It wasn’t until we were married for a few years that I started feeling uncomfortable talking about mine and Zach’s relationship. I’d already endured years of eye rolling, but when one of my closest friends started going through a difficult time in her marriage, I just didn’t feel like it was appropriate to talk about my marriage. We’d never gone through anything tough or trying and I just felt like I needed to be a listening ear and not rub my inexperienced marriage in anyone’s face.
Around the four year mark, people started saying things like, “Oh just wait. Things will get bad. Trust me. They always do.” We’d go to marriage retreats and seminars and the speaker would say to a crowd full of nodding attendees, “One day, things are going to get so bad that you’re going to want to leave and run away and never come back, and the only reason you’ll stay is because you choose to stay.” I’ll never forget when one speaker told us that one day we won’t be in love anymore and we’ll have to fight through it until we learn to love each other again.
Zach and I would always walk away from those meetings feeling so defeated and confused and wondering when the other shoe was going to drop. We’d have long conversations about our relationship and wondering if we were just deluded into thinking that our relationship could always be as good as it was right then. He’d remind me that he would always choose me and even if he didn’t “feel” love, he would always choose to love me. (You can read more of his thoughts on that whole thing in the only post he’s ever written for ya’ll : When I Hate My Wife)
So now we’re over six years into this marriage and 9 years into our relationship. The other shoe hasn’t dropped yet and we’re used to the eye rolls. We get that we’re still newly married (ish) and that our toughest years are yet to come. We’re still in our 20’s, still in the having energy, having babies, having lots of sex stage. We’re not deluded about the future. We know things can get bad. But they haven’t yet and so sometimes we feel like because things haven’t been tough and we haven’t had to fight for our marriage that we somehow don’t qualify as married folk. We get awkward when people share marriage war stories because we don’t have any. We get annoyed when people roll their eyes at us as if we’re teenagers in love that have yet to meet the reality of relationships. It’s disheartening and frustrating because why is it such a bad thing that our marriage is awesome?
All my life, the only marriage stories I’ve ever heard people talk about are the ones that were broken and then miraculously put back together. Or the ones that broke, never mended, but then they met someone else and then everything was perfect. Very rarely do you ever hear someone talk about having a consistently good relationship with their spouse, in spite of trials and in spite of life circumstances. In premarital counseling, you’re warned of all the things that can and will go wrong once you’re in a married relationship and you’re given tools to deal with those issues, overcome them, and have a happy marriage again. Those are all great things, but what about preventive measures? What about setting up your marriage for success before you even cross those bridges?
Zach and I have come close to crossing a few bridges that we’d never thought we’d have to cross. But when we got to those bridges, we stopped. No steps further. We turned around, fought it out, and walked away still tethered to each other. And yet for someone reason, that type of marriage is laughed at because we're naive and inexperienced. Maybe that's true. Maybe we just don't know what we got ourselves into and the future will be bleak and hopeless. But I don't think so. And here's why.
We talk about every.single.thing. Zach is my best friend, in every sense of the word. He's the first person I want to talk to when I'm excited, struggling, angry, sad, whatever. I tell him every ugly thought, every sappy emotion, every embarassing experience, and he does the same for me. It's not a rule, it's just something we've always done. I'd rather hang out with him than anyone else. My feelings of loneliness during this season of motherhood never last very long, because I have him to fall back on. We have fun together, we laugh together, we play stupid games, and act like children. It works for us.
We don't fight about money. Ever. It doesn't matter who is making the money, it all goes into the same pot. There is no mine and yours, there is just ours. We decide together where every dollar is going to go. Sometimes we don't agree, but we always work it out before we walk away from budget night. We're on the same team when it comes to this money thing and if we weren't, I'm pretty sure our marriage would be a lot rockier. We were so lucky to find Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University class in our second year of marriage. We did a lot of money fighting before then, but after that, we've been on the same page and haven't fought about money since. Not once. It's incredible.
We respect each other. I don't belittle or demean him and he doesn't roll his eyes at my emotional outbursts. If one of us crosses the line, we let the other one know immediately. And then we talk. A lot. I tend to be the one that wants to walk away, but Zach usually won't let me off that easily.
We resolve our marital issues before we even have the chance to take it outside of our relationship. I've never felt the need to talk to my friends about some awful thing he did because I talk to him first. We work it out before it has the chance to leave the house. I don't call my friends when I'm angry at him, but I'll talk to them about it later, when it's over. I respect him too much to spread our issues around to other people. (See my post Why I Won't Bash My Husband for more of my thoughts on that.)
We don't use the "D" word. Divorce is not even an option. We don't even use that word in heated arguments or as an empty threat. It doesn't come into our marriage at all. That keeps us from having an escape plan and it kind of forces us to choose to love each other every day. I know things won't always be pretty and young and full of good vibes, but when things get ugly and boring and lifeless, we'll have years of practicing love and commitment to fall back on. I choose him every day. He chooses me every day. And we always will. (Here's a post I wrote on the "D" word for the Knoxville Moms Blog a few months ago.)
I just wish we could stop glorifying struggle. Yes, it is amazing when a couple can overcome hardship and rise from the ashes of a broken marriage. Actually, "amazing" isn't even the word. It's phenomenal. A miracle, even. But that shouldn't negate the miracle of a marriage that's never been broken. We work hard at our marriage and it's worth celebrating and bragging about. Healthy marriages shouldn't be hidden, they should be flaunted. So this is me flaunting.
Permission to flaunt your feathers granted, internet.