This has been sitting in my drafts for FOUR YEARS. I rediscovered it a while back and decided it was time to update, finish, and publish.
I recently read an article about selfish love. And it got me thinking.
People talk about how something like half of all marriages in the US end in divorce. I have known a lot of people who are divorced, or whose parents divorced, or were impacted somehow by a divorce. Being a member of a faith that places a HUGE priority on marriage and family—not just in mortality, either, but for eternity—has sheltered me from a lot of it, though. I guess that’s why it has been so shocking over the last year or so to hear about family after family that is falling apart. Divorce is not just something that happens to other people’s parents anymore; it’s affecting people my age who I know + love.
I am heartbroken over these broken homes.
Our marriage isn’t perfect. Is there even such a thing as a perfect marriage? I mean, I try hard to be a good person, which I hope translates well into being a good wife. And David? Quite simply, he’s my favorite.
But let’s be honest. At the end of the day, he is just a man. And I am just a woman. We’re people, and we struggle, and much as we love each other, we don’t always like each other or our children or our circumstances. Life is hard, y’all, even when you’ve got everything you ever wanted.
Our anniversary is tomorrow. Ten years we’ve been at this now. Ten years still doesn’t seem like very many to me. But with so many not even making it that long, I have to wonder what makes our marriage different. Why, with all that we’ve been through—infertility, unemployment, the whole shebang—are we still together?
1) We remember that we are individuals.
My needs + priorities + interests + preferences + parenting style are not the same as David’s. We have lots in common, sure, but plenty of differences too. And neither of us has a monopoly on what is right or best. Instead of expecting him to do things the way I do them, I try to step back so he can do things his way. He tries to do the same for me. We give one another space to be who we are, without unrealistic expectations or demands.
2) We remember that we are partners.
One of my favorite things about our marriage is how often we remind each other that we make a good team. When we work together, we get so much done! Our kids know that when he says something, asking me for a second opinion will only get them a, “I support whatever Daddy said,” and vice versa. On occasion I’ll disagree with his decision, but I wait to talk about it until after the moment has passed (and ideally the kids are elsewhere) so we can strategize for next time. They can’t play us off each other because we are in this together.
Which leads to…
3) We place our partnership above everything else. Everything.
Parents, children, friends, work, hobbies, finances…none of that comes before our marriage.
When priorities shift and thing start to feel off-kilter, we adjust. Adjusting usually means turning away from distractions and toward each other.
4) We don’t ignore the bad stuff.
Life is hard. Kids are annoying. Work is stressful. Family dynamics get complicated. Money is tight. We are human and we make mistakes all the dang time. And when things aren’t good, we both tend to clam up and let it fester.
We’ve learned, though, that ignoring problems doesn’t make them go away. The only way to make things better is to acknowledge that something is wrong in the first place. Just admitting we have a problem goes a long way toward resolving it…and the sooner we do it, the easier that resolution becomes.
5) We try to focus on the good stuff.
Finding silver linings can be a challenge. Gratitude changes everything, though, and even on the worst of days we can find something to be grateful for.
6) We lift each other up.
When I’m struggling, I can count on David to pick up the slack and make my life better. I can’t tell you how many weekend naps he has enabled me to take because I’m flat out exhausted. That small act of service does wonders for my state of mind. When he is overwhelmed at work, I do what I can to minimize stressors at home and keep him well fed. Good food helps everything, at least at our house.
Frequently I find that when I’m having a hard time, he is able to support me a little more than usual. It goes both ways, too; when he’s extra stressed, somehow I’m able to remain calm and pull things together with less effort than usual. It works out. As the old adage goes, “I lift thee and thee lift me, and we’ll ascend together.”
7) We communicate.
Perhaps we’re the only ones, but after ten years we still haven’t figured out how to read each other’s minds. So when something is bothering us, we sit down to discuss it and figure out how to correct the problem. Those conversations are almost always uncomfortable, but they also almost always lead to positive change.
It’s not enough to just talk at each other, though. We’ve both gotten much better about really hearing what the other person has to say, rather than waiting for the right moment to say our own piece. There’s a difference between listening to understand and listening for an opening. Plus honest communication makes us vulnerable. If I tell David something that reveals my own weakness, he could always exploit that weakness. I have to trust that when I open up, he will continue to respect + protect my heart. And I must do the same.
We avoid tearing each other down with the way we communicate. Rather, we focus on building each other up and strengthening our relationship.
8) We laugh together.
All. The. Time. About stupid things. And when we can’t laugh about something…well, the only time that has happened was when I was deep in postpartum depression and needed professional help. David has unfailingly encouraged me to take care of my mental health. Now I laugh with him again.
If either of us ever loses our sense of humor again, we’ll know something’s seriously wrong. Until then, we’ll be over here quoting Heavyweights at each other ad infinitum.
Typing all of this makes it seem so easy. Some days it is. Other days it’s really really not, and we have to work hard to keep this thing afloat. It’s humbling. Sometimes it’s even humiliating. I hate being wrong, and I hate being bad at something.
But the more willing I am to be vulnerable with David, the more open + affectionate he is. The more effort we put in to drawing closer to each other, the easier it becomes.
At the end of the day, we’re in this together. And I feel pretty good about that.