Marriage: Down and Dirty

Pat and I in college

Our Family Today

As of January 4th, I’ve been married to the same man for twenty-one years. I’ve learned a lot about marriage that I’d like to share. Here are the things no one will tell you before you walk down the aisle, along with some reasons to hack it out on the days when being single sounds more appealing.

You can have a soul mate. You just have to work at it. Nothing substantial in a relationship comes naturally—most things need time to grow. Time doesn’t happen overnight. You earn your soul mate by baring the most intimate parts of your being and letting him do the same. After so many years, you just know each other better than anyone else. You know the way he likes his socks folded and where he hides his “special” quarters. You memorize his order at various fast food places and automatically pick up cotton boxer briefs and white crew cut socks. You know him. And he knows you. You have a unique connection with each other—an intimate, private bond that only marriage can produce.

He can read your mind. And you can read his too—to a certain extent. You’ve watched him respond for twenty years. You probably know what he’s going to say about your mother coming to visit for two weeks before you even drop the news. You know he doesn’t cry during the sad part of a movie but you also know if you glance up, he’ll be biting his lip. He knows you’ve had it with driving the kids around and offers to pick your daughter up from choir. He sees you’ve had a bad day and stays out of your way afraid your bite will be worse than your bark—after all he’s had experience with both.

Real love walks a fine line between like and hate. Love sticks deep down in your gut, lodged tight in a place not easily shaken. But there are moments, hours, days where he’s at the bottom of your happy list. And that’s okay. You’re in it for the long-term. He feels the same way about you when you spend all his “special” quarters on a new rug for the living room and the dog he told you not to bring home pees all over it.

History is a story that you live together. You make memories together—over years, children, financial struggles, and heart-wrenching crises. I’ve known my husband since I was sixteen years old. I could never give the knowledge of sixteen-year-old me to someone new. My husband lived through the bad years after my parents divorced. He watched me grow and mature, become a mother, and walked the journey next to me when our son fought a four-year battle with leukemia. You can’t dump that information on someone new and expect them to comprehend your soul. So stick it out.

It really does get easier. As you walk the road of life and your children grow older, you’re building a bond of trust and a layer of comfort with each other. Twenty years into your marriage, you can look at him and say, “Not tonight” and he’ll know it’s not him but your teen’s emotions you’re struggling with. You can sit down next to him on the couch and hold his hand—just because. You can look into his eyes and say, “I really just need you to say something nice to me today—even if you don’t mean it.” And he will. And he may even mean it.

That’s the beauty of sticking it out. Walking through the bad and embracing the good. The rollercoaster analogy is fair and some years you will see more deep valleys than lofty peaks. But remember, the ride is always worth it in the end.

“Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer—” (Proverbs 5:15-19 NIV).

Link to this article in Crosswalk Marriage

 

11 Comments

  1. Lovely sentiments, Lori. And, you’re right about “no one else can experience with you…”

    Each experience (joy, pain, internal growth, external conflict) contributes to who we become — our own “character arc” in real life. Only someone who has lived that with use can know what it took to make us the person we are today.

    Congratulations and (I’ll leave you with a song in your head) Happy Trails to You…

    You’re welcome (for the song).

  2. Well said. I will hit my 21st anniversary in May and quite frankly, I can’t think of anyone else who would put up with my crap than my hubby. I don’t know anyone else who would put up with him, either. We’re both broken in many ways, but we’re like each other’s bandaids, too. We may resent each other for those little niggles that get under our skin, but in bad times, I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather be with. That’s when you see what you have together. The euphoric feeling of being in love wears off after a while, but if you stick it out, it’s replaced with something much more valuable and substantial.

    There are signs, however, when you should walk away. Abuse of any kind should never be tolerated. If you or your children are victims of domestic violence, seek help. Abuse isn’t love. You deserve so much more, the kind of love that lasts 20 years and more. The kind of love that fills your soul. The kind of love that will last through eternity. It’s out there, and I stand with Lori as one of the lucky ones who found it – the second time around.

    • Congrats to you also. One day my post will begin with, “After 45 years of wedded bliss–okay maybe not bliss but definitely love…”

  3. Well said. I will hit my 21st anniversary in May and quite frankly, I can’t think of anyone else who would put up with my crap than my hubby. I don’t know anyone else who would put up with him, either. We’re both broken in many ways, but we’re like each other’s bandaids, too. We may resent each other for those little niggles that get under our skin, but in bad times, I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather be with. That’s when you see what you have together. The euphoric feeling of being in love wears off after a while, but if you stick it out, it’s replaced with something much more valuable and substantial.

    There are signs, however, when you should walk away. Abuse of any kind should never be tolerated. If you or your children are victims of domestic violence, seek help. Abuse isn’t love. You deserve so much more, the kind of love that lasts 20 years and more. The kind of love that fills your soul. The kind of love that will last through eternity. It’s out there, and I stand with Lori as one of the lucky ones who found it – the second time around.

  4. I’m getting married on April 28th and I find myself more and more looking for perspectives from couples that have been married a long time. Nowadays there’s so many divorces and reports of infidelity, I honestly thought I would never be married, and would be unable to trust someone enough to take that leap of faith. Then I met my fiance and realized I had never loved anyone this way and I didn’t want anyone else but him, couldn’t imagine my life without him and his daughter. Now I understand what it means to be willing to spend the rest of my life with someone, to love him even when I’m angry or frustrated with him, to be able to forgive him and accept his faults (and know he accepts me for mine), and to learn to work and trust together. When he asked me to marry him this past September, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind, the answer was yes. I hope in 20 years I can think back to this time, realize how absolutely blessed I am to have a relationship like the one you’ve described.

    This past year was one of many trials and setbacks – job losses (x 2 for each of us!), financial hardship, depression (mine), and plenty of other challenges. But we made it through and our relationship is so solid as a result. I feel like we can survive anything together and I’ve never felt that way in a relationship before.

    No one has ever loved me as much as he does nor have I ever trusted someone as completely as I do him. I’m going to send him a link to this so he can see your inspiring words too! Thank you for this!

    • Lori Freeland |

      I love your story :) I had a lot of growing up to do when I got married at 21. Took me a while to figure out what you’ve already discovered :)

  5. Congratulations. My husband and I have been together since High School (he was in college when we met. I was a senior) We’ve been through so much, and you are right that it is work. Unfortunately, he’s not in the mode of understanding that sometimes I’m just upset at something going on in life. Silly boy always thinks it’s something he did wrong. :-(

    • Lori Freeland |

      Same here. I was 16 when we met, he was a freshman in college. I love that we’ve been through most of our lives together.

  6. Thank you for including me Michelle!

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