The Book of Marriage

Introduction:
I did not have the energy to write about marriage yesterday. I’m not sure I do today, but 10 years ago yesterday, June 13th, 2007, Matt proposed to me the second time. Clearly the second time lasted longer than the first.
Here’s how the first time went:
We were vacationing in Virginia Beach and had a beach side condo. Yes. That’s right. We were cohabiting while on vacation together. ( Something I do not condone for reasons that are another blog’s subject matter.)
He had gone down to the beach for a walk and then texted me asking me to come down.
In the sand, surrounded by sparkling tea lights, the ocean’s waves calmly swishing in and out and stars twinkling off in the sunset,  he had written: I loved you then, I love you now and I will always love you. At the end there was a heart and in the heart was a beautiful three stone diamond ring that I now wish I still had. Don’t ask why I don’t. It was romantic and perfect.
The second time around?
Four years later.
Matt took me to the beach of a small northern Michigan lake. We were already planning the wedding, I had bought my dress and I knew he was going to propose because well… we had bought the ring that day and he wanted to make it official.
Matt down on both knees: Do you wanna get married?
Me: Sure.
* Matt places ring on finger that was lacking any diamonds and then he threw the ring box into the lake.
We’d been back in each other’s lives a month. We’d been dating two weeks and already planning a wedding at that point set for 9 weeks later.
We are almost 10 official years into marriage and half of me didn’t think we would make it this far. Nope.
I thought Matt would be dead by now… by my hand. (MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHA)
The other half of me hoped for what we have ended up with. An imperfect piece of art that has been molded and shaped by struggle and joy and the battering ram of children.Preface:

I’ve been struggling for the last 24 hours as whether or not to post this. I’ve been sitting on this blog for several weeks now. There are events that may lead some to think that I’m strategically posting this and I want to just state that I am not. Today was the day it just decided to want to come out. Writers gotta write, right?

Also, you don’t have to agree with me. Everyone’s marriage journey is different. I’m writing out of my journey. I’m also not in anyway trying to shame those who are or have been divorced. While painful, sometimes it just doesn’t work. I believe in second chances. Trust me… I know a few beautiful examples.

So read on if you dare.

Chapter One:
Listen. Marriage is damn hard work. It’s not for the weak. If you are weak, then it will either break you or turn you into a superhero. I became the later by the Grace of God alone. Marriage takes two. You cannot do it without the other teammate. It will fail without each partner putting in 110%. I say 110% because marriage requires you to live beyond yourself. It will ask more then what you think or know yourself to be able to do.
There will be times when you can’t give 100%. You may only be able to give 5% and your spouse has to step up for awhile and give 195%. Then there are times you will be asked to do the heavy lifting. It’s a balance and a give and take. Knowing that you are doing the struggling now for the benefit for the later because your spouse, your marriage and your kids (if you have them) are worth it.
There WILL BE times you say, “I’m done! This isn’t worth it!” Trust me. I’ve told Matt I was leaving him 100 times. And I was serious.
Then there will be other times where you look at your partner and feel like you are going to explode because you are so lucky.
Chapter Two:
You want your marriage to work? Not just work, but THRIVE?
Start by rolling up your sleeves and ready to get your hands dirty. For real. Those dishes don’t wash themselves!
Secondly… Get a degree. Get a degree in your spouse. I have a B.S. of Matt. Educate yourself on your spouse, find out what makes them tick through observation and research. Beside observation and simply… you know… asking them,
Read books on marriage ( I have a list of book that have SAVED our marriage if you are interested).
Surround yourself with marriage supporters (people who encourage your marriage, give you solutions NOT tear down your spouse, people who stand beside BOTH of you during the hard times and say, “How can we help?”).
INVEST in your marriage with time and money!!! I don’t care how poor you are. Trust me. We’ve been pretty poor. SPEND MONEY on your marriage. GO TO CONFERENCES. BUY BOOKS. HIRE BABY SITTERS. DATE YOUR SPOUSE. We just spent 2/3 a monthly budget on a getaway because we needed it and it was worth it! We have NEVER felt more connected. Put your kids second. Your kids are taught what a marriage looks like by watching you. They need to learn that your spouse comes before them.
Here is a truth bomb:
If your marriage relationship isn’t healthy, then your relationship with your kids won’t be healthy AND their marriage relationships most likely won’t be healthy either.
Do you see a generational theme going here? Good. That’s how life works. What you do affects the generations that come after you. You are being given a chance to start, build, continue a legacy. Step up to the plate and get ready to swing. It either continues, ends or starts with you… both positively or negatively.
Chapter Three:

There is no BIG magical secret to happy marriages, but I can tell you that marriage doesn’t come by just living the daily grind. I can tell you that it takes sacrificing of yourself and putting your spouse first even as far as the giving up of life goals and dreams. It’s *insert swear word* hard and painful. Yes. Painful. I’ve had to rip life long dreams of mine out of my own hands. But that’s what Christ did for us. He laid down his life… HIS LIFE. I just had to give up a few dreams here and there. I mean, compared to death, I’d rather give up my dream of acting and you know… live. Because,  “living is good and dying is not as good.” – Jerry Seinfeld.

In turn though…it’s worth it. You reap what you sow and by giving up things that I thought were SO important to me, I have been rewarded with other things I didn’t even know I needed or wanted. Like the bottle of wine in my fridge and the Gelato in my freezer.

Chapter Four:

It’s been 10 years of tears, screaming, broken coin jars, take down holds, lost babies, babies born, sharing the same bed even when murder was on our minds, rejoicing in each other’s success and holding each other up when we have both felt like our earth had been removed from beneath us. It’s been burnt dinners, and fights over underwear on the floor, and dealing with intruders in our marriage who happen to think they could pry one of us away with their artsy marketing skills or blonde hair. FYI Matt doesn’t like blondes so don’t even try. It’s been demon cats and 5 dogs Andrea thought she wanted. It’s been move after move and unloading Uhauls while 25 weeks pregnant and driving across country in 2 broken Budget Trucks. It’s been 5 90s references a day and 1,000 bottles of wine. It’s been one million apologies that hurt to hear and were agonizing and embarrassing to say.

We aren’t perfect folks. I scream like a dirty mouthed college football coach daily. He takes his emotions and shoves them down into the seventh layer of hell and then wonders why people think he’s short worded sometimes.
He also puts his arms around me, even though he hates hugs, tells me he’d choose me all over again every day, that I’m doing an amazing job and that he couldn’t do this without me.
I have chosen to stand beside him as he slowly climbed his way through 8 years of college… (what we though would be 4.) Through 3 babies, two foster kids, third shift jobs and 80 hours a week to survive and one giant home remodel that’s still going on five years later.
Again… it’s amazing he’s alive.
Conclusion:
Someone told me this past year, someone who knows both of us very well, “If you two can’t make it, then there is no point in me ever getting married.”

Guys, marriages that not just make it, but thrive, aren’t special. We aren’t amazing people. We are very broken imperfect people. If you don’t believe me, come live with us for a week. Matt is a jerk and I am a high maintenance, over emotional, anxiety filled hot mess. We’ve been through some very hard things that were thrust upon us, AND we’ve sometimes created our own destruction.

Marriages that work happen when two very imperfect people believe in their spouse AND believes their spouse truly believes in the best for them.
Matt and I have done a lot of pondering this past year as we prep the landing gear to land on the green dot of ten years. ( That’s an Osh-Kosh Airshow joke BTW. Also… fly into Osh Kosh just once in your life. If there was ever a good explanation for what marriage looks like… fly into Osh Kosk, circle a few times and land on that green dot. Or just Google a video as to avoid a heart attack.)Here’s my conclusion… My hint. This was decided upon by both Matt and I upon many years of discussion on what does it take to make it? To have a good, thriving marriage? To not end up separating?

Here is what we have come up with as our answer:

Never stop needing each other.

Whether things are hard, bad, bitter, angry, joyful, prosperous, broken, hurt, content, new, old, in the middle, richer, poorer, sick, healthy, lost, confused, still learning, needs a baseball bat to the head, mountain top or valley, 10, 20 30 40 50 years in…

Never stop needing that person. Never start thinking you can do it yourself.
Selfishness is the cancer of marriage and there is no cure.
Marriage takes two people needing each other and… leaning together into Christ. ( There’s my obligatory faith plug.)
Also, commit to speaking up before things get critical. If you are feeling like you no longer need your spouse. Give your spouse and marriage the respect, honor and love to have a chance to re discover the “why” that drives your marriage.My ( and Matt’s) hearts believe in marriage. We love our marriage.. just not always each other. We love our friends who are married and we love their marriages. I freak out about weddings. I weep when the bride walks down the aisle even if I don’t know her. I love seeing marriages grow and blossom.

And every time I see a marriage struggle, or hear of one spouse sharing their struggle, my heart shatters. If you are married and you are one of my friends, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m rooting and praying for you to have a thriving marriage.

So, in conclusion, 10 years ago I said yes for the second time.
I hope that if you are struggling in your marriage you will choose to say yes over and over and over to the one you picked in the first place. You chose them. You chose them for a reason… or two.
Know you are not alone and know that when I say we want to support your marriage, we REALLY do.

Don’t hesitate to ask. Twice if needed. Because that’s what it took for us.

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3 thoughts on “The Book of Marriage

  1. Becki says:

    Thanks for writing this. It is beautiful and I will probably come back and read it often. I can relate to so much of this. We are going on 16 years now and it’s never easier but also has never been better. As I watch marriage after marriage around me fail it shatters my heart and keeps me going.

    Like

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