Come Saturday I will have been married to my sweet wonderful husband for FIVE years!!! It seems like yesterday I was dating the guy and now we have two tiny humans and a marriage we’ve worked oh so hard to maintain. I know 5 years still makes us babies in the marriage longevity department, but in that time I’ve learned so many remarkable things about life and love and relationships. This got me to thinking about the expectations that exist about marriage and a lifetime spent with the one you love. From a very young age, the concept of “happily ever after” was shoved down my tiny little girl throat. I was obsessed with princesses and falling in love and generally anything to do with living happily ever after like Ariel or Belle. When I say obsessed, I mean I literally spent time clipping pictures from magazines of my future husband, children and house and made an actual scrapbook of my perfect beautiful life. I’m not kidding either. I remember playing “house” with my best girlfriend where we’d spend hours on end fantasizing about this perfectly wonderful future waiting for us. Man were we naïve.
Obviously, life is not a fairytale. Princes aren’t waiting on white horses to rescue us and carry us off into the sunset. Well actually my husband is a gentle giant of a prince and he has in fact carried me towards a sunset…wait maybe I’m thinking of that one time I had too many amaretto sours and he carried me to the car. Yea totally different sunset. Whatever the case, fairytales always end at the wedding. They never keep going to show us the marriage. Not to mention most fairytales involve “love at first sight” where these crazy ladies get married to a dude they’ve known all of two seconds. They really are quite ridiculous and fail to reflect any of the realities of real life relationships. The feminist in me hates that these stories exist for our young daughters. Even the more badass princesses like Mulan or Pocahontas in the end still crumble to their knees when a man sends sexy vibes their way. I’m sure I could write a completely different blog on my thoughts and fears about raising a daughter in this entirely delusional culture that exists for our girls, but today I want to focus on my own journey as a wife and the things I’ve learned along the way.
Our relationship is far from perfect. I love the man with everything I have, but loving him is sometimes difficult beyond belief. I firmly believe that every relationship has ebs and flows. Seasons of time and space, some beautiful and effortless, others ugly and challenging. In our 5 short years together we’ve already had a series of seasons that have made me feel the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but I wouldn’t change one thing about that journey. When I look back on our relationship 10, 15, 30 or 50 years from now, I know I won’t regret the work we’ve done to get there. In fact one of my favorite sayings comes from that man of mine and he tells me it on the regular – anything worth doing is hard. Well marriage is fucking hard. It’s never perfect, but for me it has always been worth it. So here it is, my perspective on the real, uncensored realities of marriage. Welcome to happily never after cause you’ll never be happy with each other every single second, but you can be happier ever after if you acknowledge some of these things:
Marriage takes work
I already said this like twelve times in the introduction, but I don’t think it can ever be said enough. This was probably one of the more common pieces of advice I received during our engagement. I would nod my head in agreement and act like I knew what that meant, but I was clueless. It wasn’t until after the high of wedding planning and honeymoons and testing out all the fun new fancy wedding gifts that shit started to get real. Grocery shopping, paying bills, navigating each other’s families, assembling furniture (if you can successfully assemble Ikea furniture together then you can stay married forever), and generally just sharing space with a dude (or lady) all start to fill your plate and your brain. Suddenly instead of having sex every second, you find yourself arguing about cabinets left open or lights not turned off and go to bed angry and confused.
The person you were googly eyes for the day you met suddenly is the most annoying human on the planet Earth. They snore and put dirty boxer briefs in the sink and never change their toothbrush head when they should. They pick at their toe nails and leave empty candy wrappers all over the house. They can’t ever find shit and always ask you where their keys are and seriously, why oh why can’t they put the dirty clothes IN the basket? I think you catch my drift here. And don’t worry, if my husband were the author of this blog, he’d have a list just as long if not longer of all the annoying shit I do. You see, what this all boils down to is it doesn’t matter who you marry, in the end they are human. We aren’t perfect. We all have our quirks and none of us have our shit completely figured out.
Here’s where the “work” happens. Not only do you have to work at tolerating each other’s annoying habits, but you also have to work at reminding yourself about the strengths your partner has. Sometimes in the midst of long days and sleepless nights, you forget about all the good that has happened and instead focus on all the dirty clothes on the floor. But what about the coffee he brought you this morning or the trash he took to the street or the fact that every single night he rubs your back. Yes people, my husband does that. Every. Single. Night. Even on nights when I’ve bitched at him for an hour about being a slob. Why? Well for starters he’s just cool like that, but mostly because he’s better at doing this work than I am. He’s better at letting shit go. He’s better at acceptance. He’s better at loving my flawed complete mess of a self and that’s all part of his work in our marriage. He brings the calm. I bring the energy. So while I’m stubborn and fierce, he is compassionate and steady. He helps me slow down and appreciate moments, while I help him stand up and seek adventure. We may be flawed, but it’s still possible to find the beauty beneath it all and that’s something I’m prepared to work on till death do us part.
The work doesn’t stop there. You don’t just work at reminding yourself why you fell in love in the first place, but also by falling in love with the ever changing person each of you will become over time. The person I married 5 years ago is not the same man today. His roles have changed, his goals have shifted, and his purpose may have new meaning. These changes will continue with each passing year and each of us must work to allow those qualities to build on the next strengthening the relationship as a whole. But more than anything, I think the biggest commitment is the work you do on yourself. For me that means admitting my downfalls and working each and every day to be better. This doesn’t mean changing who you are. I will always be loud and independent and strong-willed, but I can always be those things better. Softer, kinder, and more open and understanding. Looking within ourselves and committing to being our best only fosters stronger, longer lasting relationships with the ones we love. And stronger more confident individuals at that. Ultimately, marriage for me is the hardest job I’ve ever had. I’m sure some wonder how I can say marriage is harder than parenthood and sure, they each have their own difficulties, but marriage to me is the root of our family. It’s where we began and without that strong base our family would be lost.
Communication is vital
Now I don’t just mean talking to each other. Communication is so much more than just saying words. What this really boils down to is understanding each other. We all communicate in different ways and most of us learn how to communicate from our parents. Which side note, that scares the shit out of me every single day. My children are directly affected by every single thing I do. And the things they learn along the way directly affect their future relationships in this world. I’m trying my best not to fuck them up too badly, but did you read that whole part about humans being flawed? Yeaaaaaa. Anywho, understanding your partner and their love language takes a lot of time and energy (more work people!), but it can seriously make a world of difference in the quality of your relationships. For us, it’s been learning and re-learning why we do the things we do so we can in turn communicate with each other more effectively. My husband and I came from two very different worlds, me from a broken turned blended family and him from a nuclear and traditional family unit. I grew up with lots of conflict, he grew up sheltered from it. I often had to fight to be heard, he never had to feel neglected (Dad, if you’re reading this I’m clearly talking about my mother). The point here is to illustrate how enormously different our upbringings were. So when two people make the choice to do life together, they will never be able to do it successfully if they don’t dig deep and truly understand the workings and basis for everything they do. Breaking down our communication styles has been the ultimate saving grace in our journey as husband and wife.
Ask for help when you need it
If you’ve been reading most of my blogs then you already know how I feel about masking emotions. It’s so silly to me to suffer silently in our struggles. We are human. We are built to feel and with each season in our life comes new and sometimes difficult to process emotions. New people, places, roles, or purpose that can overwhelm even the most “together” of humans. For us, getting help meant reaching out to a counselor. Yes, my husband and I have been to counseling more than once. Unfortunately, mental health has a bad rap and most people hear the term “couples counseling” and automatically assume the relationship is doomed. I’m sure some of you are thinking that right now in fact. Ultimately that makes me feel sad for you. Sad that you can’t see the strength and resilience present in that choice. Our ability to seek help in our relationship means anything but doom. In fact, it means the exact opposite. It means we value and love each other deeply enough to do even more work so we can thrive. And that’s exactly what counseling has been able to provide us over the years. It’s allowed us to step outside of ourselves and better understand each other and our struggles. It’s provided time and space to vent our frustrations, wants and needs all with the support of an objective bystander trained in guiding us towards each other, not further apart. Ultimately, every time we’ve been to a session communication is at the root of our conversation. See, it really is vital. It’s the glue that holds everything together. Seriously. But don’t think counseling is the only way to achieve that. There are plenty of ways you can seek help and guidance in your marriage. Whether through church, a trusted friend, or marriage workshop, there are definitely resources available for building stronger relationships and you certainly don’t have to navigate your struggles alone.
So there you have it. I know my story was longer than the average fairy tale, but that’s because real marriages go beyond the Royal ball. They truly are a commitment that requires patience, understanding, and the ability to choose to fight for something you know can be good again. I love you Benjamin Clay Edwards. I choose us always and even though I’ve only said these exact words to you on that muggy day 5 years ago, I want to remind you that these vows run through my head on our best and worst of days.
“I want so many things for our future, but more than anything I want you. I want to honor you, learn from you, and grow with you. I want to shine for you, support you, and love you like no one else in this world can. I promise to take you as my husband, my partner in life and my one true love. I will cherish our union and love you more each day than I did the day before. I will trust you and respect you, laugh with you and cry with you, loving you faithfully through good times and bad, regardless of the obstacles we may face together. I give you my hand, my heart, my love. I choose us forever and always. I love you.”