I can’t tell you my marriage was an easy place to find. It took 7 years for an engagement. Nine years later, we walked down a rose petal–covered path to the altar and said, “I do.” Every year leading up to that one day wasn’t easy. After almost 13 years together, I won’t attempt to make anyone believe that my relationship was a true-love-at-first-sight story. It took time. Behind a man who didn’t know what he wanted was a woman who knew exactly what she wanted.
My desire was for a marriage, a home, and a baby…maybe a dog someday. Today, I want a better life for our toddler away from the “crack alley” across our street. It seems so simplistic to want something better for our child and for our lives together. But, nothing is simple for us. It never has been. We love passionately. We fight with the same gusto. Nothing is done without the both of us feeling emotionally charged; we don’t lack passion.
It’s easy to peer in and see what we have, to judge happiness from seeing one of our wedding photos. When you see me kissing my husband as I stand, surrounded by tulle in a champagne colored wedding dress, it is easy to say “they are happy.” And we were on that day. Right after the reverend pronounced us man and wife, I exclaimed, “Thank you!” rather loudly in front of the entire congregation. I had been lifted over the moon at that very moment and I was grateful.
There are things people don’t see in the happy wedding pictures. They can’t see the blood, sweat, tears and profanity, which went into getting us into that church on a hot July evening. I will never lie to anyone about our marriage. It’s not easy. My marriage, much like motherhood, is something I work at almost every single day.
There have been times when one of us gave up. We have sat cross-legged, facing each other, and said, “I hate you.” And, we meant it. One of us has walked away, and there have been times one just let the other go. But, there is one thing we have never done. We have never actually broken up for more than a day. We’ve never left entirely.
Through the times I actually hated him; I came around and learned to love again. I invested my soul’s work into one other human being. And eventually, I learned to invest in myself. I nurtured my health and self-esteem, and I fell head over heels with my own skin and the soul inside.
I learned to love myself entirely before I loved and married him. And he, in turn, loved me when I didn’t love myself.
After gaining a hundred pounds, I remember a time where I asked myself, “How can he make love to me?” I hated my own nakedness. I hated the spare tire which accompanied my mid section and the back fat that caused so much pain. I hid the stretch marks which ran past my stomach down onto my legs. I hated it all. I hated myself.
He sees old pictures and says, “I don’t remember you being that big.” And he saw me naked. He looked past the physical being and loved the person inside.
He loved me when I was addicted to pills and forgot to pick him up from an evening class. He had to walk home in the rain. He had to bust through the apartment door, because in my haze I turned the deadbolt into the locked position. He loved me when I stole. He loved me when I came home after drinking a handle of vodka and cussed him out. He loved me when I ended up naked in my own vomit with the shower curtain pulled down over the mess.
And after all this, he still decided to have a baby with me. I’ve lived many caricatures in this lifetime, and through them all…he loved me.
Through his love, I became Mama. I became the person I wanted to be and was always capable of being. People see the pictures, and they see the smiles. They see the happiness I present to them via social media. But, they will never see the hell.
Being his girlfriend, becoming his wife, and finally bearing his child are parts of a journey which has been fueled through hard work and dedication, surviving several times we maybe shouldn’t have stayed together. Today, as we play with our child, we hug and curl up next to each other, and I thank God for…our sheer stubbornness.