My Right Arm

What did love look like in the beginning of your marriage?

Lisa: My mom and dad divorced when I was two years old, so I was determined to "do it right" and have a successful marriage. In my teen years, I read a lot of books about marriage and relationships that talked about what love was, compromise, communication, etc. But when the moment finally came, the vows were said and we were suddenly in it forever. I think I practiced what I was most accustomed to - the barter system. I have six siblings in my family so there was always a bit of a competition for resources like food (when my parents would make a Sam’s run, we would gorge ourselves on all the goodies on Day One so we could make sure we got our share), time and attention (fighting for who got TV/computer time, parent time, friend time, and who got to choose the music in the car), and definitely love (it was a simple numbers game. One or all of us always felt like we were missing out, even though my parents were incredibly intentional about letting us know we were loved). So we learned pretty early on to trade for what we wanted. I can still remember paying my little sister to get things for me, and negotiating with my brother to see who’d get to use the car and what I’d have to give so I could go first. Even to this day, when I get together with my sister, we have a massage party where I rub her shoulders for 20 minutes and she rubs mine for 20. I became an expert at give-and-take negotiations.
I remember always feeling like if I did something for Kyle, he had better reciprocate. If I cooked, he cleaned. If I did the laundry, he better not only put it away, but also make sure to tell me that I did a great job and how much he appreciated it. If I took care of the kids all day, he better come home and take care of them all evening. I most definitely felt like I walked around with a chip on my shoulder and a set of high expectations.
Kyle: Honestly, I don’t remember any of that. Lisa and I were labeled the “old married couple” in our group of friends in college, so when we finally did become husband and wife, things didn’t really change much for me. Once I made that commitment to real marriage, it was over and done. Decision made. I love you, you love me, let’s do this. I’m not one to play games like bartering for love. If you have something you want me to do, just ask. I may say no, though. That’s not to say we didn’t have blow up fights every once in a while! In our younger years we worried more. We worried about money, appearances, which family to spend the holidays with, etc.  So occasionally, with the young energy, our voices and actions during disagreements had a bit more power behind them. We were slower to dissolve tension and quicker to anger.

What does love look like in your marriage now?

Lisa: For Christmas this year, we got a dog for our daughter (who came out of the womb wanting a dog). It was so sweet, but the greatest thing of having this new family member is how much he LOVES Kyle. He follows him everywhere, loves cuddling with him while we watch TV, and greets him with CRAZY enthusiasm when he gets home from work. He doesn’t get mad at him for being busy. He doesn’t hold a grudge about something Kyle said that hurt his feelings. He doesn’t take things personally. He doesn’t get frustrated when Kyle’s not doing what he wants. He just loves him without condition. It’s a beautiful thing to see and I think a perfect analogy for where I am in our marriage now.  
Kyle is 100% human and definitely makes mistakes. But not only do I LOVE him, but I also really, really like that guy. I’ve made it a practice in my marriage to see the good, the beauty, the things to praise in him. I don’t always understand him, but I do my best to really try to imagine what he feels and why he feels that way. I think about him without even knowing I am thinking about him. When he gets home I am so excited to see him. In fact, I get frustrated with the kids because they want to talk to him so much and so do I! He’s the person I want to do all of my life with. It’s a different kind of love for me now than it was in the beginning. Now I really just love him because he is, not because of what he does for me.
Kyle: Oh the talking when I get home! My wife and two girls come at me from all directions, while my son hugs me and goes about his business. Buddy (our new dog) is a nice change of pace. We just acknowledge each other with a look and a hug and sit together in silence while all the girls tell us about their days.  
This may sound weird to some (or maybe most men think this way?) but I call Lisa my “right arm.” I’m right handed. Without my right arm, I could do NOTHING. I LOVE my right arm. Without Lisa, I could do NOTHING. I would sit in an undecorated house, eat ice cream for dinner (well, that sounds kinda awesome), and never make any decisions. We run every decision past each other, every worry, every joyful moment. It really feels like we are one person sometimes.
Once in a while, you take your right arm for granted. You forget how vital it is. By no means are we perfect or have no problems. But I try to be quick to recognize those moments before they escalate. 

What changed?

Lisa: SO MUCH!  But I think the biggest thing is that when we had our kids, I really began understanding what real Love is. The kind that wants nothing from the other person, and just desires to care, support, provide, enjoy. Having them broke my heart open in the most exquisite way, and most importantly, helped me to understand God’s Love for ME! As I have continued to do the work of really accepting that Love and the truth of what He says about me, all my relationships have shifted. ESPECIALLY the one closest to me. I am able to love more without condition and to see Kyle’s value because he is God’s creation. Compassion, understanding, and forgiveness come a lot easier. I guess as I have received God's grace, I am more willing and able to give it. And I find myself seeing more of what I think God sees when He looks at me - perfection in the midst of all the flaws.  
Kyle: For the most part, I think age and maturity has changed us the most. You start to see the world from a less self-centered point of view when you get older. Maybe having kids helps with that too. We started to see each other as teammates in this parenting thing, instead of opponents.

 One thing that brought us closer together in the past eight years is serving at church. My job as an engineer doesn’t really lend itself to exciting conversations. Having a common mission to accomplish great things for God has opened up MANY. We said “Yes” to serving Him one day and have never looked back. Serving God has its ups and downs. From the joys of seeing families find Jesus in everything, to the agony of church politics. But we are doing it together. I’m in awe of the community Lisa has helped create at our churches and now online!

Kyle and Lisa have been married for 15 years and are parents to three kids who make them smile, yell, and really think on a daily basis (in no particular order). They are homebodies at heart, but love a good adventure as long as it's a road trip (Lisa hates flying). Good TV, great food, and serving God together keep them connected.