Today I have the pleasure of sharing an interview I did with my friend, Andrea, who I've known since 5th grade. I interviewed Andrea about her husband, Jack, and their beautiful young marriage. I'm very excited to be kicking off what I hope will become a series on Something Ivory. As I wrote in a recent guest post on a friend's blog, I believe it's important for us happily married young women to share our stories, to be ambassadors for marriage. Instead of always hearing from me I thought it would be fun to interview other young women and friends of mine about their marriages, their joys and struggles, and the beauty they have found as they share life with another.
As you'll soon see, Andrea and Jack are so inspiring. They met in Jack's home country of Kenya, navigated an international relationship and engagement, and are now living together happily in Upstate New York. They have been married for a little over two years. As she was working on her answers Andrea emailed me this: "So far it’s made for a super fun trip down memory lane and honestly it makes me love Jack even more. I think that there is so much power and emotion in writing your thoughts down on paper." Absolutely! Welcome to the beautiful world of blogging, Andrea. I hope you, dear readers, enjoy this.
Describe how you met your husband and how you felt as you got to know him.
Jack and I met in a peculiar way, I think. We never really know how to briefly answer this question without getting asked several follow-up questions. To make a long story short, we were introduced by mutual friends at a soccer tournament at the local sports ground in Kisumu, Kenya. Jack and a group of friends sat down at our table. He was sitting across from me and was seemingly too nervous to talk to me, so he whispered to my friend to ask her my name. When she told him my name was Andrea he had difficulty pronouncing it, so he proceeded to find a nickname for me right then and there. He said to her “your friend has Mzungu eyes”—Mzungu means "white person." I have blue eyes and it was the first time he had ever seen blue eyes in person; and like a mesmerized child he couldn’t stop staring! Needless to say he just had this wit and sweet innocence that I adored from the start. To this day he still calls me "Blue Eyes." We talk about our first encounter quite frequently, and you can bet that we can’t make it through one memory without smiling giddily.
When did you know he was the one you wanted to marry?
One of the special things about our relationship was that we really built it up during the long stretches of time that we were apart. We used to talk for hours each week over the phone, and I am grateful that we got to know each other and love each other without any sort of physical connection. That helped us distinguish between lust and love, and I think that can be difficult to do at times. He always had a way of making me feel safe despite us being thousands of miles apart, and that to this day is one of his strongest attributes. So it really was probably very early on that I started picturing him as my husband. It felt right and natural and I’ve really never met a man who exhibits such a sacrificial and unconditional love for his family. That’s what opened my eyes to the realization that he is truly good and that he has a pure heart and a gentle spirit.
Additionally, I knew he was the one I wanted to marry when I found myself constantly wanting to put his wants and needs before mine. Being the gentleman that he is, he rarely allows that, but I think it’s notable how selfless you become when you find the person who holds your heart. When I am with Jack, I have a desire to care for him before myself. He makes me want to be a better person. I knew I wanted to be his wife when I realized how badly I wanted to be the one to make him happy. I started feeling like I could and would sacrifice anything of mine just to provide for him, and I knew that those feelings were a sign that we were meant to be together. I know he would do the same for me too.
What has been the most rewarding part of your marriage so far?
The biggest reward, I feel, in having Jack here with me and being husband and wife, is that we are finally able share in each other’s accomplishments and experience everything life has to offer together. With marriage comes an entirely wonderful, strong feeling of being an inseparable and unstoppable team. And I believe our circumstances have intensified that even further. Can you imagine leaving the only family and life you have ever known, moving to a foreign land and starting all over? Jack loved me enough to follow me blindly to the United States. When he moved here with me he had never before actually left East Africa. He did not even know one person in my family apart from having talked to them on the phone or on Skype, so he had nothing to go on except for love and trust in me. And so because of this situation, we have had to rely on each other for everything, and with that we have had the privilege of experiencing many “firsts” together. Amongst a list a mile long, this includes his first plane ride, his first time in the USA, his first college experience, his first winter, many firsts with food, my first career, his first time driving a car, buying our very first home, our first time grieving together with the death of our grandparents, etc. And through all of these experiences we have made memories together that have really strengthened us as partners and as friends.
What have you learned about your husband that you didn't know before you got married?
This is a fun one because so much of what I know about my husband has been learned since we’ve been married and living together. It really is the little things that bring you closer….
*I’ve learned how incredibly hilarious he is. The stuff that comes out of his mouth… my word!
*I’ve learned that he likes to keep the house at 75 degrees in the winter and 60 in the summer. That totally stumps me!
*I’ve learned that he does not like any food, cold. It’s only hot cooked meals in our house unless you want to see a 27 year old man whine.
*I’ve learned that he has an incredibly dry sense of humor. He has watched every episode of The Office at least 30 times and still laughs so hard he cries. And his laugh is contagious!
*I’ve learned that he does NOT like snakes or worms or anything that slithers. Have you ever seen a grown man stand on the top of a car because of a worm in the driveway?
*I’ve learned that he snores on his stomach and not on his back. How backward is that?
*I’ve learned that he is one heck of a hard worker: there are days that I come home from work and the entire house is sparkly clean, the dishes are done, and the laundry is clean and folded; and that’s all after he’s put out the trash, worked out at the gym, gone to school and finished his class work!
*Lastly, I’ve learned that he is capable of anything and everything he sets his mind to. He has already far surpassed any expectations I had of him as a husband and a as a provider, and with his drive I know he will continue to take on the world.
How would you describe "the ideal wife," the one you strive always to become?
The ideal wife will be different from person to person and marriage to marriage. It’s hard to describe exactly how I want to be as a wife, but here are several adjectives that sum it up for the most part: respectful, nurturing, supportive, loving, attentive, light-hearted, playful, strong, and selfless. I always try to find the right balance of taking care of Jack and allowing him to take care of me. I do believe that wives should be pampered too…Jack knows that!
How do you face challenges in marriage? What are your strategies for overcoming the inevitable hard moments or hard days?
Over time we have learned when to push harder to work it out and when to step back. It’s really a matter of learning what makes the other one tick and respecting that we have different responses to emotions like stress, joy, or sorrow. We really are so much stronger when we support each other, so any little tiffs get nipped in the bud fairly quickly. We learn to compromise. In terms of life challenges that we face together, it is all about communication… and body language! It’s amazing how much easier it is to get through a hardship when you are looking someone in the eye instead of acting distracted or disengaged. I think it shows them that this is important to you, too. Also, a simple hug or hand hold can make a world of difference. Those little things serve as a reminder that we are on the same side and that we love each other…and so I think that really helps!
What lessons have you learned throughout your journey to becoming husband and wife?
Our situation is unique in the fact that we did not have years of ‘dating’ before marriage. With him in Africa and me in the US the majority of the time, we only managed to spend about 7 months together in person before getting married. Despite the distance and separation, we did our best to look for the light at the end of the tunnel; that one day we would be together. Our marriage was the most significant event in my life to date because it simultaneously closed a chapter in our lives that was filled with struggle and sacrifice, and blessed us with the opportunity to finally begin our life journey together.
Getting to the point where we were able to get married was a bit of a nightmare. The decision that we made for Jack to move here was hard enough, and then it became a matter of going through all the legal procedures that our government has in place for immigrants. We went through a period of time when there was so much doubt and fear looming over us that we questioned whether or not it was actually worth it. It was challenging to remember the solidity of our relationship when we were continents apart and our fate was stuck in the hands of someone else (government). We had absolutely no control and that is really very intimidating! We had close friends who chastised us for being naive enough to believe that we could make our relationship work, and that doubt made it difficult to trust in our own decisions. Overall it was a detailed and stressful process that took months of patience and faith, but one that taught us a lot. I thank God for His guidance through it all and for blessing us with families that supported us and prayed for us every step of the way. God makes the impossible, possible, and we are all living proof of that. Throughout our journey so far, that has been the message that has been made most clear to me.
How do you feel about “young” marriage?
I do not wish to sway people in their beliefs about marriage, but more so to be a testament to the potential benefits of finding a life partner at a young age. I realize that I cannot generalize our entire population, so take this as you wish, but I think our culture has taught us to be wary of marriage rather than embrace it and respect it. Divorce rates are high and that is disheartening and daunting, but ultimately that is something that I believe we can combat. I think it comes down to marrying the right person for the right reasons at a point in time when we are mature enough to handle the commitment. I think that so much of that comes back to identifying and respecting the difference between lust and love. I realize that our twenties are known to be the time to live it up and be young and free. And while I admit that that is probably fun at times, from my own experiences in my twenties, I have never found as much happiness and contentedness as I have since marrying my husband. I’ve never made as much progress in life as I have since I’ve been married either. I just love the feeling of being settled. Marrying Jack has made me want to be a better and more productive woman. To me, marriage is peaceful, comforting, and gratifying. During the most stressful times of life when I feel like nothing is going quite right and I’m searching for something to lift my spirits and look forward to, I am blessed to go home to an amazing man and a house and life of our very own. My marriage is my safe haven and is by far the biggest blessing in my life so far!
Thanks so much Andrea! Your story is beautiful.