We’ve written about getting married at an older age and how it has given us more time to individually discover who we are as people. Although that’s true, I’m finding that perhaps I’ve put too much faith in self-awareness, and have misunderstood being stable as being static. All of which is to say, I never expected us to change very much once we got married. How very naive I’ve been.
Try writing a book on marriage with your spouse and you’ll quickly find yourselves forced into conversations you might have otherwise put off. Lately, we’ve been talking about children and whether parenthood is something we want for ourselves. In our conversations leading up to marriage, both of us imagined ourselves as parents one day. But when we sat down to talk about children most recently, Constantino said he wasn’t sure. In fact, he said he leaned toward no.
I felt let down by his response, and even betrayed. After all, he’s the one who is far more passionate about family lines and heritage. He was the one who talked about passing on his family traditions to another generation. I thought, why now does he have the right to change his mind? At first I was angry because I felt duped, as if his change of heart were a bait-and-switch. Then I felt fear because, I wondered, if he could change his mind so quickly about children, what else could he change his mind about? About us? At the core of my feelings, though, was grief. There were a thousand memories I imagined having with my children, and they were all vanishing before me. I even imagined that this blog was ultimately a record of our lives for our grown children to one day read. Everything I believed about our future was slipping away.
When I’ve thought of marriage, I’ve imagined two people walking a long road together. Sometimes the path is flat and wide, winding through green pastures under a mild sun. Other times it’s a rocky uphill trail, muddy from violent storms. In my vision, it was the external elements that changed around two steadfast adventurers forging their way through life. But, of course, that’s not how it works. A story would be dull if the characters at the end of tale were exactly the same as when they started.
It’s silly to think two people aren’t going to change as they journey together—it’s the road that changes them, as well as their time spent traveling together. Expecting your spouse to remain static is to deny their humanity. I married a living, dynamic being, not a rock. Just as our bodies are subject to change, so are our personalities, our opinions, and our values. Change is part of the deal.
I’ve had to look at ways I’ve changed too since we’ve been married. I feel as if I’ve become more introverted as I’ve abdicated to Constantino responsibilities of keeping in touch with our friends and maintaining our social calendar. And I’ve certainly changed from the frightened man of a few years ago who was afraid to even utter the word “boyfriend” when we were dating. Sometimes change is good. Sometimes it just is.
We have many friends who got married in their early 20s who have had to wrestle with monumental changes in identity, both in themselves and in their spouses. We’ve heard how difficult it can be to navigate the daily challenges of relationship while the ground beneath you is shifting. Thriving through change requires letting go of who you think your spouse is, and remaining open to discovering and rediscovering who they are becoming. As part of our culture covenant, Constantino and I have agreed that "personal growth means change, and we never want to stop getting to know each other."
As for our discussion on children, Constantino is still undecided. He balks at having young kids in our lives, but there is a part of him that longs to be a father, to have meaningful relationships with our adult children. For me, the truth is I’m not entirely convinced I want children myself. In the same breath that I felt grief about the possibility of not having them, I felt elation at the new possibilities that life without them might open up. Perhaps this is the struggle every potential parent faces. Or perhaps I’m changing more than I know.
David Khalaf is a fiction writer living in Portland. He and his husband, Constantino, are the authors of Modern Kinship: A Queer Guide to Christian Marriage, forthcoming from Westminster John Knox Press, January 2019.
Photo by James Diewald, used with permission through Flickr Creative Commons.
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