When the Shoe Dropped

Our relationship was always natural. When we met right after our 19th birthdays, we were instant friends. We eased into dating like we eased into friendship. Our marriage was the same. Everyone told us it was going to be hard and to be ready for it. So we armored up and promised each other that even when it (inevitably) got hard, we wouldn't bail. But things didn't get hard. Not for a while. We kept asking each other "When is the other shoe gonna drop?" We never thought "that won't happen to us", it was always, "I won't bail on you when it DOES."

We went years and years. Little things came up here and there, but never anything that was cause for concern. Our marriage was easy. It really was.

But then the shoe dropped. 

And it dropped HARD. 

It was a shoe shaped like postpartum depression and anxiety laced up with unspoken and unfulfilled expectations. And it almost killed us.

Zach checked out. He didn't know what to do with me. I couldn't give him a problem that he had a solution for. I couldn't tell him WHY I was sad ... just that I was. I couldn't tell him WHY I was afraid ... just that I was. He couldn't find his role in my life anymore, so he did what he knew to do. He washed dishes, he put our kids to bed, he gave me space. 

I expected so much of him and when he failed to meet those expectations, I expected more and more and more. But I never told him what I was expecting. I just wanted him to to be able to look at me and know what I needed, just like he always had. But this was different. 

It was better when we were fighting. 

But then I stopped talking. 

I thought if I could just be the girl I used to be, just enough to fool him, that he would love me again. I'd convinced myself that he wasn't in love with me anymore, he was just too good of a man to leave me like he should. So I pushed him out. I let him think I was ok. I trapped everything inside until it turned into anxiety and panic that wreaked havoc on my body. 

This went on for way longer than I care to admit. I felt so abandoned, but at the same time, I didn't want him to know how desperately I needed him. I was sure he would run as faraway and as fast as he could.

But things got better. It was not an overnight fix, by any means, but there were several defining moments that maybe one day I'll write about. Sometimes I listen to married couples share their stories of struggles and they say "But I'm so thankful for it because it brought us closer together." and while I understand the sentiment, I think it's nonsense. I am not thankful for depression and anxiety and they did NOT bring us closer together. No WAY would I give them credit for that. Depression tried to kill me AND my marriage. Don't ever try to tell me it brought us together. 

You know what made us stronger and brought us back together? The commitment we made at 21 years old to love, honor, and cherish each other in good times and in bad. The vows we made before our friends and family and the covenant we made with each other and our Creator. THAT'S what saved our marriage. It saved it before it even started. 

And now, yes, we're stronger than ever. But I hope that's true of us every year, regardless of whether or not we struggle. Maybe one day, when we've been married 40 years, we can tell you the secrets to a long marriage. But for now, all I can say is that our secret today is that we choose every day to keep our vows. And tomorrow they may be harder to keep than today, but we'll keep them anyway. It's hard to remember to love each other when you don't like each other, but when the shoe drops, don't run. There's so much goodness waiting on the other side.

zach + kristen