Average reading time: 5 minutes
On June 5th, 2016, I found myself sobbing alone in the driver’s seat of our car in a CVS parking lot in Northern Michigan. We made a stop on our way back home from Nick’s brother’s Canadian wedding, and Nick ran inside to grab a couple of items.
I was waiting for him in the car by myself and all of a sudden it hit me; in the starry and dreamy day-after effect of the beautiful wedding the night before, I realized how much I take his love for granted. It had been a hard year for us both.
The tears came while mulling over his best man speech at the wedding reception. Sure, the speech was for his younger brother Robbie, the groom, but I knew it was for me too.
“…Pursuing Sydney doesn’t stop here,” Nick said at the reception with a beer in hand and teary-eyed, reminding Robbie there’s more to winning your wife than the wedding day. “You going to have to do it over and over again. There will be times you have to win her heart back…”
I promised myself that I wouldn’t keep writing every year about marriage after the fifth year – but in the sixth, I learned so much.
Our sixth year of marriage was our worst (so far, anyway).
I thought the first year of marriage was horribly challenging. Boy, was I wrong. During our sixth year we had so much drastic life change (although it was good change), we pretty much had to rework our entire relationship. It was so difficult that I often fantasized that it would be easier to be separated.
At one point, we had a whisper-fight late at night in our bed in the dark:
“I am so tired of caring so much about you,” I said, with angry-hot tears rolling town the sides of my temples. “I feel like I care too much and get nothing back. I feel like it would just be easier to not be married right now.”
Another, separate late night fight in bed (I don’t recommend fighting after dark, by the way):
“I never feel that I can say what I need to!” Nick shot back at me in a whisper. “You are so emotional and always assert your feelings that I don’t even feel that there’s room for me to say anything.”
What caused such a horrible year? It wasn’t something dramatic like infidelity, abusive behavior, financial catastrophe, or family loss. In our sixth year, we had a severe communication breakdown. We didn’t even hear one another anymore. We ignored one another’s needs, while simultaneously exhausting each other to fill our own. We argued the same argument over and over with no resolution. It was complete chaos. It was miserable.
I can honestly tell you (with 100% truthfulness) that at the start of our sixth year I would look at Nick and want to punch him in the face (that sweet, sweet, handsome face). However, now at the start of our seventh year, I look at him in awe that he still loves me, and I think that he’s the most beautiful, loving person that has ever walked the planet.
My goodness, how quickly things can change.
How did that one-eighty degree turn even happen? When we (finally) admitted that we were having (and both contributing to) our relationship issues, healing began. It took a lot of sweat and tears, as well as working hard to not assume we knew why our spouse was acting/reacting a certain way. It took lots of sensitivity and grace for one another. It took painfully hashing out arguments until the finish line, when the issue was finally resolved and we understood one another. It took the realization that, no matter who we were married to, this stuff would happen in any relationship. Strangely, part of the vow to a life-long marriage is to hurt and heal with the same person over and over and over again.
Nick asked me if I thought this last year of marriage made us stronger, that if we came out a better couple. I don’t know, honestly. In some ways sure, but I know (if we live long enough) it would be easy to fall into a horrible pattern of disrespect and lack of communication again.
However, the beauty of this difficult year of marriage was the realization that I was quite naïve about marital love on our wedding day. True love is wanting to punch someone in the gut and having the self-control not to do it. Devoted love is wanting to sleep in separate rooms and staying in bed with your spouse because you know they have a hard time falling asleep without you. Faithful love is knowing exactly what to say to hurt your spouse and holding your tongue instead. Selfless love is to continue having sex even if you don’t know why you’re doing it anymore. These are the ways we found ourselves still loving one another when we didn’t know how or why. (Side note: I don’t intend to depress any newly and young married folk out there by being this honest.)
There is a light at the end of the tunnel – a hope for slugging through difficult seasons in marriage. The hope: the season does end.
The biggest surprise I encountered after enduring a hard season? Oh, how easy it was to feel like we were wildly in love again!
As soon as we worked out our issues, a renewed sense of joy, youth, and excitement came flooding in. By God’s grace and talking things out (over and over) with each other and trusted friends, we found resolution together and joy in each other.
When Nick got back into the passenger side of our car at our Northern Michigan CVS stop, I told him that I had been crying because I was just overwhelmed with the idea that I take him so much for granted.
“I love you so much. I am so sorry I take you for granted as much as I do,” I cried again, trying to pull out of the parking lot. “You have the sweetest and kindest heart. I am sorry that I forget about that.”
“Me too. We both take each other for granted,” he simply replied. He put his hand on the back of my neck and smiled, “I love you.”
Nick, thank you for being patient and steadfast with our relationship as we continue to grow together. Thanks for loving me for who I am, and finding beauty in my ever-flawed self. My love for you is deeper now than it ever has been, and—by God’s grace—our love will endure all things.
Dear reader, if you are young and married or hope to be married, I encourage you to stick out future difficult times with self-control, selflessness, grace, and forgiveness towards your spouse. Over and over and over. The joy on the other side of difficulty is worth it all, every time.
However, I am not an expert on anything and every situation is different. If you find yourself in an emotionally, physically, mentally, or sexually abusive or controlling relationship with someone, if you feel trapped by or fearful of your partner in any way, please don’t be afraid to get help. Seek help from someone that you trust or a trained therapist.