Ten years. It doesn’t sound too long, right? What were you doing ten years ago? Well, I was putting the finishing touches on my wedding plans and anxiously awaiting my June wedding. It was hard to even fathom celebrating my tenth anniversary. I suppose just as my twentieth anniversary seems light years away from today!
Much has changed in ten years – me, mostly. I was a young bride (22 years old) and I had it figured out. I “knew” more about marriage than than I do now. ~smile~ We were going to love each other, work hard, and stay in love. ~smile ~
I wish I could sit here today and tell you that our marriage has been easy. I wish I could give you a giant thumbs up and say that all you need is love. I wish I could promise you all the bliss of a happily ever after fairytale.
There is, however, one undeniable message I can give you – one that I would scream to you from the rooftops – and it’s the same message Gary Thomas writes in his book, Sacred Marriage: Marriage is far more about making us holy than making us happy.
I’ve been unhappy several times in our marriage (and Eric would tell you the same). There are days I can’t help but think, “Surely there is more to love than this?” It’s not a storyline which sells; yet, it is an honest, raw, and more helpful truth than a feel-good Hollywood romance.
First, let me say that I truly do love my husband – deeply. I watched him sleep last night and felt the deepest sense of compassion – of wanting him to be happy and blessed. Even through our rough times, I still consider him a gift from God. But, my following comments are meant to show the highs and lows of any marriage so that when your day comes and you feel discouraged, you too can know that you are not alone.
- Sometimes I Want to Scream in Frustration. “Why?! Why are you not spending more time with me? Why are we not pregnant yet? Why does everyone else seem happy and prosperous? Why?!” Even relationship coaches have tantrums. ~smile~ Truth is, there are days I want to throw my hands in the air and give up. “We’re so different. Why can we never see eye-to-eye on anything? Can we just be on the same page for once? Does everything have to be a struggle?” (To be fair, we are total opposites on the Myers Briggs Temperament Indicator preference scales. It makes us very good relationship coaches together, but has given us more than an average share of personal marital frustrations.)
- Sometimes I Can’t Imagine My Life Without Him. Even when he drives me crazy, losing him scares me. “Eat well, take it easy, don’t work so hard, sleep more, and push less.” These all translate to, “Please stay with me as long as possible.”
- Sometimes I Want to Throw His iPad into the Ocean. The running (not-so-funny) joke in our house is Eric’s affection for his iPad. Once a gift from his brother, this special piece of technology has allowed us many conflict resolution skill building opportunities. I think he plays it too much. He thinks he works extremely hard and needs some down time. A classic male/female difference of opinion. Similarly, he finds my desire for television, movies, and other such forms of entertainment a major distraction from the more important tasks at hand – and he’s right. My mom always hated how much TV my dad watched. Dad always hated how much mom worked. Now I hate my husband’s iPad. When I say hate, I mean I’ve fanaticized about destroying it. ~smile~ Be prepared. Your future spouse will probably spend more time on something – sports, yard work, researching, gaming, hunting, or working late at the office – than you will like. (This issue may be exacerbated by my love language being that of Quality Time.)
- Sometimes I Spend Hours Researching Gift Ideas for Him. On one side of my mind, I’m shaking him. “Why can’t you see it my way? I’m right. I’m always right! Why can’t you see that I’m right?!” On the other side, I’m very often thinking of ways to make him happy, because I really, truly want to see a big smile on his face. Even when I’m stubborn, don’t want to follow him, and buck against his new ideas, I still want him to be happy. Sometimes I’m just extremely foolish. Still growing. Still needing grace.
- Sometimes I’m Afraid We Won’t Make It. In the beginning, I would’ve boldly proclaimed “Divorce is not an option” (like many of our client couples do before considering… what if…). I would not have needed a moment to think about it. I would’ve passionately stated that we could work through anything. However, as time has gone on, and heartaches have multiplied along the way, I would be lying if I said I never had doubts. When my heart is crushed and I’m so discouraged, I sometimes wonder if we have what it takes to have a happy marriage. The truth is we don’t. Eric and Heather don’t have what it takes to stay in a healthy marriage. We will only make it – and I believe we will – if we put our trust and hope in Christ to lead us and continue showing each other grace throughout the journey. I know we would both not be happy if we quit on our covenant. (Still, sometimes in the dark moments, I doubt.)
- Sometimes I Daydream About the Early Days. I couldn’t wait to grow up. I wanted freedom. I wanted to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. As any adult would agree, getting my freedom came with tons of responsibility. And doing whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it takes unlimited resources. ~smile~ In the early days, marriage seemed like freedom. Sure, I’d have to consider Eric in my decisions, but we’d have fun together. We’d be the adults. We’d be free. The early days came with so many possibilities; and, even though we have (Lord willing) many good years ahead of us, I miss that excitement that came from embarking on a new life together. There was so much hope. I want to start over at our ten-year anniversary and be newlyweds again – knowing what we know now after so much trial and error – and starting anew.
- Sometimes I Just Want Life to be Relaxing. If I could sum up the difference between Eric and me in one phrase it would be this: Eric wants to conquer life, and I want life to be relaxing. He wants to accomplish all he can while he has the chance; whereas, I want to take strolls, sip lemonade, and wave to people from the front porch as I enjoy a gentle breeze. Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with either of our temperaments, but it is a challenge meshing them (and this is a big understatement). Working through this difference in personality has been our biggest struggle… and we are still working on it (and probably always will be).
No matter how much any one prepares for marriage, we cannot possibly know all the emotions, trials, and surprises we will face. When you’ve been married for a little while, one day seems surprisingly like the one before, and you feel like the dreams you had for your life are never going to come true, take heart. You are not alone. It is normal to have doubts, fears, and questions.
When you have those times in your future, remember you’re not alone. Remember that better times are on the horizon. Focus on all the mountains you’ve climbed together and remind yourself that you will get to the top of this one too.
Never stop trying. Never stop giving. Never stop praying. Never stop believing. Never stop laughing. Never stop hugging. Never stop forgiving. Never stop loving. Never give up on each other.
Even relationship coaches have their difficult days. When your difficult days come, please be encouraged and keep pressing forward. ~smile~
Do you ever feel like your relationship is the only one with that struggles?