Martin and I have been married for ten years today.
While yesterday was the civil ceremony anniversary, April 6, 2002 is the date we have inscribed inside our rings. That’s the day we stood up in front of our friends and family, and pledged before God to be committed to each other as husband and wife.
It’s really hard to believe that we’ve been together a whole decade. The time has flown by so quickly, and yet here we are, with ten very solid and full years behind us, living the life we’ve always wanted for ourselves.
As it goes with anniversaries, I’ve been reflecting, staring at the wedding photos of our younger selves and noticing how we’ve changed, trying to figure out what has kept it all together.
And it dawned on me.
We’ve stayed together because of the kids.
I was three weeks shy of my 21st birthday when I married Martin. He was already 23.
But we were together for a few years by that point, and both of us were living on our own at the time. Both of us were serious and ambitious.
I didn’t like that our decision to marry was being judged by our ages. We were adults. We had it all figured out.
However, I look back now, and in that laughable way that time and perspective plays with us, I understand that we were kids back then.
But, oh, we knew a lot of things.
We knew we loved each other.
We knew that we were meant to be together.
We knew the odds were stacked against us.
We knew we could face anything if we stuck together.
We knew we had it under control.
We knew we wanted a family.
And having both grown up with divorced parents, we knew we didn’t want the dysfunction and drama we experienced as kids.
We knew we could do it better.
I’d like to say this anthem of knowledge has sailed us through this past decade, but as any married person can tell you, that would be a lie.
In the beginning, it’s easy to think that the intense love, hope, energy, and passion for the future will carry you through a lifetime.
But then you quickly learn that marriage doesn’t work that way.
No, marriage works on a day-to-day basis. There is no coasting.
It’s a conscious effort every single day.
I look back on the past 10 years as the happiest of my whole life, and I’m so proud of what Martin and I have created for and with each other. The good days far outnumber the bad. But it’s interesting to note that the worst days of our marriage didn’t happen when we were facing something extremely difficult, like my deployment or unhappiness with our jobs. In fact, we worked most effortlessly during those times.
Instead, the worst days of our marriage were/are the times when we figuratively beat each other with the short ends of our patience sticks, so to speak; utterly worn down by exhaustion, stress, boredom, fear, disappointment, or whatever it is that got piled on while in the trenches of parenting young children and sustaining a household.
Yeah, that’s when marriage seems like a ridiculous institution meant only for the insane.
That’s when it’s easy to forget that we once promised to always apologize in front of the children lest we raise our voices at each other in front of them.
But at some point in all of those stormy moments, there came (or comes) a clarity that it’s pointless to turn on each other like that. And that’s when armor is dropped, lessons are learned, and vows are made to try and try again.
In ten years of marriage, here’s what I learned.
Apologies are necessary.
Forgiveness is crucial.
And hang on for the kids.
Those kids who so confidently committed to each other.
Those fearless kids who vowed to stick it out.
Because even though we are older and more worldly, more weary of what could possibly lay ahead, we don’t want to let those hopeful kids down.