My husband and I celebrated our 10-year anniversary last week. I felt like this milestone SURELY warranted a social media mention but for the life of me, I just couldn’t manage to boil down 10 years into one sappy Facebook post that nobody else would fully appreciate anyway. So I let the day pass me by and resisted the urge to just post a bunch of pictures of myself 10 years younger and 15 pounds lighter.
I completely realize that 10 years is a drop in the bucket for a lot of people. Both our parents have been married for over 40 years, so they are probably laughing at how proud we are of our shiny cute little 10 year milestone. But I will say that some BIG stuff happens in the first 10. The first 10 years pack in the newness of marriage, followed by the not-so-newness of marriage, a big move, a career change, a job loss, baby or BABIES, random crisis, identity crisis, and perhaps even another move, because now you have SPACE crisis. Actually, we have fit in all of the above, in that particular order, within our first 10 years.
Since I really just can’t find the words to describe what marriage IS, I decided to identify some things that marriage IS NOT.
SO HERE WE GO.
MARRIAGE IS NOT…
1) EASY. If this were a Family Feud question, survey says: this is the Number One answer. Gosh, I can’t shout it from the rooftops enough that MARRIAGE IS SO HARD. And listen, I’m married to an amazing guy. Yet, he still drives me ever-lovin’ crazy sometimes and no doubt, he thinks I have about 72 personalities. I continually remind myself that the very things that drive me nuts about my husband are the very qualities that made me fall in love with him years ago. I constantly check my expectations against reality. I accept that our master closet will eternally look like a FRAT HOUSE.
Bottom line is, our human nature is selfish and self-serving, with which, no marriage can thrive. But that’s just really surface level. Beyond the personality differences, little annoyances, and conflicting opinions, LIFE events push the boundaries of even the happiest marriages. I’ve watched my husband bawl over impossible career decisions. He’s seen me crumble under my new identity of being “just a mom.” We’ve lost close family members, disregarded each other’s feelings, literally watch as our house burned, we’ve had seasons where we just weren’t on the same page.
And these seasons have changed us because LIFE is out of our control. And that’s when it gets really hard. When you know you’ve both changed and you think: “Is this really the person I married?” And the answer is YES and NO at the same time. This is where the beauty of the covenant of marriage kicks in. The commitment kicks in. The BETTER or WORSE comes calling. It takes monumental effort, but you have to look for the good in your spouse, intentionally focus on loving and lifting up as opposed to tearing down. And be patient and WAIT. And it is in these seasons that we’ve learned what our marriage is really made of.
MARRIAGE IS NOT…..
2) A COMPETITION. A little louder for the back: Marriage is not a competition! First of all, it’s not a competition with anyone else’s marriage. I was whining (YES, whining) the other day about how my husband had such a STRONG opinion about a project I wanted to do in our home, and my girlfriend was like: “I would LOVE for my husband to even have an opinion! He just says “Whatever” to everything I suggest!”
Listen, this is just the good ole-fashioned “the grass is always greener” mentality. I get so hyper-focused on what someone else’s husband did, gift they gave, or date they planned, that I completely overlook some of the areas that MY hubby totally rocks. SO WHAT if I make all the dinner reservations!? It works for us! It doesn’t mean that my hubby doesn’t want to go on the date, it just means he just doesn’t have TIME to scour who has the best desserts in Collin County. (Priorities, people.) Every marriage “personality” is different and while getting outside the box is a good thing, it isn’t fair to expect your spouse to conform to something that is totally unnatural to them. Celebrate what your spouse DOES WELL for you, and as an old pastor of mine says: “Draw a circle around yourself and only worry about who’s in it.”
Marriage is also not a competition with EACH OTHER. Boy, has this been an issue for us in the past few years. When we were first married and were both working and essentially earning the same income, we were fine. The trouble came (for me) when I had our first child and we decided for me to stay home. Did you hear that: This was a joint decision! We agreed that financially and for our family, this was the right thing. But insecurities crept in. Sleep deprivation took its toll. Motherhood was all consuming. And before we knew it, we were constantly arguing about who was working harder, who had the toughest day, who was “contributing most” to the family.
It’s almost five years later and I’m rolling my eyes at this, because we were so wrong to even have those arguments. But in the moment it is real and it is frustrating. My husband has learned that motherhood IS INDEED all consuming and he often offers help and breaks. And I learned (with help from a wise mentor) that there are pressures that my husband faces as a husband/father/provider that I will also never understand.
So I can truly say, because I made the mistake: STOP comparing. Celebrate what you offer, lean on each other, and remember that you are in this TOGETHER.
MARRIAGE IS NOT….
3) BORING. My husband actually came up with this one, and I loved it. And he is SO RIGHT! I think that our culture makes marriage sound so DULL, like once you get married all the excitement is over. Like you are entering a lifetime of boredom. And that is the furthest thing from the truth! I feel like life is more fulfilling and vibrant than any semester of college partying. Marriage allows you to put all the pretense behind and just relax and be yourself. You get to create your own traditions, collect an endless list of inside jokes, and make countless memories. The stories that we have accumulated in our marriage are like our own little storybook. The time I chased got chased by a buffalo, the night my hubby wore a full seersucker suit to a Murder Mystery party, the New Year’s party we hosted where we dropped a lighted exercise ball from our apartment balcony at midnight. Our famous dinner experiments, our Friday Night Family Nights, sharing the sweet, priceless moment of our babies being born. It’s the most exciting life I could imagine.
Yes, the first 10 years are a tough season. More than likely, if you’re reading this, you’ve wrestled little people in the bathtub, changed countless diapers, chauffeured kids to endless activities, and dished out a million moments of discipline. Sometimes the days feel like you are literally living out the movie “Groundhog Day.” And the next 10 will be challenging in an entirely different way.
It is in the challenges that our marriages can be our respite, our safe place. In fact, our spouses are the only ones who actually do see everything we face as mothers. Sometimes, my husband and I just look at each other and sigh, high-five each other, and fall into bed knowing that we actually made it through another day.