We’re taught that love is like a storybook. When you’re dating and then engaged and so-fresh-in-love, marriage seems like something from a fairytale. A fiery romance filled with nothing but inside jokes and laughter and passionate love making and grand gestures. You never question that you are fated to be together. Forever. And when children come into the picture, those children are cherubic and rosey-cheeked, bringing the married couple closer and making them stronger.
But marriage is actually tough. The newness wears off far too quickly and the grand gestures soon become being happy that your spouse took out the trash. The fiery romance becomes heated explosions over the silliest of things that suddenly seem so important. And the children that are supposed to bind you closer? They often push the limits of your love and marriage to the breaking point. Real marriage is like no storybook I’ve ever read.
Marriage is hard work. It’s a decision you make every single day. It’s a choice to make it work even when things look their bleakest. It’s easy to be passionate and loving when the times are good. When there is plenty of food and all of the bills are paid and all of the kids are getting along and earning straight As. On those days, marriage and love are simple and pure. But those days don’t last.
When your husband forgets your birthday right on the heels of forgetting your anniversary. When your wife doesn’t notice that you’ve lost a few pounds or that you changed every dirty diaper in the last two days. When the kids are fighting and bickering and getting into trouble at school. When the stress from work finds its way into your living room. When you just don’t feel loved or in love anymore. That’s when marriage is hard. And that’s when it becomes a choice to be made.
I come from a people who chose to make marriage work. In the toughest of moments, even when I thought for sure I was going to end up with divorced parents like so many of my peers, my parents chose to make it work. Whether times were lean or fat, raining or sunshiney, loud or quiet, peaceful or chaotic, my parents powered through. I have never doubted their love for each other, but I know that their marriage has been work. It has to be when you have two strong-willed personalities and four kids with vastly different needs. They chose to love each other every single day, and those choices taught their children what marriage really was.
I don’t trust those who make marriage look easy. There’s always something darker and ominous lurking below the surface when a couple proudly proclaims, “We never fight! We’re so in sync!” Without dark times to test your mettle, you can never be truly sure that you’ll be able to weather the storms. My parents never made marriage look easy, but they did make it look worth it. Despite the struggles and conflicts, there has been immeasurable joy and happiness. There have been days of such indescribable happiness and memories that we’ll hold close for the rest of our days. And those moments make every trial and storm worth the struggle and pain.
Today my parents celebrate 40 years of marriage. And, if my beloved grandmother were still with us, she would be celebrating 69 years with my grandfather. The examples of love and determination that these couples have given me make me choose marriage every day. I love my husband, and our relationship grows stronger with each passing day. But I know we have a long way to go. We’re only (almost) four years in, and 40 years seems like forever away. I can’t even imagine 69. I’m truly blessed to have such real marriage role models to inspire me and guide me in my marriage. They’ve taught me what love really looks like, and it certainly doesn’t come from a storybook.
Mom and Dad – 40 Years Today
Bev and Jack – 69 Years Today