Secrets and Marriage

Standing behind the closed door of the sanctuary, my Dad took my arm in his, squeezed my hand and said

“KatieMae, there is still time. If you are not 100% certain you want to spend the rest of your life with this man, say the word, and I will go out there and call this whole thing off.”

“I’m sure, Daddy.” I lied.

I was 18, and the man I was opening my life to was 19. We were babies, knowing nothing about love, life or even making a relationship work.

This week that young man and I will celebrate 37 years of marriage, but I will be honest, it wasn’t easy getting here.

Marriage and A Lifetime

When you get married young, you tend to go into the relationship with eyes wide shut. You’re blinded by the fairytale romance seen in movies and think that ‘happily ever after’ is a guarantee.

I’m here to tell you it’s not, but I also want to share with you with a lot of determination, stubbornness, and grit, marriage can last a lifetime.

“So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s going to be really hard; we’re gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday. You and me… everyday.”
― Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook

When my husband and I got married, everyone told us the first year is the hardest. Looking back today, I’ve discovered marriage has many ‘firsts.’

The First Year

The transition period involving more than just a name change. You learn to live life together through compromise, conflict, and confrontation. You will discover your spouse is not as perfect as you thought they were as you peered at one another from opposite ends of the aisle. Toilet seats are left up; laundry will not always make it to the basket, snoring will prevent sleep, blankets are stolen in the middle of the night, the list of pet peeves goes on. But handling pet peeves can train you for the bigger conflicts waiting for you.

The Kids

Responsibilities just got a little bigger. Depending on the number of kids you have, you will adjust your time and attention to them. The important thing is to remember, kids will grow up and move out, and if you haven’t kept a watchful eye on the relationship with your spouse, one day you might look across the room at a complete stranger.

The Storms

It isn’t a matter of if they will come, but when they will come. Losing a job, health issues, loss of a family member, communication breakdowns, the list is endless. Conflicts will add stress to any relationship and take the focus off what is crucial – your relationship. Marriage is two people committed to loving and walking alongside each other with unconditional love, support, encouragement and even being that safe place to fall when life is chaotic.

The Tough Choice

At about the 19-year mark, my husband and I sat across from one another at a crossroads.
We had lost hope in making our marriage work and become complacent, unhappy and made the tough decision to file for divorce.

We put off telling our four children until we had settled into our new house, which was waiting for us some 2,800 miles away. After serving his country for 20 years in the Navy, we piled our family into the car to begin our week-long trip across the country.

Stranger Things

But something strange happened en route to our new home.

My husband made a choice. A choice to love me regardless of how he felt the day before, how I treated him, and even how the day had played out when he laid his head down at night.

His choice to love me and keep our family together chipped away the walls I had built around my heart. As we crossed state lines and changed time zones, the importance of the commitment we had made to God, one another and our family came to the forefront.

By the time we reached our new home, my husband would bring up divorce one last time, on an evening as we were sitting on the back deck.

“I know we have gotten lost over the years, and it seems as if we have nothing left in common, but are we really that bad? Is divorce something we seriously want to do? I mean, the last few weeks I feel as if we might have found something to build from and get back to where we were before we got off track.

I guess what I’m trying to say is I don’t want a life without you or our family. I think we both got lazy and stopped seeing the good in each other, and it then became easier to focus on what annoyed us. I don’t even know if this is making any sense. All I know is I still love you, and I choose to love you for the rest of our lives. I love our life, and I don’t want to throw it all away. I know we can rebuild this and strengthen it if it is what we both want.”

The Reflection

Needless to say, we both regrouped and refocused on what we both wanted out of life.

And as I reflect over the last 37 years, I realize it is possible to live ‘happily ever after’ but it will require attention, intention, and investment from both parties.

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” ~ Mingon McLaughlin

Just like a garden we must water, weed and fertilize marriage for it to thrive and grow. It is not for the faint of heart, and it will take hard work, but nothing worth having comes easy.

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