What My Love Affair with Coffee Taught Me About Marriage


(This article originally posted at carrotsformichaelmas.com)

The other morning, my husband said, “I love you.” Well, actually, I just heard “I love you.” What he actually said was “here’s your coffee,” as he set down my favorite mug on our bedside table. Leaving me to nurse our daughter in the quiet bedroom, he walked out to begin the lively breakfast dance of frying potatoes while our three-year-old and five-year-old scampered around the kitchen–leaving an obstacle course of LEGO creations and Play-doh mines for the cook.

It may seem like a small gesture, but truly folks, handing a cup of coffee to a tired mother is like crafting a ballad of undying devotion.

Coffee, the love story, was woven into my ideas about love long before last week. I’ve been drinking coffee since I was too young to drink it (come to think of it, maybe that’s why I’m so short). It’s a ritual. A mood-lifter. A necessity. A life-long love affair.

When I woke up the morning after my wedding, I heard my groom tiptoe-ing out the door of the hotel room–returning a few minutes later with a cup of coffee for me. He brought a few packets of sugar and some half n’ half. He knew exactly how I drank my coffee–barely discernable through all the sugar and cream (don’t worry, I’ve since grown up and learned to drink it black).

He wasn’t a coffee drinker then, but he wasn’t thinking about himself. He knew that a good day for his new bride started with a cup of coffee.

I remember sitting up in bed on that May morning, trying to wrap my mind around the idea that the handsome guy I could see over the top of my coffee mug was my husband.

So this is marriage,” I thought to myself.  And it was marriage. That tiny act of thoughtfulness was just as much marriage as the joy and laughter of our wedding celebration and our first passionate night together. These little sacrifices for each other that fill our days are highly underrated. It’s not the grand gestures, but the tiny ones that lay the foundation for an epic love story.

 We undervalue the daily grind of marriage. We fear the everydayness of it. We seek the passion and romance of love, but worry that it comes hand-in-hand with a rigid monotony as if the idea that facing day-to-day life with one person instead of having the freedom to move from one relationship to the next is a downside. A drudge. A bore. Day after day. Year after year of a mind-numbing rut to be stuck in forever.

Kind of like when I wake up to a new day and dread that monotonous cup of morning coffee. Such a chore to drink it–chained to the same old beverage day after day. Ugh. Coffee. AGAIN. If only I could switch things up with a morning chai latte. A cup of green tea. Some other caffeinated soda? Bring back SURGE, perhaps?

Oh, wait. That’s not what I think at all. And apparently I’m not alone since the majority of Americans are also daily drinkers of the heavenly stuff.

So is that critique of marriage really fair? Do we view other facets of life as oppressive merely because they are woven into each of our days?

I treasure my cup of coffee, not despite the fact that I drink it daily, but also because of it’s everydayness. I delight in the fact that this good thing, this cup of joy, is woven into my days. And I love my marriage for it’s everydayness, too. That this sacramental grace flows through the days and week and years.

This daily grind of marriage isn’t a downside. It’s a quotidian sacred liturgy of life together–and that doesn’t make it lifeless or boring. It’s the tiny, seemingly insignificant moments of grace that build upon each other and knit us together.

Waking up next to Daniel every morning for 3,000 days, eating at least 6,000 meals together, changing a million diapers, losing so many nights of sleep to the care of our three children, wiping down dirty kitchen counters countless times, does that make it any less magical and sacred, any less exciting? No.Doesn’t it become more beautiful over time that we said, ‘yes,’ to living one more day of this adventure together? Like Christmas morning–each year of marriage becomes a little more precious, a little more magical. Not in spite of the time together, but because of it.

Daniel drinks his coffee black. Yup, he didn’t last long avoiding coffee married to me. But then again, we’ve grown more alike over the past eight years. I eat oysters now. He drinks coffee. He makes a valiant effort to sound interested in the minutiae of blogging and I try to understand why running 100 mile ultra marathons is something a human being would want to do. We’ve grown together.

But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Sometimes the cup is bitter. We hurt each other. We fail each other. It stings. But as we remove each others masks, and commit to loving the person we married–flaws and pain and all, the daily graces of marriage build and grow. When I look at my husband over my cup of coffee, I see him differently than I did the morning after our wedding. I know him more deeply. I’m less naive, but more in love. I don’t trust the way a young bride does that he will never let me down. In fact I don’t believe that at all. He will let me down. I have and will let him down. We are human, we are sinful, we will fail each other. But after so many days on this adventure together, I don’t worry anymore about giving up somewhere along the road. Because the good thing about marriage is that it’s full of grace. Grace to cover our sin. Grace to hold us together. Grace to not give up on each other.

And sometimes that grace flows through a simple cup of coffee, given at the right moment, so that it speaks ‘I love you’ with each sip.