’t (even though our friends kept telling me I didn’t have a chance: “Hoff, get over her, she is never going to date you again”), how she came around and why, how we got engaged, why it freaked me out, our wedding, . . . on and on, over and over. Strange, isn’t it? Why would two married people need to tell themselves their own story? I mean, we know what happened, right?

The truth is not just the facts. No ma’m. At least the most important kind isn’t. I’m talking about the kind of truth that is about identity. This is why, by the way, that there aren’t bullet points in the Bible. There aren’t lists. What there is is a story. The people of God are a storied people. The reason we have the story that is the Bible is because the people of God told each other their own story. Over and over again. Not because they didn’t have the facts, but because they needed to hear it: about Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, about the burning bush and the desert, about the kings and the prophets and the longed for Anointed, about the Beauty that took on flesh and was among us, was tested as we are, about the One who healed and taught and prayed and wept and was angry and died an unjust death and was raised. Facts, yes, but not just facts. A story that becomes true in the telling, over and over and over again, to anyone who will listen, even if it’s just ourselves.

Do you see why this last paragraph is not tangential to this post? Heather and I, too, are a storied people. We tell each other our story because it informs our identity; it is the bedrock of our love and commitment and faithfulness. It’s a story that is ongoing. We not only tell ourselves the story of how it all began, but now add the parts about when our kids were born and were little; we tell ourselves the hard parts of our story, when it didn’t go the way either of us would have wanted to write it. We recount every moment, sweet and salient, quiet and quotidian. We are our story, and so we share our story, one to another, narrating so as to defend a precious plot of ground.

What is essential? Truth. Storied truth, to be precise. It is a dish that will not be broken, so long as we tell it.

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  1. First, I love this! Yay for being story people and telling your story. Second, do you really only have three remaining dishes??? I could hook you up with some tableware…and for sure Jane Filkin could!

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