The first three years after I was married, I asked myself how it got so complicated so quickly. What happened to the simplicity of it all? Where was that feeling of love? The one that kept a smile permanently etched on my face, or the knots in my stomach every time I saw him?
It took a while for me to understand and accept that the feeling in question was infatuation, not love. Rather, love was something we didn’t have the day we took our vows. That day was the first step in what is actually a process: the decision to love.
For most of the early years of my marriage, I thought something was wrong with us. We didn’t communicate very well. We didn’t get along great. We didn’t dislike each other, but we didn’t work well together. Our marriage was frustrating and clumsy. There were days I wanted to quit. Days I wanted to pack my bags and just go.
It wasn’t like how I imagined it would be. I wanted the “happy life” deal. The one where we laughed and got along and everything stayed that way forever. What I didn’t know was that we had to make the “happy life” deal together, and it wouldn’t always be easy. It wouldn’t always be fun, or happy, or the stuff of dreams. It would take effort and time, and it would take both of us to make it happen.
Marriage is like a crazy trust exercise. We close our eyes, turn around, and jump into a huge pool of dark water not knowing how far we’ll go, how deep it is, or what is under the surface. We rely on our partner to be there with us for support and encouragement, but we also have to rely on ourselves to take the wheel when no one else is driving, and we have to have faith in our relationship despite the fact that its future is always unknown.
The adage “anything in life worth having is worth working for” is the best way to describe love. When we give ourselves over to any relationship, we make the decision to give to that person, even though sometime they may not give back. We fight to stay with them on days when we have to fight to like who they are. Sometimes we get more than we give; other times we feel like we’re so drained, we just can’t give any more.
I’ve learned that love is not always easy, it’s not always fair, and it’s not supposed to be. We don’t grow without pain, hardship, challenges, or difficulty. It’s not possible — not as a couple and not as individuals. It’s those challenges and difficulties that bring two people together and strengthen their bonds. If you can make it through the rough seas, calmer waters are almost always on the other side— until the next storm.
Love ebbs and flows. It’s always the same, yet it’s always changing, and it’s always up to both of us to keep it moving. The commitment that love commands is a constant work in progress.
As the years have passed, and as my husband and I move toward the 10-year mark, I see the evolution of our marriage. Our first years paved a path to the marriage we are still building today. It’s much easier than it used to be, but we still have our hurdles.
We have good days, and we have crappy days, we get along, and we fight, but the amount of better days far outweigh the hard ones. We are able to work through things easier, manage them without fighting as often, and tackle life together as one cohesive unit. There’s far more laughter than tears these days.
Love is still not really a feeling, but marriage has become one. The commitment has created a sense of comfort and accomplishment in the form of emotional security and peace with who we are together. It’s a nice feeling.
The reality of marriage, or any kind of commitment, isn’t something that can be taught or something you can expect, but that’s how it feels when changes happen in any aspect of life. We aren’t certain they’re the right thing until we give it our all. We can never truly be certain about anything. We can only close our eyes and jump.
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