Marriage and the Weight of Monotony

by Lee Stewart

marriage and the weight of monotony


When my husband and I first started dating, one of the thrills was (oddly enough) that yearning for repetition. When will he call me again? Is next Friday another date? I want more fun, more time, more affectionate words. The way he looked at me yesterday! I want it again today.

God puts eternity in each of our hearts, and sometimes I think repetition knocks on that door. It’s not a repetition that feels like monotony. Instead it feels like we’re brushing up against something solid and enduring—some quality of the eternal.

When we got married, it brought us into the sort of permanence our dating life kept pointing to. Marriage means you do life together and then you do it again tomorrow. When you’re in love, you don’t even need all the tomorrows to be extraordinary. Sometimes you need them to be coffee at Starbucks and a walk at a park. I remember during my engagement, I was excited about the everyday side of marriage. Sure, I wanted the fanfare of the wedding and the honeymoon. But I also wanted to fold his socks along with my own. I wanted to find his shoes by the door. I wanted to hear the sound of him in the next room, filling up a glass of water.

I wanted to wake up to him as surely (and as daily) as the sun rises. And I wanted vows that would put my hand in his, no matter which road we walked.

When we had our first baby, it felt like an extension of the vows. There was this living, growing human being whose very existence told the world how much we loved each other. And with every baby, I’ve yearned for a similar repetition. There’s this innate piece of me that wants the baby to STAY A BABY. But of course I blink and the baby is a toddler—babbling, walking, and being unbearably cute, in spite of the rowdy antics and all the other stuff that defines toddlerhood. So there I am again saying, “SLOW DOWN. I CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF YOU.” But I blink again and the toddler becomes a kindergartener.

So much change. So many seasons. Can’t we repeat a few phases? Just to soak them in a little longer?

Of course, deep down mothers really do want their babies to grow up. But if you’re like me, you still feel the tug. No matter how long some days feel, it still hurts to think that these little ones don’t stay little forever.

Eternity is in our hearts.

But something happens over time as marriage and babies strike up a relationship and suddenly there’s a new chemistry at work. Eventually all this repetition—the kind we yearn for—gets rattled and tested.

Before we had our babies we could count on another meal, another morning, another embrace. But then the babies came along and brought their own repetition. And they should have said, “GAME ON!” because they brought a level of over-and-over-again that knocked us down after awhile.

Parenthood can make the glory in repetition feel more like the weight in monotony.

Our babies never asked us how they could fit into our pre-existing normal or how they could tap along with the rhythms already at play. That’s just not how it works. So there are days I look at my marriage and I can’t find the rhythms anymore—I’ve swapped them for something else. A dinner conversation turned into a toddler throwing spaghetti on the wall. Quality time got exchanged for sleep deprivation. Instead of giving my husband a hug when he walked through the door, I gave him an earful about how overwhelmed I’m feeling.

Sometimes you pull so much weight as a parent that you don’t have any muscles left to carry the marriage. You don’t make time to strengthen the rhythms.

But I’m learning.

I’m learning that muscles are made out of joy, and gratitude knows how to do a lot of heavy lifting. Maybe when parenthood gets monotonous, it just means spouses need to take time to repeat a few things. Things like looking each other right in the eyes. Things like saying I love you again, even if you already said it today. Things like holding hands and speaking kindness out of the blue. Things like long goodnight kisses, and asking him how his day went.

These are the kind of things we signed up for when we said, “I do.”

There’s a kind of repetition that we yearn for and there’s a kind that feels like monotony. But all of it knows how to point to that permanence and that eternity in our hearts. Another morning of the same thing is what God calls another new mercy. Another day with needs to meet and mouths to feed is another day to do good work. This is a gift!

So as I count my blessings one more time, I’m stronger because of it. I’m stronger because joy and thankfulness are holding up my arms. Now I can reach out for repetition. And do it again tomorrow.

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.” G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

 

“And when I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.” Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

Lee Stewart

LeeStewart

 

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4 comments

  1. Stephanie Redmond says:

    Great word, Lee! It is a great reminder to be grateful and joyful in the routine of marriage and family.

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