If you've followed my blog for the past couple of years... You know I've done anniversary blog posts for year 7 and year 8. I've talked about getting married in 19 days, the struggles, the marriage counseling, the hard work, the payoff... The Why. Would. We. Ever. Get. Married. In. 19. Days.
And as this 9 year anniversary approached for us (May 3rd), I was resolute I was not going to post on the subject. This year in marriage hasn't been "blog-worthy"... So I just going to remain silent on the subject and do the ol' proverbial social-media-spouse-shout-out, that's become an absolute MUST in our culture, like- if you can't even muster up that- you're definitely getting a divorce.
As I pondered skipping the "anniversary post", I started to feel like a bit of a poser. Like I'll only share when our life is great. And the truth is, I don't want to be that way, because it goes against everything I believe in and everything I've learned about being transparent and how much that can help others. I want to be the person who's willing to share in both the good and not-so-good times. I don't want to be just another, "Married to the man of my dreams for 9 years today- love you babe!" status update. Because, when you're struggling to find a way in your marriage.... That literally couldn't be more annoying.
In deciding to post this... I want to say that this year, especially these last few months Shawn and I have had a rough go. After going on 9 years of marriage you'd think each year would get easier. It sounds about right? Then life hands you big decisions, another move you never wanted to happen, and stress and anxiety and, and, and... The marriage suffers.
It seems in our culture, especially amongst my Christian friends, most couples I know are so uncomfortable talking about having issues in their marriage. We put up every possible smoke screen to avoid anyone knowing that there could be a problem. I am guilty. My husband is a pastor and people want pastor's to have "example marriages". And we want that too, trust me. The pressure is real to have a great marriage, aka "the struggle is real" (I knew that saying would eventually make sense to me). We want desperately to feel worthy of the "You guys are an inspiration to us!" comments on our Facebook anniversary photo. But we don't feel worthy. We fail to see how our arguing and imperfections could be an inspiration to anyone.
The hardest thing we've had to do this year was ask for help. In a lonely year with few people to confide in... We had to seek people out. Seek a marriage counselor out (again). Approach counseling from a different perspective- each of us seeing a one-on-one counselor, something we've never tried.
What I've learned in throwing out the SOS is that most people want to help, want to share their own experiences, want to "be real" and quit the social media "we're perfect" facade we're all guilty of contributing to. All it takes is scratching the surface- and if you need help- you have to be willing to scratch it. If you have anyone honest in your life, most couples who've been married any length of time want to be of any help they can.
I made a friend this year who's been married 10 years. After meeting her and her husband, I placed their marriage on the pedestal of all pedestals: good looking couple, successful, adorable kids, cute house- they seemed to have it just right. And then on a vulnerable night out over coffee, I told her about some problems I was facing with marriage. She then shared a serious struggle her and her husband went through earlier in their marriage- and to be honest, I was floored by it. First off that she shared it with me so easily, and second off- that a couple so "perfect" could have gone through this.
It reminded me that most, if not all marriages will ride the roller coaster. You can either scream to get off- which in some cases- is the only way to survive, and I get that. Or, you can enjoy the fun parts and hold on tight through the scary parts. Holding on tight will look different to every couple. For me personally, it's been a decision to say, "I will exhaust every possibility I can before giving up".
I met another older woman this year who when I asked her to pray for my marriage, invited me over for coffee every Monday morning for a while now, to share with me the highs and lows in her 30+ year marriage, and to pray with me. It has been incredibly insightful to hear from someone who's willing to share that cohabiting is not easy. Raising kids is not easy. Financials are not easy. Relocation sucks. Unmet career expectations, pay cuts... It's hard work and can easily become bigger than the love that the marriage has. I have witnessed it in our own marriage. "Love is all you need": that is bull shit. You need a lot more than love, let me tell you that. To begin, you need an unwavering commitment, and lots and lots of help through the hard times.
[And I want to be clear that the "help" I'm mainly referring to is counseling. Bonafide therapy. The good expensive kind. I'm not talking your Pastor here... He or she might love God- but that doesn't make them an expert on marriage- or even have a healthy marriage themselves! YES- friends and a support system are key, I don't want to take away from that. But finding someone to be a mediator with an MFT degree and expertise on the subject- priceless.]
Approaching this summer we decided we needed to step back and take a break from, well life. Plan a road trip. Plan what seems like the stupidest possible idea in the midst of probably the most stressful time in our lives. In a way I feel like this road trip might set us back on the right track. I feel like WE NEED THIS ROAD TRIP. To some, 7 weeks on the road with two young kids (and no tablet!) would be torture, but if you know us- day to day monotony is our torture!
So here's to traveling the country trying to find our way back to the naive days when we met and married in 19 days because we liked each other THAT much... And to year 10 riding the roller coaster back up to the top because I am hopeful for that. I am hopeful that later in life I will be able to invite a younger woman over for coffee and inspire her to fight for her marriage in ways she never knew possible. To love when she felt like quitting. To fight the good fight, run the race with perseverance- all of it.
Cheers to knowing when to throw up the SOS,