Scott rolled up to my house for the first time on a hot summer night 17 years ago. He was driving a 1979 Dodge Diplomat. The leather on the seats was tattered and worn. The paint had long since lost its shine, probably somewhere around our kindergarten year. The Diplomat’s muffler had rusted right off a few months before we met, and he was lucky if it fired up on the first try. When he started it up, it sounded like a space shuttle being launched in the usually quiet cul-de-sac where I grew up.
I could have been embarrassed at the way people stared at that noisy behemoth, hurtling down the street more than two decades after it rolled off the assembly line. The wind whipped my hair around through the open windows, and we laughed every time it spun itself into a frenzy, a strand finding its way into my mouth or over my eyes. But I wasn’t embarrassed to be in his car. Not at all. As I sat on that bench seat nestled next to that boy, that old hunk of steel might as well have been an enchanted pumpkin masquerading as a carriage.
I will never forget how that rumbling engine made me feel. I could hear his car before I could see it. The moment he came into view, I would run down the stairs and out the front door, unable to wait another minute to throw my arms around his neck.
The summer we fell in love was my fairytale, and that boy was the prince I had dreamed into life. I felt so lucky to be his girl.
I am still incredibly in love with my husband, but I don’t feel lucky anymore. I feel proud. We have worked so hard together to stay happy and in love. Luck has nothing to do with it. This victory completely belongs to us, not some benevolent cosmic force.
He works hard for our family, speaks to our children gently, and treats me like I am the most ideal partner he could ever have imagined. He is a good husband. In turn, I work hard for our family, parent our children gently, and treat my husband like he is the only man in the world for me. I am a good wife.
Trust me, I fully understand how grateful I should be to love and be loved since I was 18 years old. I am grateful.
It’s just that people are always telling us how lucky we are that we are so happy together, and it’s tricky to accept the compliments. It isn’t luck that has gotten us through. It would feel really dishonest to let anyone envy how “lucky” we are because that means letting people think our happiness is effortless or even easy.
It’s not easy. Things get messy here. We’ve just learned how to clean it up before the mess becomes a life-changing disaster.
Our relationship is healthy and solid because we have fought like hell for it.
I assure you; we have broken one another’s hearts. Truly. We have found our marriage hanging on by the thinnest of threads more than once.
We have looked at one another a few times through tears and asked, “Can we even fix this?”
One time we really thought the answer was no. We spent a few days apart grappling with the idea of ending the whole thing. But we couldn’t make ourselves walk away. That was over ten years ago, and it’s never been quite that touch and go again.
It’s not because we stopped arguing, and it’s certainly not because of luck.
It’s just that the idea of losing each other was scary enough that we taught ourselves how to fight fair. Trial and error taught us how to be gentle when we could choose to be harsh. Age and maturity gave us the ability to walk away before it gets ugly.
We decided together that we would always fight tooth and nail against everything that could threaten to tear us apart.
Sometimes it’s hard. It would be so much more satisfying when we are mad to fight dirty, shut each other out or drive away. But we don’t. Even if we do it through gritted teeth, we talk about everything. Every single thing. We have the hard conversations even when they are exhausting. It’s work. But it’s worth it to us.
That said, even though I am completely committed to my own marriage, I am a big believer in divorce.
Maybe that sounds weird, but I firmly believe that some marriages run their course and are meant to end. There is no reason to put in a ton of work if you are ultimately fighting for a dead relationship. I’d never encourage anyone to stick it out in the desperate hope that you will come back around to happiness. Life is too short to stay in a miserable, unhappy marriage. If it’s that hard, it might not be worth fighting for. Only the people in the marriage can know for sure.
Our marriage is worth fighting for to us because we both want to be here. We treat each other with kindness, we are still in love, and we know we are happier together than we would be apart.
If that changes, so will our plan. You have to know when to fight and when to stand down.
I don’t think any marriage is just happy and lucky and hashtag blessed all by chance or accident. In my experience, the relationships that appear effortless are almost certainly anything but. When you see a long-time couple that looks lucky in love, remember there’s a good chance that they had to fight tooth and nail to get there.