Today marks 8 years of marriage for Andy and me!
I can hardly believe it! 8 years ago I was 20 and 2 months (I know! crazy!) ready to walk down the aisle to 23 year-old-Andy. I wore a dress I loved and we said our “I do’s” at the church we met at. I was completely infatuated with my rugged hubby who had just swept me off my feet. Looking back, most days have not been filled with that giddy, infatuated young love we started with. That love has faded away in large part, but what we have in turn is rich and the lat 8 years are full of memories and character-building I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Today, I’m taking the time to recount 8 important lessons I’ve learned in the last 8 years of our marriage. Most of these things have been learned through the nitty gritty of walking through trials–much less glamorous than what happens on the stunning, detail-rich wedding days I get to showcase on a daily basis! But, I’m happy to change the conversation today and talk about some of the deeper parts of marriage that are so incredibly important. Whether you are single, engaged, or married longer than me, I hope something in my recounting stirs something in you!
Andy and I were recounting on a drive this week how much time we used to waste early in our marriage having long discussions (many probably resulting in tears on both sides) about things we were unnecessarily worked up about. Throwing kids into the mix has definitely adjusted our perspective on time and prioritizing issues, and even though it’s hard, I’m really grateful our kids push us to keep priorities straight in this way. Life is crowded and constantly commanding attention to all sorts of different things, so choosing to focus our energies on issues that are truly important is vital. I’ve become much more skilled in this in 8 years (though I certainly have a lot more learning to do in this area as well…).
2. The importance of letting go of expectations and leaning into what is.
When I got married at 20, I was completely infatuated with Andy and knew he was capable of the great ambitions he had his mind on. What I didn’t know was how hard the 6 years of school that were a necessary part of that plan were going to be on me and how they would impact my dreams and expectations for the family we hoped to build. It meant waiting to buy a home for significantly longer than I had planned/desired, sharing a space with family members for a period of time instead of living independently, and growing my business slower because I didn’t have as much latitude to invest in it monetarily. I spent plenty of moments (TOO many) fighting the scenarios I would find myself in and bitterly processing the road I was on. But I have now learned a greatly valuable lesson: there is joy to be found in every season, and the best thing I can do for myself and for the things that are truly important to me (my relationships), is to embrace what is. This doesn’t mean I always love it. No, it definitely means that I take time to hold space for mourning the loss of what I expected/hoped for (and I urge you–and Therapist Andy would too :)–don’t skip that important step). But instead of fighting the unfavorable circumstance, I can choose to go with it. To embrace it and allow myself to see what is and to see what is good. Specifically and simply, this meant recognizing that we were always provided for, always had a safe home, food, and the ability to continue to chase dreams (something that has always been incredibly important for us).
3. Taking time to fully relish in the good.
This lesson is naturally a progression from the last, and it’s one that has come to me so freshly the last 6 months of this year specifically. Life is hard. There’s no way around that. I think so much of my energy is spent avoiding the negative experiences of life, whether that be emotionally or physically, and I feel I can confidently make the assumption that this may be true of you as well. I have resisted the bad so profusely that I have found myself seeking distractions every hour of the day to escape discomfort, and that brings me to one place: completely exhausted and disconnected (I can’t help but feel that Andy is going to like reading this part–some true “self-awareness” in action. Haha, you learn the lingo when you marry a therapist!). But I have been learning a much better way: leaning more intensely into the good. Stopping for a moment to take in what it feels like to hold hands with Andy, and how beautiful it is that we still do that–and want to–8 years later. Stopping to watch Achilles glee as he jumps into the swimming pool for the 10th time and how happy I am that even if there are a million things I wish I had done better that day, he has a reason to smile and two parents who love him a whole, whole lot! Life is hard. It’s important to stop and replenish the soul by learning to celebrate and take in what is good.
4. The importance of rest and refreshment.
I’m terrible at this one. Honestly. This is an area that I have been SO grateful for Andy’s constant prod over the years. I know how to work hard, but one thing I’ve had to learn is how to rest. I really became aware of the issue when Andy and I were playing a form of 20 questions on a date night last year and when it came to answering questions like “what are your hobbies?” “how do you spend your free time?” and others, my answer (and his, for me, as was the game) was “work” “read a business book” or the like. Andy has definitely taught me a lot about making time for play, wasting time (in a good way!), and refreshment, and I’m learning to lean into that lesson every day in order to live more fully (and to be able to return to all that hard work with more energy! ;)).
5. That life comes in seasons.
I distinctly remember living in our first apartment and thinking “we’re never going to buy a house” and being woken up every two hours at night for 8 months with our first son, Achilles, and feeling like the torture was never going to end. But, something I have learned to embrace is the truth that every stage of life has a beginning and an end, and the importance of remaining vulnerable to hope. This has been an incredibly important truth for me as I have processed lesson #2 above.
6. The importance of investing in each other’s passions.
Andy and I have always had a longstanding dream to do something together. We’re excited about that when it happens, but truth-be-told, our professional worlds have been very separate the last 8 years. Something I have always appreciated about our marriage is that we make it a point to be invested in each other’s worlds. For me, this has meant reading books that educate me and equip me with language and concepts to understand a piece of his career and skill-set. We also try to attend work-related social events together whenever possible. I love knowing about Andy’s world, and it means a lot that he invests in knowing mine! Even though are careers are completely separate for the time being, we’ve managed to stay connected in each other’s passions and understanding how important our individual interests are for each other.
7. Not to be too proud to accept help.
We’ve have had seasons of celebration and plenty and of struggle and drought. We’ve welcomed two children into our family and needed great support. One thing I have learned over the years is to be open about the hard seasons as well as the good ones, and to allow our community to step in and serve us when we need it: materially and emotionally. Sometimes the two of us are not strong enough to carry the waves that come at us, and I’ve learned the humbling lesson of letting others enter that space when we are weak, from agreeing to receive help from a therapist to work out communication issues to accepting homemade meals after bringing home newborn babies.
8. The importance of knowing your AND your spouses story.
I’ve saved the best for last, friends.
This one is so important in my book. So, so important. Why? Because honestly, it impacts every other point I mentioned whether or not you are aware of it. Every single one of us has a natural lens from which we view life that has been shaped by the road we’ve walked from birth, to the day we got married, and beyond. It is my belief that the best thing that Andy and I have ever done for our marriage was to receive marriage counseling from a trained therapist the first year (and into the the third year) of our marriage. We spent much of that time processing our stories together and separately, and the understanding I gained for Andy and myself in those therapy sessions has proved invaluable in every area above and more. I can confidently share 3 of Andy’s most painful memories, and he likewise can share mine. And friends, there’s no possible way you can escape how those things play into your communication, conflict resolution, and even the way you view yourself. Simply knowing and continuing to share our stories with each other has produced so much good fruit in our marriage. And we don’t plan to stop pressing into the hard work of continuing to do so.
To Andy: Happy 8 years, my love! I can’t believe it. I’m honored to be your wife and look forward to however many more years God gifts us together. Life is a gift, you’re a gift, and I wouldn’t trade the adventure that life is with you for anything!