Why Is Having a Good Marriage a Bad Thing?

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.

When Your Love Story Isn't Perfect

I write a lot about mine and Zach's relationship, and I probably always will. We have something special and we are well aware of how blessed we are to have found each other at such a young age. Zach is my best friend, my soul mate, my absolute everything. I'd be lost without him. For real. And I think that's a good thing. Our lives and our hearts are so wrapped up into each other that it would take a lot ... and I mean something catastrophic and extreme ... to rip us apart. Are you done gagging yet? Ok good. I'll carry on then.

Our relationship is great now, but it wasn't always. In fact, by all logic and reason, we should have never made it to the dating stage. Not through the dating stage ... to the dating stage. Zach broke up with me before we were even officially together. I was a psycho overly attached non girlfriend that called him 14 times in a row until he picked up. He was struggling with feeling like he was breaking a vow he made to God not to date for a year and I was struggling with getting over a toxic two year relationship that destroyed all my self worth. We were a mess, but for some reason, we fell in love and decided to make things official and then everything was better and we lived happily ever after.

Except that's a total lie because things just got messier and messier. About two weeks after we made things official, I took off to Paraguay and he took off to Ohio for our summer internships. That was our first awesome decision : to begin a relationship thousands of miles apart. Good job, guys. We almost broke up twice before I even got on the plane. Once I was in Paraguay and he was in Ohio, things got worse. He thought maybe God brought him to Ohio to meet his future wife. I thought maybe God brought me to Paraguay to test my patience with this boy because he was throwing some serious shade. Our relationship was 95% on instant messenger and that was all we had to keep in touch. Every now and then I'd walk to the store and use my calling card to talk to him, but that was rare and it almost always ended in a fight because, as previously stated, I was psycho. If he had to get off the phone before I felt like the appropriate love emotions had been communicated, I'd go ballistic. Poor guy...

That summer was crap. We almost broke up more times than I can count. We spent hours on instant messenger talking about all of our insecurities about our relationship, our fears, our failures, our ugly feelings and all the bull crap that people don't usually confront until they're engaged or married. We just took it right on. He told me he was doubting our relationship and I told him I was doubting him. We didn't work stuff out until the summer was over and we were face to face again. And even then, things were messy.

Our relationship was always messy. Always. And if it wasn't enough that we were struggling with finding our identities, our callings, trying to figure out if our relationship would ever work, we had a pretty painful departure from a youth group we were working with, someone on staff at our school decided to tell a few people that they thought Zach and I were fornicatin' and it pretty much just crushed me. Cause we weren't. Not even close. I was lucky to get a make out session once a semester cause Zach was just always so careful and respectful of the boundaries we'd set up. So for someone to say we were doing the hanky spanky when we'd never even wandered below the neck line was just ... well. It sucked.

As all the crap was happening, and daggers were being tossed, and rumors were flying, our fights got worse and my doubts grew heavy. And then ... like a break in the clouds ... I was sure. On our one year anniversary, Zach got down on one knee and asked, "Can I keep you?" And then I was unsure. And then I was sure. And then I was unsure. And then I was sure.

And then our wedding day came and when the doors opened and I saw him standing at the end of the aisle waiting for me, I was never more sure of anything in my life before or since. Until that day, our relationship was held together by strands, it seemed. We were young and immature and we were both a mess. But after we said our vows and signed a paper and finally got our hanky spanky on, our relationship was golden. And every day, our relationship is better than the day before.

Sometimes things still get a little messy. We've had our fair share of dark days and long nights. We've gone days without really talking to each other, and we've had times where even the idea of intimacy of any kind is just a joke. Things have been bad, but even when they were bad, we were good. Since the day I said "I Do", I've never doubted our relationship. Not for a second.

I think a lot of women (and maybe guys too) think that love has to be this Twilightesque perfect thing. And maybe that if your man isn't sweeping you off your feet every day, he doesn't really love you, or is cheating on you, or has a secret alternative wife and family somewhere in Canada. But love is messy, ya'll. It doesn't always start off pretty. If it does start off pretty, it's not going to stay pretty. If it stays pretty, somebody is hiding something. If somebody's hiding something, that doesn't mean the love story is over. When your love story isn't perfect, just try and remember that it's probably because people aren't perfect. But your story can still be incredible. Ours is.

I Used to Think Love Looked Like This

Zach and I have been together for 8 years and even though we've only been parents for 3 and a half of those years, it's hard to remember what it was like before we had kids. What did we do with our time? Who were we? I can barely remember what is was like when it was just us two. Which is crazy because it was just us for more than half of our relationship. When we were just a duo, people always referred to us as "Kristen and Zach", very rarely one or the other.  We were a unit. One came with the other. Almost from the day we met, we were inseparable. We were always hanging out, singing together, goofing off together, studying together, doing ministry together. We've always been a team, even when we were "just friends". Now that we have kids, we're not "Kristen and Zach" anymore, but "The LaValleys", which is equally as awesome, but still kind of strange to get used to. I don't, for a second, wish it was still just the two of us, but I do miss those days of having nothing else going on but our relationship. We had fun and we loved to love on each other.

It's funny how things change and your priorities shift when you have a few kids running around. All of a sudden, I don't really care that we haven't really celebrated our anniversary in a few years, or that we don't always have extra money to dote on each other. I don't care that we didn't get each other anything for Christmas because all of our gift cards and Christmas cash went to new clothes for the boys. I used to put so much stock in tangible displays of love, but now that we're here, now that I see how amazing being a parent is, my ideas on love have completely shifted.

Not that Zach and I don't take care of our relationship and love on each other...we still do. It's just different now. As a young woman and a newlywed, I  thought loved looked like this :

I used to think love was all about late night coffee dates and talking until three in the morning. I thought it was expensive gifts and hand written notes and songs written for me and sung by candlelight. Chocolate and flowers and public displays of affection. Now I know it looks a little like that, but a lot like sneaking a kiss here and there and holding off on late night conversations because we really just need to sleep. It looks like Zach buying me a candy bar on his way home from work and letting me eat it in the closet so I don't have to share. It looks like cooking dinner when I don't feel like it, and being excited for each other when we get awesome opportunities, even if it means more time away from each other. It looks like diaper changes and tossing screaming babies back and forth, and being an incredible parental team. Because these days, our love looks a lot like this :

And I like it that way.

5 Years.

Prepare your eyes for the sappiest blog post to ever be posted ever. Once upon a time, I was 19 years old. I had just broken up with my boyfriend of two years and was an emotional catastrophe. I enrolled at Zion Bible College in the Spring semester of 2006 and was determined to get my life together.

It was the day classes started. I was sitting in the UFR (The Ugly Furniture Room-- a co-ed hang out room) with a guy I had just met, watching a movie. All of a sudden, the door opened and this young, brace faced, long haired kid poked his head in and said, "Hey. Have you seen Tara?"

I had no idea who Tara was. And I had no idea that that boy would become my husband.

I won't bore you with all of the little details of our "friendship" which was always a little deeper than that, or our dating life, or our engagement life. I won't tell you about all the drama that we went through and how we almost broke up several times before we got engaged.

I'll just tell you about how that brace faced boy held my hand, as I lay on a bed in the ER, drugged up to oblivion, when the doctor came in and told me I would never have babies. I'll tell you about how he came into the girls dorm later that day while every one was at chapel and hugged me and told me that everything was going to be OK.

I'll tell you that the night he told me he loved me was the night that I was trying desperately to make him see that I wasn't good enough for him, would never be good enough, and was too damaged to be deserving of love. And even though I BUTCHERED our first kiss by laughing half way through it, he still kissed me again. (And again. And again...)

I know you want me to tell you all about our engagement. Well, I'd love to say that he was brave and didn't break a sweat, but the truth is, he had a fever all day leading up to his proposal. So much so, that I suggested he go to the doctor. But he totally caught me off guard and ROCKED IT.

But really, what I want to tell you is that the day I got all dolled up in my white dress, and stood behind huge wood doors with my arm in my dad's, and heard Brooke Fraser singing my cue... when those doors opened, I didn't see all the people standing and smiling at me. I just saw him.

I married my best friend 5 years ago today.

At 21, I had no idea what life would throw at us. I had no idea how amazing and selfless and loving he could be. I had no idea what an incredible father he would be. I could've never imagined how infuriatingly sassy he could be in the middle of a knock down drag out fight or how his ridiculous "thug talk" in our fights would make me laugh hysterically, rendering my argument useless (every. time.). I STILL have no idea how he's able to put up with my crazy without using physical force. 5 years ago, I didn't know how much marriage can bring out the ugliest sides of people, and how humbling it is to know that the person you continue to hurt is the person who is going to love you indefinitely forever. I had no idea how much I could love and how much I would be loved. I didn't really know what it felt like to look at him and instantly be home. And I  absolutely could have NEVER fathomed how INCREDIBLE and other-worldly it would be to look at my children and see their father's features and quirks reflected in their perfect little faces.

Five years ago, I had no idea how blessed I really was. All I knew was that I was young and in love and wanted to spend the rest of my life with the brace faced boy who loved me in spite of all my brokenness  and bought me daisies and convinced me that I deserved to be loved and didn't run away in spite of all my levels of crazy lady.

I love you, Zach LaValley. Thanks for being awesome.