Well babe, we’ve survived ten years & four kids together!
If you’re cool with it I thought we could talk a bit about some of our challenges, learnings, joys and general thoughts from along the way.
I’m assuming that’s a yes, yes?
We’ll go with yes, so here we go.
Let’s go ahead and start with some of our challenges.
Hmmmm, where to begin…
Actually, on further thought, before we dive into our particular challenges I think it’s only fair to make sure we have an accurate understanding of this issue to begin with. Let me explain.
When people talk about marriage it seems the issue of challenges & difficulties in marriage always surfaces. This is natural, expected, & appropriate considering the nature of the relationship, but I think it’s easy to take it out of context. It seems too common to agree too readily with the notion that this relationship is doomed for extreme difficulty, or worse, that it’s a kind of second-rate option to never ‘settling down’; reserved for the older, more boring, less adventurous or more insecure among us.
Here’s my hypothesis on why this is (aside from TV basically telling us this directly in so many words so often). Test it out.
It’s common for the difficulties, problems & challenges to surface because of the nature of the relationship. Obvious, I know, but often under-assumed nonetheless.
See, part of the nature of this relationship is how we talk about it. It’s very common to talk about marriage over long periods of time. We’re doing it right now. We’re talking about our marriage over a decade for goodness sake.
Think about how we would talk about our work if it was common to address it over long periods of time. “Tell me about how you’ve enjoyed your job for the last decade?” There will be some challenges, problems, disappointments, & even failures. But we don’t talk about it in these terms quite as often, more frequently we’re talking about how work is going right now.
Other examples could be thought of as well; church, family, your friends, etc. We tend to talk about these issues in terms of how they are going currently, and we’re trained to mostly answer with ‘good’.
Another reason I believe we tend to overplay the challenges part of marriage is good old fashioned human nature. Somehow, or for some reason, we tend to gravitate towards a fantastic disaster. We like the dirt, the down-low, the tragedies, the drama.
Lastly, and especially for those of you who aren’t married yet and are wondering, or for those who are married and are looking for excuses to not fix your problems, I’m not sure a marriage even has greater challenges or issues than other relationships, all operating circumstances being equal. In other words, by nature of the close relationship, you’ll have more challenges. By nature of the relationship you’ll have difficulties uniquely associated with it. But also by nature of the relationship you’ll have the opportunity for more fulfillment, love, joy, happiness, adventure and a host of other benefits uniquely associated to it as well.
That said, this is a relationship, you do spend a crazy amount of time together and in relatively confined quarters, there is a reality to all this.
Here are/where some of our challenges…
We married in 2006. I was 21 and running a small company. I love to work, trust me, and I was working a lot. In at 5 or 5:30a, out at 5-6p was not uncommon, sometimes later. We were retail so of course you worked every Saturday until 2-3p as well, depending on when the customers stopped coming in the door.
She wanted me to at least sleep in with her on Saturday mornings. I didn’t understand this (we did Sunday’s, does that not count!?) I said I would start doing this when I was 30 and we had some wind on our back, both in the business and us personally. She was pretty understanding on this point, but I’m not sure she really believed me. (For the record, now that 30 has come and gone, she’s usually the first one out of bed on Saturday’s, it worked!)
However, all I really wanted to do was go in late, leave early, never work a weekend, and make love at home the entire rest of the time.
Somehow we miscommunicated on this work point in general, pretty majorly. She thought I was working so much b/c I was bored at home. Not so. I was young, in love, and very interested. I thought it was clear I was doing this for us, to set the stage for momentum to happen later in life.
We got it mostly worked out 1-2 years in, but our lack of communication on this issue caused a fair bit of unfounded uncertainty on her part, and stress on my part.
As in her family, and my family. Her family all lived in the same area. Of the 9 siblings in her family she was the only one living 4 hours away. She wanted to go to all her family get-togethers, I didn’t mind skipping a few. She wanted to get together with my family, which was local, often. I was fine spending all my time working or cuddling.
We would actually get angry, sullen, & insecure with each other over whether we would leave for her family’s vacation first thing in the morning, or later in the afternoon. I was a butt on this issue, I can see it now. Fortunately she was patient, and we’ve now met somewhere in the middle on it.
We were both raised in good Christian homes. She grew up having family devotions every. single. night. I did too. So when we get married she’s expecting me to rally the troops (just her and I at the time) and have family devotions. Every. single. night. I was horribly insecure with intimate, spiritual leadership and felt grossly incapable somehow. I was completely unable to read a few verses with her and pray even a short prayer on a consistent, daily basis.
This resulted in her ‘letting it go’ for a period of time, then prompting me to get back in the habit again. It really was a matter of conscience for her. I took this as coercion, manipulation, and further proof that I was an insecure, incapable, and immature spiritual leader. But I could be guilted into robotically reading scripture and getting some sort of prayer out as a couple for several nights in a row, then I would let it slip again for a time and the cycle would play on repeat.
Honestly, this issue was the single biggest issue of our marriage. I think it mostly comes back to having a gap between expectations and reality on both our parts, and vast immaturities & insecurities on my part in the vulnerability department. It was literally easier for me to give a devotional in front of the entire church than it was for just the two of us.
This issue broke about two years into our marriage when things got so bad one day I wound up grabbing a knife in private and ‘cutting’ myself across the bicep just to feel the pain. Silly & ridiculous thing to do, really. (I realized later this was a ‘thing’, even more humiliating!) She somehow figured out what had happened and wound up feeling horrible about putting these pressures and expectations on me, I wound up realizing, once again, I was a complete butt. We discussed it at great length and changed our expectations going forward, finding our particular way forward as a couple.
She wanted to be on the go, hanging out with friends & family, just socializing in general. I wanted to work, eat, have sex, watch movies and sleep (any order works, although that seems to be the most traditional). I was so intrigued with my new, young, beautiful wife I didn’t care if we stayed in. She was getting bored. This wasn’t a major conflict for us, but was a difference to work through nonetheless.
In hindsight most of these issues were relatively small, the underlying issues were mostly expectations & communication. The reality is marriage is two people, from two different families, coming together as one. There will be some adjustments to be made.
Thankfully, (and I’m not just saying this, I promise) all these issues were BY FAR most exacerabated in our first two years. Most are relatively non-issues now. We’re obviously still just two humans in desperate need of grace but I think it’s safe to say 80% of our issues were worked through in the first 20% of our marriage.
On to the Learnings, Joys, General Post-Decade Thoughts & Randomness…
It’s tough to do justice to everything one learns in a decade of anything, let alone marriage. Or even to scratch the surface on all the joys, the good times, the adventures, the thrills, the laughter, and so on. Maybe the best one can do is jot down some random thoughts, and hopefully one or two will prove useful or affirming to someone else’s experience, or in the very least, entertainment.
We both wanted to wait 4-5 years before having kids, then have them relatively close together. Of course surprises happen but our planning worked and we both agree that time together as just a couple was super valuable. Obviously this is only our own experience, there’s plenty of other examples -by design and otherwise- that work out just great.
We need time for just us in the evenings.
Currently we have four kids, 6, 4, 2 & newborn. We’d even love to have another at some point, Deo volente. BUT, we both need some adult-only / kid-free time, as in every day. So we put our kids to bed between 7 & 7:30p every night. Some nights we’re even directing them that way on 6:40 or so, when it’s been one of those days. This was all totally Maryanna’s doing, and I’m forever grateful.
I mean, who knew you could put kids to bed that early??! There’s obviously no switch that flips at bedtime, and we have our fair share of post-bedtime issues, but this habit has been priceless for our sanity. I do think it’s safe to say.
Marriage is great for sex.
Maybe I just haven’t been married long enough, or am old enough. But the popular idea that single people who sleep around have all the fun and marriage is where your sex life goes to die is completely unfounded in my experience. Sure, we didn’t meet three hours ago, but if that’s your thing…role-play…? We have a lot of sex, we have it often, we can make it hot, it’s always safe, and we don’t have to waste time figuring out what we’re comfortable with.
Now, I will say, we’ve only been doing it for 10 years. But a few minutes ago she walked by and I couldn’t help making a comment about the way she was unknowingly & effortlessly working particular body part(s) in stride. Just. so. dang. hot. I mean, come on! I would eat out of her hand if she made me. (And she might if she reads this!)
So maybe we just haven’t been at it long enough. Maybe we’ll bore of each other after 30 years. I don’t know, we’re only at 10. But I’m liking our chances at this point.
However, I do think a decade is long enough to dispel at least the seemingly common ‘TV perception’ that married sex is boring. I think it’s great.
On date nights.
We don’t have scheduled date nights, but we both agree they’re super important to have on frequent occasion and to take full advantage of the time when you’re out.
With everything that’s involved in raising kids, making a living, contributing to community, etc it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind and just go with it. The problem with that is the whirlwind tends to pull you apart, not together. You’ll be busy, she’ll be busy, you’ll both be doing plenty of ‘important’ things, you just won’t be spending any quality time together, alone. So then you have to wonder how truly important some of that other stuff really is.
Yes, your kids are important, their activities & time-demands are important, and sometimes you’ll have to re-arrange your going-out plans b/c one of them is hurling buckets.
But remember, the best thing you can do for your kids is have a great relationship with your wife, their mother.
One final note on getting out on the town. Maryanna is a stay-at-home mom to our 4 kids. She cooks, cleans, does laundry, shuttles Lincoln to & from school, maintains our household, directly influences our kids all day long, and a bunch more. She is very good at what she does. Second to none, really. But she is so much more than this. She is also still Mary-friggin-anna that dresses up extremely nicely, just like she always could. And in this stage of life, I think it’s important for her to remind herself of that from time to time, by doing it.
At best we’re two flawed sinners living together trying to do right by each other and our kids. We don’t have the necessary ingredients strictly within the family circle for true joy and happiness. We need Christ, we need the Gospel, we need Grace. At our deepest level we will always be the most alive when closest to God and most miserable when distant.
So there’s that.
Other Randoms Would Have to Include…
-Don’t read into what’s not there. Turning away when she’s ready to sleep might not mean she hates you. She might just prefer to sleep on her left side.
-If you haven’t said it, she might not know it. Oh man, the talking. All the talking! Apparently it’s literally necessary.
-Overlapping interests are a lot of fun. I’m now very interested in eating healthy, being healthy, and the science behind it all (I do, however, maintain my position that essential oils are straight-up witchcraft). She’s now in to adventure, theology & acro-yoga. We both love to find great places to eat & drink. Opposites may attract but shared interests is where the relationship really grows.
-Taking care of oneself never ceases to be appreciated. I am deeply grateful that she still cares about her body & appearance. It’s far from vain, it’s natural. And I am very, very thankful. And no, I’m not above letting her know when ‘she be fiiiiiiine!’
-It’s a journey, you may as well enjoy it! I guess that’s about as cliche’ as it gets, but true nonetheless.
Marriage is great, I highly recommend it. I do realize I got lucky with her (not like that, at least for my point here), and I am forever grateful! Thank you God for this gift of marriage and for her, let me never take either for granted.
So here’s to you babe, let’s go steady for another 10!