We celebrated our 25th anniversary on year 26.
It’s not a given that you have to take a cruise or renew your vows or do something amazing when you’ve been married 25 years. But 25 years is worth celebrating, so lots of people do. Last year, all of this got lost in the crush of daily responsibilities and the launching of two kids out of our nest.
Ok, that’s only part of the truth. The other part is that neither of us was in a frame of mind to celebrate. I was in the middle of a months-long process of Christian counseling. Life had broken me open and forced me to look at who I was created to be and not who I thought I was. I was also learning better communication skills to undo years of unhealthy coping. This was good, but it had a side effect: Rob didn’t always recognize the person he woke up to. The pain of not recognizing each other anymore – and wondering if we ever really had – gave rise to a marriage that temporarily looked more like two roommates passing each other in the hall.
Early on, in an effort to be a good wife, I read all the popular marriage books of the day. Those books have their place. But my strong personality didn’t fit into their often-stereotypical descriptions, so I figured I had to work harder to overcome my “deficiencies” and learn to submit better, which drove me into a terrible communication pattern in which I ignored my feelings until they grew to the point I’d explode.
Learning that I had the right to calmly speak my mind and express my feelings (speaking the truth in love) set me free. I’m also getting better at not projecting my frustrations onto Rob as if they’re his fault. Both of us are perfectionists with different ways of expressing this. “Iron sharpens iron” is the phrase that best describes our marriage. We’re both strong communicators; there’s no lack of words in our house. Conflict is, shall I say, frequent (ok, daily). We’ve learned that while conflict is pretty normal for us, it’s important to pay attention to the cause, and even more important, how we handle it.
I’m going to say something totally unromantic: Marriage is hard. If you’re married and it’s not hard right now, it will be. It’s just not possible for two imperfect people to live peacefully together 24/7. The best thing about marriage is that there’s always someone around. The hardest thing about marriage is that there’s always someone around.
By the grace of God, the thing that has kept us going all these years is that we’ve understood we were committed to each other. We knew that feelings of love would come and go, and if we were going to make it, we had to put commitment first.
Rob and I had a saying when we’d meet a couple who had noticeable conflict. We joked that “they were the only two people who could put up with each other.” Finally the light dawned and we realized we are those people.
So this year we went to Boston for a couple days on a “25 plus one” anniversary trip. It was fun and busy and beautiful. Yes, there was conflict, because that’s just how we roll. We plan on having at least 25 more years together. And if one of us goes through another transformation and we don’t know the person we’re waking up to, it’ll be ok. Because we’re committed to waking up together.
Photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikayle/17487019612/”>Michael Salvato</a> via <a href=”https://visualhunt.com”>Visualhunt.com</a> / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>CC BY-NC-ND</a>