I was talking to a friend about our marriages. She wanted to know how J and I stay connected, how we seem unfazed by the first year curse, or how we seem to always just enjoy each other. And I reminded her that 90% of the time she sees our highlight reel.
But that behind the scenes, there are also very real, very honest, very deliberate decisions that we make as Mr and Mrs and as individuals to honor each other. We dig deep and we have planted roots that intertwine and tangle but at the core of it, we work hard, all the time, on our marriage. Not because we have to but because we choose to. We put in the little and get back the a lot because everyday, we make deposits and investments.
Don’t let anybody fool you into thinking that marriage is easy, it is not. Marriage is real and a constant give and take, a constant dance of compromise and making room for one another, a constant dance of less of me and more of you.
We practice grace this house, in this covenant and this promise we made to each other. That we will love each other to the ends of the earth and back, we will choose to love even when we are frustrated or angry and emotionally drained, we will choose to love and let love guide us.
In the brutally painful chapters in my life, I was someone else’s Mrs before I met J. I did this dance a long time ago, but I was ill equipped to handle so much that I did not even know how to handle.
It was a marriage that was broken from the start. There was so much ugly, and so much hiding, and too many secrets. I was young and naive and stupid and some day I will tell you that story, how silence hurts and how love never ever looks like that but that’s for a different day.
I said all that to say, that I’ve been here before. I’ve been in this part of the broken, except that my broken was unfixable. My broken was my mama saying you walk away and don’t you ever ever look back. That was a marriage that could never have been saved, not even if I tried harder, or had better tools or drew enough support, because it was not rooted in love.
So if the core is broken by lies and control and abuse, then you walk away. You walk the hell away right now because nothing you ever do will save this.
You are worth more than this.
But if the core of your broken pieces is rooted in love and truth, then you stay and fight fight fight like hell. Because love is always worth a second chance, a third, fourth, fifth even.
It took me a long time to realize that I didn’t break my marriage, I blamed myself because I thought that if only I had listened better, if only I was prettier or skinnier, if only I could be have been better or smarter and if only I had obeyed more.
But then I learned that that is not what makes a marriage work. Marriage is a two way street and a two people dance. It took me a long time to forgive myself for giving away my firsts to someone that is not J. He didn’t care but I did, and I felt like I wasn’t full price anymore but discounted clearance rack 90% off. I didn’t think I was worthy of this happily ever after and it took a long time to heal from that chapter. It is still something I am not entirely comfortable talking about but some day I will be.
I came into this marriage with my eyes wide open and jaded and heart broken by all that I knew could go wrong in a marriage. I was honest with J at the start and he knew my story. We were friends first, so he was brutally aware about how I felt about marriage and love. I did not mince my words on what I had been through, and as we got closer and closer, I didn’t just tell him the Cliff Notes version, I told him the detailed ugly ugly and he didn’t flinch. He didn’t even run.
Getting a divorce at 24 changed me. Getting a divorce at 24 made me grow up more in that year of legal wars and loss and so many battle wounds with a strict learning curve that accelerated from 2 to a 100 in a day.
But God carried me then helped me burn everything down, before taking all my nothings and ashes to trade them for beauty. I would be lying if I said I got it at that time because I didn’t. It was my moment where I felt like an absolute failure and more lost than I had ever felt my whole life.
I felt like I had absolutely unequivocally failed my family and myself and everyone that had ever believed in me and they were going to disown me. Instead they floored me to my knees and said, you stupid silly broken girl. Never. We would have never left you. We were here the whole time, I just wish you knew that at any time in these broken chapters, that you could have come to us and we would have gotten you out.
I just didn’t know.
I say this to explain that I have also learned an immense life lesson on love and what a marriage means to me.
I know now and I will do better.
J and I are total opposites personality wise, but our values and the core of who we are is aligned and that is what guides our marriage most of all. Faith, trust, respect, honor, love.
And when we came into this marriage, we knew just how ugly marriages can end, and so we made a pact before it even began that we would always try our best. That everyday we would choose each other, everyday we would choose love, everyday we would choose to be patient and put in the hard work, especially on the days where it was the hardest to.
When our patience ran thin, when the little mistakes exploded into a big ball of resentment fury, on days where he said all the wrong things and I just wanted to go on an attack rampage. On days where we felt alone and misunderstood and sure as hell didn’t want to talk about it but those were the days we needed to the most.
Those were the days our core mattered, those were the days we would hold firm and choose to forgive and love and apologize, because those were the days the cracks in our dams could either be patched or could create a series of catastrophic faults in our foundation.
We equipped ourselves with tools we learned from marriage preparation classes and armored them with the hard earned experience but mostly we cushioned it with love and stubborn determination that we will refuse to quit. We will refuse to crumble but stand up for each other when it is hard, we will push and pull, we will hurt and claw but I know J will not quit on me and I know that I will not quit on J. There are deal breakers but there is no quitting.
And we learn, boy do we learn, a million lessons from a million different ways that worked and didn’t work, from where we have been and where we are going, from our friends, from our parents, from people far wiser than us and we just try. At the end of the day, we just try, then try again.
So no, marriage is not easy. Marriage is sacred hard work, but marriage is also the most rewarding amazing mind-blowing partnership of my life. Marriage has given me so much joy and laughter and happiness, and marriage has healed me in ways that I didn’t even know I needed to heal.
Marriage has a face, and marriage has brought out the best and worst of me. The selfish and the selfless, the humble and the proud, the giver and the taker.
Marriage is the most complex, craziest, most unreasonable clashing of emotions that has totally made sense. Marriage is both easy and hard, marriage is both life giving and exhausting, but mostly, your marriage is what you make of it.
We spent 18 months planning our wedding but how do you plan a marriage? It is not one 24-hour period of I do in a pretty white dress, it is the rest of your lives filled with bad morning breath and choosing to see the way his smile lights up the room.
And on days where I am not quite sure if I am more angry or hurt or frustrated, I remember our vows.
And I remember that a promise is a promise. And so I suck it all in and say I am sorry. Even when I don’t want to. I say I forgive you. I say I love you way too much to build from a little mistake, instead we will build great and build each other up. Instead we will be each other’s advocates and cheerleaders. Instead I will be your friend and say, let me help you. Tell me what you need and I will try. I will protect you. I will fight for you. I will hurt with you or cry with you or laugh with you. I will be your wife. I will trust you.
I will not quit on you.
And J graciously and lovingly returns it all. Sometimes in threefold and buckets more. He is my husband. He protects me. He stands up for me. He fights for me. He hurts with me or cries with me or laughs with me. He shares my so very high and grieves with me in the darkness. He knows my stories and he guards them. He doesn’t put me down in front of others. He always says thank you and I am proud of you honey! He makes up silly dances and terrible songs just to see me smile.
He does not quit on me.
So every day, we dance this dance of showing love. Of practicing grace. Of saying I’m sorry and being respectful of each other’s flaws and strengths and stories. We honor one another and we hold our vows sacred. We do lots of silly together, but we also do lots of real. But most important of all, we consciously choose to do life together. We choose to make room and include and participate. We show up.
He is the face in the crowd my eyes search for and I am the body his arms find when he’s half asleep.
That’s the hard work but that is also the very beauty of it all.
“The truth is that the more intimately you know someone, the more clearly you’ll see their flaws. That’s just the way it is. This is why marriages fail, why children are abandoned, why friendships don’t last. You might think you love someone until you see the way they act when they’re out of money or under pressure or hungry, for goodness’ sake. Love is something different. Love is choosing to serve someone and be with someone in spite of their filthy heart. Love is patient and kind, love is deliberate. Love is hard. Love is pain and sacrifice, it’s seeing the darkness in another person and defying the impulse to jump ship.”
~ The Great Kamryn
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