I LOVE romance novels and rom com movies. There’s the meet cute and initial attraction which turn into a budding romance. Then a plot twist is thrown in that tears them apart and leaves you on the edge of your seat wondering, “Will they find a way back together?”, because you KNOW they are fated to be together. But never fear, they always overcome the insurmountable odds and the relationship becomes stronger than ever. So strong that it inevitably leads to them getting married and living happily ever after. *swoon*
But what comes next? What happens AFTER the happily ever after?
Today is our 26th wedding anniversary. We could’ve been the main characters in one of those novels or rom coms, so I feel like I can answer that question with some authority. What came after the happy ending was just the beginning. What came next was the joy and frustration of melding our lives with each other’s, as well as combining traditions and routines and creating new ones just for our little family. It was a couple of years spent so in love that I could see the benefits in not having children and spending all our free time with each other, but also so in love that I couldn’t wait to make a tiny “us”. After that was 7 years that brought us a move across the country and 3 little us-es. Our After came with cozy houses, homeschooling, camping trips, zoo trips, many flights to visit family, a craft business, game nights, movie nights, and two epic road trips. It brought with it pets, hikes, beach visits, sporting events, and school events. Our After was the creation of a family of 5 that I couldn’t have pictured in my wildest dreams, and a relationship with my husband that is better than I ever imagined.
That’s the Instagram version of our After. What you rarely see or hear about is the other side of the marriage coin, the not-fit-for-social-media version that’s gritty and dirty and real and raw. You see, our After also consisted of years of living hand to mouth, paycheck to paycheck, robbing Peter to pay Paul. And feeling the effects when there wasn’t enough to pay Paul off. It consisted of homesickness, 60+ hour work weeks, Autism, depression, anxiety, 14 years of a undiagnosed medical condition, car wrecks, foreclosure, minimum wage jobs, deaths of family members, school bullies, advocating, deaths of pets, and moving to WA, back to TX, back to WA, and back to TX again. Our 26 years of After have been filled with morning breath, bed head, short tempers, misunderstandings, stupid arguments, stinky feet, weight gain, stretch marks, compromise, putting dreams on the back burner or even changing what our dreams looked like. We’ve had messy houses, traffic tickets, yards that never get landscaped no matter how many times we say we’re going to, and a near complete lack of vacations.
The truth is, falling in love is easy. Staying in love takes work.
For 26 years, we’ve been investing in our family, our marriage, and each other. We choose every day to love each other NO MATTER WHAT. Divorce is not an option because we made each other a promise that we would love each other and stay by each other for life. And we do. We’re not great at doing the big things–we don’t buy extravagant gifts or take exotic trips, I don’t get flowers and jewelry, and he doesn’t get to see much lingerie or any live sporting events–but we shore up our foundation one brick at a time in so many little ways. He’ll cook me dinner that’s compliant with my laundry list of food intolerances, he gives me the car with the working a/c to drive, he helps me color my hair, he gives me handmade gifts, he’ll show up to my office to have lunch with me, and he is always pushing me to follow my dreams. In turn, I listen to his political rants, I scratch his back, I bring him lunch or dinner when he can’t get away from the jobsite, I make him sopapilla cheesecake, I make sure he always knows I appreciate how hard he works, and I join him in his dreams. We actively look for ways to be involved in or support each other’s interests. And when our kids all move out? It’ll be quieter, yes, but it won’t change our relationship, because we’ve been nurturing it for 26 years.
How much time do you spend every month, every week, every day on your fitness routine, your makeup or hair, your kids’ events, at work, volunteering, having coffee or game night with friends? Are you putting in that same amount of time and effort and investment into your marriage? Are you adding bricks to that foundation so that it will stand the test of time?
We aren’t perfect, our marriage isn’t perfect–we’ll be the first to admit to that. But what I can say without a doubt is that these 26 years of marriage–good, bad, and in between–have been more than I ever dreamed, and I thank God each and every day that He brought us together. Happy Anniversary, baby!