I have been married for a little over a year and a half.
I grew up knowing my husband Garrett as the boy next door, quite literally. We became neighbors at thirteen and met on a homeschooling field trip. When we graduated high school and came home from college during breaks, our mutual best friend group grew closer.
Summers were usually spent downtown on the beach, picking out a movie for after work, running to the grocery store for cheap brownies, and laughing in our parents’ basements over some ridiculous story. Several of us even planned a successful camping trip one beautiful weekend in August, where we climbed Sleeping Bear dunes and talked for hours around our campfire.
I don’t exactly know when we fell in love, but we did, days before we left for our senior year of college. The hesitancy to start dating stemmed partly from the fact that it was risking a lot to potentially ruin our beloved friend group. But we did.
Being in love lasted about a year and a half.
Being in love was fabulous. Some of the moments Garrett and I shared were so intense, so glorious, and so unbelievably...soaring, that I could scarcely imagine how beautiful married life would be. We felt stupidly and deliciously in love.
The day after we got married, we packed up everything we owned into a little car and moved across the country. We said goodbye to our friends, our families, our familiarity. And very shortly after, I also said goodbye to the intense feelings of romantic love.
Having spent the entirety of our dating and engagement long distance, we were in for a real shock living together. Sharing a studio apartment had seemed so romantic and cute before; now, we each found ourselves dumbfounded at the preposterous and downright insane living habits of the other person. Communicating on Facebook messenger suddenly wasn’t the way we talked. Coming from two completely opposite families, we dealt with stress utterly differently. I would lash out and be direct, and my calm Garrett would have no idea how to respond to this now- aggressively crazy woman he had married. Garrett treated our living space like the dorm room of a nineteen-year-old college student and just about made my sincere desire for order die a tragic death.
We suddenly found ourselves arguing, crying, and stressing out all the time. We reached for the comfort of our flaming, intense romance, but it wasn’t really anywhere to be found.
Instead, we slowly fell back on all those years of raw and authentic friendship. We spent evenings curled up, watching new shows on Netflix, laughing and staying up half of the night like we did with our friends, without so much as holding hands. We went to the store to buy gelato and wine on Friday nights, took walks, drove long drives, and laid in bed together watching ridiculous videos. We prayed in a way that was casual and comfortable.
Having the feeling of being in love was not the glue that brought us together our first year of marriage. It comes back and forth, but it is not constant. It's nice when it comes around.
Having married my best friend, a person whom I actually considered such long before I thought about dating him, made our relationship bearable. It made our mistakes laughable. It allowed us to communicate without the over-intensity of emotion. It provided countless beautiful memories for us to revisit when we missed home and family.
Seeing each other as lovers was exhilarating and felt like flying. But our life was not about flying all the time. Our life was about sinking our roots deep, lovingly planting the habits that would inform how we raised children, building a foundation on something solid.
Friendship--belly-laughing and carefree and vulnerable and happy friendship--was our something solid. It kept us strong and steady when the first year of marriage, in all its stress and newness and fear and havoc, hurled itself at us in full force.
Our romantic, passionate love is a wonderful thing. It is a grace we don’t deserve. But dying to yourself does not feel romantic, and making a sacrifice that burns doesn’t feel passionate. But, if anyone has provided me for an example of truly unconditional love, it has been my friends.
And as Thomas Aquinas writes, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” That is what I cherish the most in my husband. He is my friend turned lover, turned husband, and now turned father of our child.
Christ Himself says there is no greater love than to lay one’s life down for one’s friend. That is what the first year of marriage has shown me in a deeply transformative way. My days and months are full of laying down my own desires and bad habits and wants. For my friend.
The best friendships in life show us this. They show us the friendship God feels for us. And the friendship I share with my spouse is a gift that incarnates that love in a way romantic feelings just start to touch.
Theresa Namenye studied Humanities, Catholic Culture, and Philosophy at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Originally from the Midwest, she currently teaches fourth grade at a classical charter school in Scottsdale, Arizona. A former championship Irish dancer, Theresa still enjoys pursuing the arts in the form of painting, drawing, and calligraphy when she is not reading novels and writing. She and her husband Garrett will celebrate their two year anniversary in August and are expecting their first child in November.