We have a king-sized bed. One very early morning, our youngest son crawled into bed with us and encountered a pile of pillows in the middle space.
“I see you have a border of pillows between you. Why is that? Huh?”
S, without missing a beat, “That is actually to make sure you don’t sneak in at night.” [It wasn’t. I just really like having a lot of pillows around me when I sleep.]
The boy then made quick work of the pillows and installed himself as the rightful owner of the middle space.
This made me think of the middle space in our marriage. And yes, I now believe there is such a place.
The middle space is that space in between where things don’t always stay neat. It’s because the middle space is the space that allows for growth. It’s where we process our thoughts, preventing fights and disagreements. It’s where we work things out, alone and together, and come up with the next step.
It’s where I hide out when I need to breathe. It’s where S chills when work gets demanding. And it’s where our kids hang out when they’re not sure which of us is in a better mood.
Our middle space is a safe, neutral spot. Whoever needs it can occupy it. It doesn’t have to be neat all the time, in fact, it looks exactly the way it needs to look for the person who needs it at a given moment.
We didn’t know about this space when we first got married. We had thought, because we were taught, that being married meant becoming one, and that meant one person. We were supposed to be enough for each other. And yet, there were times during those early years when we both felt so suffocated. At times it even felt hopeless. And now I understand why.
I had heard marriage was a lot like making tea. Like, you dip the teabag into a mug of plain hot water and suddenly the water changes color. And you know it’s still liquid, but it looks like tea now, and not like water. To be honest, I’m not sure what I think about that anymore.
We had bought into the lie that we’re supposed to complete each other. Two imperfect human beings, completing each other. Why didn’t I see how impossible that was?
Sixteen years later, I see things so differently. Now I understand that when we said our vows, it was our lives that became one. We were still two separate individuals, with our own personalities and our own roles to fulfill. One shared life, but two people living it.
Marriage didn’t mean I had to give up being an individual, but it did mean I had to give up my independence. I now have a partner to do life with, and “becoming one” meant being together, but not necessarily morphing into a pantomime of each other. We had started a new journey as a couple, but we didn’t have to be a perfect fit right away. And sure, we needed to grow, but we needed to grow into better versions of our original selves, not some extended version of each other.
Honestly, I like that we’re so different. It teaches me to listen to opinions that are the polar opposite of mine. And do things I wouldn’t normally do. Life is better because we’re both adding to it, not just reflecting each other. And yes, we do need an awful lot of middle space. And that’s a good thing.
Because I am a Christian, I believe marriage, as with everything in life, should bring honor to God. By this I mean S and I need to make sure we not only work together to build a good home, but we also need to use our combined powers to do good in His name.
To be sure, it’s easy to say we’re in it for God’s glory. But I don’t think we’ve earned the right to say that until our guts have been spilled and our hearts have been broken. Only then, when we’ve put a lot of time and sweat equity into it, can we say, with any credibility, that our marriage is for God’s glory.