At the end of this month, Mike and I will be celebrating our five-year wedding anniversary. Is that right? Am I doing that math correctly? I’m not old enough for a five-year wedding anniversary….
Shit, we are getting old.
In honor of our anniversary, I asked my readers to ask me anything about marriage, and I promised to give my best, most vulnerable answers. But before we dive into all that, here’s the quick back story on us, and a few pictures to illustrate how far we have come (thank god for that #glowup):
Mike and I met in high school. We lived in the same town but went to different schools so we didn’t have any mutual friends and we didn’t know a thing about one another. We met at a frozen custard store when I was 16 and he was 17. We both were dating other people at the time, but those relationships crashed and burned shortly after, and we started dating in June 2007. Mike had just joined the army reserves, so for the first 3 months of our dating relationship Mike was at basic training. He didn’t have his cell phone so we wrote letters back and forth. We got to know each other through those letters, and I still have every single one of them! I was pretty much obsessed with Mike right away. He was the strong, silent, delinquent boy that every parent has nightmares about and I looooved it. He drove a total beater, didn’t care what anyone thought of him, and he smoked cigarettes. On our first date, he wore a t-shirt that said “I’m with the band” and I’m fairly certain it had several holes in it. He wore flip flops even when it snowed out and his hands were almost always covered in grease from working on his car. Swoon. My little sheltered teenage heart could hardly handle it. He fit right into my rebellious phase. We did a lot of stupid stuff back then and while I hope our kids never do half of what we did, I cherish those memories because we were young and stupid and wildly in love. I loved Mike right away because there was a depth to him that I had never seen in any other guy I had dated. I realize now it’s because he had already been through so much in his life, but at the time he just seemed so intriguing and mysterious and I couldn’t get enough of him. After dating for almost 5 years, we got engaged in February 2012 during my junior year of college. In June of that year Mike left for a 9-month tour of duty in Afghanistan. He came home safe and sound in May of 2013 (best day of my life), and we got married that August. We have since had 1 miscarriage, 2 children, bought our first house, sold our first house, moved to another state, and built quite the little life for ourselves. I am super proud of us for making it to this point. We have defied a lot of odds and tackled a lot of obstacles together.
That’s the readers digest version of our story! Let’s dive into some questions.
Q: What has marriage been like for you guys?
A: This seems like a good place to start. Marriage for us has been… how do I put this…. tricky. My parents are divorced, so I entered into marriage with a really fun bag of weird insecurities and uncovered issues. Mike’s parents are, um, not exactly marriage goals… so he came into marriage with his own bag of weirdness. Put that together with some post deployment PTSD, 2 kids in 2 years, and a severe case of post-partum depression and you’ve got a really f***ed up bowl of emotional baggage soup. It’s been an incredible journey of self-discovery and learning to roll with the punches, both together and as individuals. I can honestly say that we are now at a point where I know we are built on a rock-solid foundation and we have worked out some of the bigger kinks that we struggled with early on. I am thankful that we both are believers, because I honestly don’t know where we would be without Jesus. I am also thankful for some incredible mentors who have helped us navigate through some of the darkest times. Our community is one of the biggest reasons we have made it this far.
Q: How has your relationship changed since you’ve been married?
A: I love this question because when we were dating and engaged, I honestly thought nothing would change after marriage. Bless my young heart. I think the biggest thing that has changed is our expectations. Before marriage, your partner is just your boyfriend. After marriage, he’s your husband. I know that doesn’t seem like a big deal… but I promise you, it is. If your boyfriend leaves his socks on the floor, he’s just a cute little messy dude who sleeps at your place sometimes and you giggle because it’s kinda fun to play house and clean up after him. But when your husband leaves his socks on the floor… he is a monster who is intentionally leaving his socks there to taunt you and ruin your day. You feel me? It happens to the best of us. I drive Mike crazy because I don’t put lids back on Advil bottles or close kitchen cabinets (I’m busy, sue me). It’s important to remember that no one, not even your knight in shining armor, is going to live up to your expectations all the time. So, we definitely drive each other crazy on a daily basis and we just have to remember to stay humble and roll with each other’s quirks.
Q: What was the hardest point in your marriage so far?
A: Man. This one is really hard for me. I think the hardest point of our marriage was the Fall of 2016. Noah had just been born, and Mike and I were both fighting our own mental health battles that were manifesting in some really destructive behaviors. I had become incredibly resentful towards Mike for some mistakes he had made, and Mike was becoming increasingly frustrated with my constant unhappiness and nit-picking behaviors. Yuck- that was not fun to write. We had a hard time even being in the same room, and every day felt like an uphill battle. It was really hard to look at this man who I had loved for so many years and not even want to be in his presence because I was so angry all the time. It kind of felt like we were living on two separate islands and we were shooting arrows back and forth at each other. I look back at that season of our life and I am really grateful that we reached out for help because I’m not sure we would be where we are today if we hadn’t. Actually- screw that. I KNOW we wouldn’t be here today if we hadn’t asked for help.
Q: What do you do when things get really hard?
A: What a perfect follow up question. When we were at our absolute lowest, we did a few key things that I think were crucial to the survival of our marriage.
- We got help individually. We both went to counseling for our own issues. We realized that unless we felt better as individuals, there was no way we were going to be able to save our marriage. We needed very different things, and there was no way to fix both of our issues in a couple’s therapy setting. So, we sought help in our own ways and really took time to deal with our own shit.
- We leaned on our faith. I can remember so many times being literally on my knees praying “God you have got to do something”. I remember scream crying in the car and saying “What the actual F*** God?!”. And in those moments, I felt so helpless, but now I look back and realize those were the moments I was fighting the hardest. Going to God was the most powerful thing I could do along with asking for help in the physical realm. When the spiritual world and the physical world meet and are both oriented towards the same goal, some really cool stuff happens. We went to church together every Sunday, even if we had been fighting the night before. We both pursued our relationships with God as individuals and that sort of naturally brought us closer together.
- We fought it out. I cannot stress enough that fighting (as long as it is safe and both parties feel respected) is so much better than silence. Silence breeds resentment. When we are in our own heads, everything gets worse. When we say things out loud, whether it’s in a whisper or at the top of our lungs, those ugly thoughts are brought into the light. Nothing gets better in the dark. We fought constantly. And yeah, it was exhausting and there were days I kinda just wanted Mike to live in a tent in the back yard (he probably wanted me to do the same). But we got all our words out. And we went to battle for our marriage. The effort it took to fight all those fights was an indicator of how badly we wanted our marriage to last. And I think we are still here because we dug down deep and found strength even when we were completely tapped out.
- We kept believing in us. I would write him short notes. He would text me “I love you” in the middle of the day. We would take advantage of pockets of time where we felt in love, or at least in like, with each other. We held hands and watched movies together even when we didn’t necessarily feel romantic. We laughed over diaper blow outs and we continued to work as a team when parenting our kids. We took turns fighting for each other and we did our best to support one another while we dealt with our own junk. We just didn’t give up. That’s what it boils down to. You just can’t give up. There were so many days I thought we might not make it. But I knew I wouldn’t ever be the one to leave. And while I was feeling that way, Mike was feeling the same way. Neither one of us allowed ourselves to be the one who gave up. And so, we both stayed. And we both fought for it. We are here today, stronger than ever, because we never seriously considered the alternative.
Marriage, man. It’s really hard. Like, way harder than people make it seem. I don’t think it’s possible to know how hard it is until you have experienced it yourself. When you make it past the butterflies and the giggles… when you get into the real shit, that’s when you find out what you’re made of. I am incredibly proud to be Mike’s wife, and I am proud of what we have accomplished despite what life has thrown at us. We are in a season of deep gratitude for each other and for our relationship, but I know this season will give way to a new season someday. Life is really good right now, but I’ve seen enough to know this won’t last forever.
What will last forever is us. I am more confident than ever that Mike and I will be sitting on rocking chairs someday, old and wrinkly, bitching at each other over the temperature in the house. When we said “til death do us part” five years ago, I’m certain we had no idea what that really meant. But now I know that I will be a pain in Mike’s ass until the day one of us bites the dust, and he will continue to leave his socks on the floor until we have a nurse who comes to take care of us and do our laundry.
Lastly, I want to say a few words to my husband, on our 5th anniversary…
In my mind, you are still that 17-year-old bad boy who taught me to not take life so seriously. You are still the boy who never stops surprising me and makes me laugh until my sides hurt. You will forever be my boyfriend, but damn am I lucky to be your wife. You make me so proud. I respect you more than I could ever explain. I’m sorry for the 1000 Advil pills you had to pick up off the bathroom floor and I wish I could promise that it won’t happen again but I love you too much to lie to you.
Happy anniversary, love. You are my hero. I love you deeper than ever.