Today we mark ten years of marriage. Happily, even. With a touch of pride and a cautious joy. Given that a few short months ago I didn’t think I wanted to stay married I’d say we’re doing pretty well.
Ten years ago when I married you under the muggy late-spring sun on that post-thunderstorm day in May, I thought you were so sexy. You were standing up there in your rental tux, all dapper and grown-up and ready to whisk me away into a world of which we clearly knew absolutely nothing.
Let’s be honest, we were just kids playing a grown-up’s game, me still a teenager and you barely finished being one. We were in love though. I’ll swear it to my grave that we were. You know, of course, that at that point it was the kind of hormonal, romantic-notion love that is positively bursting pregnant with hope and naivete. The sort that’s certain the world has bestowed a never-ending burning love upon them. Love that aches when physically apart and smolders when together. Sexy back then was breathlessness and wide-eyed lash-flutters, heart palpitations and passionately united bodies unmarked by child-rearing and age.
Let’s be honest though, we were truly in love. We spoke each other’s names softly when we held hands at the downtown jazz club, ordering things that made us feel grown-up like escargots and wine. We laughed and gazed in one another’s eyes, and we strolled along the boardwalk as lovers, doing all those things young love is wont to do. We dreamt of the love-saturated life in technicolor that we’d lead, bright future indeed, then went home to our tiny apartment to make love without worrying about babies waking up to nurse or toddlers wetting the bed.
Four months ago I had the worst Christmas of my life.
We were either fighting or simmering below-the-surface the entire day because we just couldn’t for the life of us meet in the middle. The middle of what? I don’t know exactly but it felt like a desert. Vast and expansive and completely parched, populated by bills and piles of laundry and peed on sheets and harsh words, in the company of a whole herd of tiny dictators that apparently we were qualified to birth and raise. We couldn’t even be happy together on Christmas. It was wretched. It had been that way more-days-than-not for a long while.
The day after Christmas I emailed a marriage counselor and asked if you’d come with me.
I had no idea how we got there, to that horribly unhappy place, but there we were. I guess it has to do with having a bunch of beautiful babies in a relatively short time, moving across the country, getting little sleep and even less alone-time, and watching your dreams and plans crumble. They say we humans tend to take out our stress on those we trust and love the most, and I’d wager that after several straight years of this we each just grew tired of it.
We grew tired of each other. I didn’t know you anymore, and the leftover tired bits were not altogether amiable, nor mine for you, if I’m being truthful.
We talked about it. Actually mostly we fought about it, but when we managed to talk civilly it was pointless. We had no magic solutions. We didn’t want to divorce, but we tossed the word around, wondering if it was a looming inevitability.
If something drastic doesn’t change, we said, there’s no way we’ll be together in a year’s time. I just… (deflated and hopeless). I just don’t know anymore. I don’t.
Trapped. Wounded. Our aching and bleeding frail hearts had grown paper-thin. The old tired wounds kept piling on hurt and anguish and brick-by-brick it continued until there was a mammoth wall looming in between us that we did not know how to dismantle.
It was wearying to keep our secret as we played married bliss to the world.
So, finally, hanging on by a bare thread, we dragged our marriage into a therapist’s office, cracked and bleeding, plopped down into the chairs where the air crackled with awkward tension. It was the sexiest thing I think you’ve ever done for me. For us.
You know, to be honest – I think we’ve come to a new kind of sexy now.
Today you showed up at the zoo to surprise me and the kids. You finished work early and ran to us. Kids that were whiny and tired, a hot and sunburnt wife who handed the deliciously chubby baby over for you to hold. And you came to us, your smile twinkled the corners of your eyes and you walked with us. You just came to be with us because you didn’t want to be elsewhere.
We stopped for ice cream on the way home and then you started teaching our oldest to ride a two-wheeler in the driveway while twilight set on and the baby chattered and crawled and ate dandilions. Our daughter rode her tricycle around and we all basked in this glorious life of sunshine and bare filthy feet and toddler drama, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything sexier.
Today sexy means fathering our children and making them feel loved. Making my coffee at night so it’s ready to go in the morning when you leave early for work? That’s sexy. Doing the hard things and swallowing pride down deep when conflicts arise and saying sorry and being sorry and loving me more than your own pride is sexy. That’s what sexy is. Damn straight that’s sexy. It’s sexy when you hold my hand tenderly across the space between our chairs in marriage counseling and when you look at me like that. Like you know we can make it, even if we can’t figure out how. Like you just desperately want to like/love me but can’t and so we ask for help and you are willing. Willing to do the hard things. Talk the hard talks and live the hard ways.
It’s not easy being married almost a decade and realizing you really kind of hate the person beside you in the bed. When the empty space in the sheets between you may as well be a chasm for all the touching we’d done lately. Our feet used to find each other in bed as our dog-tired eyes drooped shut and we were in between awake and snoring. Then somehow they stopped and the space in the sheets grew cold and our hearts got all bent outta shape and frail.
So we fought for it. We stumbled on redemption in the unlikely sexy acts of taking out the smelly-diaper trash, going to marriage counseling, and texting each other apologies for misspoken harsh words.
Tonight, while in the driveway, your eye caught mine between helmet tightenings and you gave me the lovey eyes. You haven’t done that in a long time. Your smile crinkled your eyes up and you did that thing with your eyebrow that you do when you’re content. We had an argument the other day and it felt like the exception rather than the rule, and last night our feet found each other again in bed.
The hard work of Every Day Life brings restoration to a crumbling marriage and whispers sexy back into a couple of hip minivan parents with tired circles under their eyes and a spirit bolstered by a hope that simply refuses to die.
There’s none other in the world I’d rather do that hard work with than you.
All of my love forever,
That was beautiful. I’m glad I stumbled across your lovely blog. If you like coffee, you might like my blog ‘Lattes Laced with Grace.’ http://www.latteslacedwithgrace.wordpress.com.
You are my sister from another Mother. I too specialize in laundry avoidance! Thank you for sharing this beautiful post with us! I feel the passion and love in your life. I have been with my husband for 9 years and I had 4 kids in 6 years. It has been an amazing ride!
I’ve been dying to read this post for the past two weeks. Just now sat down to it with my Sunday afternoon coffee. Your story and your telling is amazing. Thank you so much for writing it. Thank you!
I am weeping right now. My husband ronnie and I got engaged the spring of 2003. At the beautiful ages of 17 & 18. Young age and drama tore us apart and we didn’t speak again for years. I had 2 children by then. Off and on we would talk but never REALLY got back together. We lived our own lives and grew wiser while keeping eachother in the background. I guess it was finally time, because in 2011, I out of the blue asked him to move in with me. We were married 2 months later and will be celebrating 2yrs in august! We have a BEAUTIFUL 10month old daughter and have never been happier. Time has showed us both that family is what is sexy. Being a wonderful father is what makes me love him so dearly. Im not sure we would’ve made it if we had gotten married in 2003. Don’t give up hope! True love endures! God bless you and your beautiful family!
Ashley, thanks so much for sharing your story. How beautifully it ended up! I am a big believer in the endurance of love, and have no plans of ever giving up. I’m so blessed to have so much encouragement and love in this comment section. Thank-you! xoxo.
This was wonderful and resonates so much with me. 4 babies in 5 years and I find a good marriage to be a fight. Praise God for your work!
Thank-you so much Lydia. You really, really get it, I know. Thank-you for that. xoxo.
Thank you so much for sharing you story. I’m so glad you both were willing to do the hard work to heal your marriage…and to find a new kind of sexy. Kids make you crazy and can cause the passion and fire to wane and turn into something completely different. I am married to an amazing man (this is my 2nd marriage….my first marriage ended because he couldn’t handle the hard work once kids came into the picture, but that is another story for another time). But my husband married me with a 3 year old and we now have a chubby, adorable 7 1/2 month old and I think he is amazingly sexy – when we are alone, when he is helping me fold mountains of laundry or when he is tickling our babies. Our definition of sexy has to change as we change. Praise God for keeping your hearts together and making you stronger!!
Yes, the definition must change as we change. So important, yet something that I think so many can easily miss. Thank-you for sharing your story and your encouraging words!! 🙂 xo.
We have found that it’s during our “should-be-a-wonderful-marriage” times, like being missionaries in Kenya or going to BIble school, that that’s where our marriage went through the hottest fires. Such trying times, and yet coming through them brings the sweetest results. Loved hearing your heart and getting a sense of your spit-scared honesty. Such beauty! xo
Interesting that you would say that, Andrea. ‘Tis indeed A Thing among missionaries, eh? Marriage is hard enough when life is “easy” but when you throw in a new culture or moving or new baby or, or, or… then it can get crazy hard. So thankful for the grace of God, and I am looking forward to sweet rewards ahead. Hope you guys are doing well too. Your little belly is just beautiful, and I’m keeping you in my prayers. xoxo.
Christine Falk Dalessio
beautifully said, courageously shared…. thank you
Been there…. Marriage is hard work… But worth the fight…
Worth the fight <-- exactly.
Thanks for sharing, Beth! What a beautiful and honest reflection. Makes me want to run to my husband!
That’s a beautiful response. I hope you did just that. xo.
We will be rewarded in our golden years for gutting it out during the truly crappy years of forced-march-through “for worse”.
I sure as heck hope so 😉
amen, Amen, AMEN!!!!! Hurray for gutting it out through the truly crappy times of marriage! I believe we will be rewarded in our golden years for this forced march through the “for worse” times.
Heather I think so.
What a very honest account of the challenges marriages go through. I just couldn’t stop reading it. Thanks so much for sharing your story & being real.
Thank-you for your kind words, Sheila!
Absolutely real, beautiful, and wonderful to hear. Sharing your story makes us all feel better and more normal for the trials of our own marriages. Much love to you for sharing. http://wp.me/p3ooy5-5x
Thanks to you for reading. I’m so glad it resonated!
Thank you so much for sharing this- it helps so much to know we’re not alone. We’ll have been married 8 years next month, and we’re going through a really rough spot right now. We’re in counseling too, and though it hasn’t been long and we still have some significant stuff to work through, I’m hopeful.
That song resonates so much with me too. <3 Thanks for sharing.
Good for you, Anna! For the counseling, for being hopeful, for doing the hard work. Keep at it, my friend. Don’t lose hope and don’t give up. Thank-you so much for getting this and for fighting for your marriage. The world needs more of that.
Thanks for sharing this. This is real and vivid for so many of us. My heart resonates with “Damn straight that’s sexy”!
That line makes me smile 🙂 Thanks for reading, Nicole!
I read this and had a good cry. I went through a very friendly divorce with the father of my son, and we remain close friends even years later. It wasn’t until I got engaged again that I realized that my first marriage could have been fixed with a little work.
I’m not going to change the course of my life now, but it makes me sad to know that my son could have his parents happily married if they had been encouraged to work things out. Instead, everyone around us told us to let it go before things got worse – they encouraged us to divorce. Now we co-parent from across the country and navigate all the issues that come up when stepparents enter the picture, and our son is having a hard time with it even though we’re on good terms. It’s just sad.
Anna, my heart is sad at your situation too. Thanks for sharing. I pray you are encouraged in your current marriage, and that your son finds blessings amidst the difficulties.
This is beautiful and brave, Beth. Well done.
Thanks so much Leigh, I am grateful for you being here, and for your response. xo.
Beautifully said Beth. You will be in my prayers!
This is such a beautifully written post filled with wisdom. Bless you & your husband for working through the hard parts. 10 years is a huge achievement in this day & age. May God bless you with many more joy filled decades!
Many more decades is our hope too. Thanks Carla.