I don’t write about marriage much. Jeff & I have only been married three years, and although we’ve learned a ton since those first few days, for sure, it’s nothing compared to the people married 5, or 10, or 25 years. It’s often easy to think we don’t have much worth sharing at all.
However, recently my perspective has changed. The past five months have been incredibly trying. It seemed as though Murphy’s law was in full effect against us- everything that *could* go wrong, did go wrong. I said things to others I wish that I hadn’t, we’ve gotten more frustrated with each other than ever before, and have cried more together then any other time I can remember. Throughout these few months, I’ve benefitted from people sharing their own experiences and failures, as well as their shortcoming and successes in their marriages.
That’s why I am sharing with you today- not because our marriage is perfect, or because we have everything figured out… but rather because we don’t. The little bit of knowledge we’ve gained the past few months has been painful, but also beneficial and strengthening for our relationship together. Nothing I’m sharing is really revolutionary, but I’m hoping our story can encourage you no matter what relationship is dearest to you or where you find yourself in life.
In celebration of better days (and our 3 year anniversary this past May), I wanted to share 3 things we’ve learned together over the past five months.
All the numbers added up, and statistically we should have been fine. But despite probability, our income completely stopped. We had close to three months of not a single penny coming through our account, no matter how hard we worked and what we threw into our company. All of a sudden, we didn’t know how we would pay back our bills, or even rent. Putting food on the table was hard– money had to be scrounged up and penny pinched. We poured out our fears and failures to God – only he could make it work. What could we do? How would he have us work differently? What wisdom could he give us to make ends meet?
Then, the unexpected happened. We had some friends who took time to encourage us, and they gave us a check to help pay our rent- a significant amount that covered our costs. I left that moment holding back tears. This was something you read about, missionaries or more well-known pastors getting their mortgage paid for or some other financial decision covered. These things don’t just happen to ‘normal’ people!
I remember how hard it was to take that check and actually cash it. Even though we were waiting and willing for God to move, we didn’t expect it would be given to us from a friend. We didn’t expect the solution to come from someone else – we (pridefully) thought the answer would come from us.
That’s where he humbled us. Sometimes, you have to accept help from others. Let’s be honest- it’s hard to accept help from friends. These are people you care for, who have their own struggles. It felt like we were failing- like we couldn’t take care of ourselves. But the truth is, we aren’t the only ones holding our family together. God ultimately has our relationship in his hands – and sometimes he chooses to help us our in ways that breaks our spirit and shows us humility.
Together, as a couple, we re-learned how important it is to let go of our own expectations and pride and trust God. The humbleness that comes from not having it all together and just letting it be so is hard, but it’s also so freeing.
This may seem like a reiterated point, but it’s not – community is crucial for your marriage to thrive. We had been craving some authentic community since our move to Asheville, and decided to host a ‘Family Dinner’ at our home every other week to invite people in. Our family dinner was in lieu of a small group or another planned gathering – it was meant to be a simple and casual way to get people to come together.
It worked, and having people come into our home was a game changer for us. Suddenly, we felt a little less alone. The people who chose to spend dinners with us were truly incredible. We grew closer to families who were raw and honest, who had big dreams and sweet children. Families who inspired us. We got to know some lovely individuals, single friends who were quick to laugh and brighten up our home. They knew of the best desserts and were easygoing.
Weekly, Jeff and I looked forward to these dinners. Together we learned to pray and care and just be there for others- as they were there for us.
In April, right around Easter, we got some devastating news. As we adjusted our life and our plans around a new reality, our people stepped up. The encouragement they gave use in the upcoming weeks gave us hope. Through simple acts of making dinners and sending us well wishes, they helped a rough time sail a bit easier.
Having this community, these people to dine with and go on walks with has given us the space we need for rest. They give us the insight to know when one of us is in the wrong – and how to love and encourage each other better. We have wiser couples to follow, and friends to our side. Our relationship is stronger because we have people to lean on.
#3- Prioritize Each Other
I know this one is said so much, but in the past few months we have learned that it’s especially true. When bills become overwhelming, doctor visits frequent, and your baby goes through phases faster then you can keep up with, it’s easy to forget about each other and the needs each individual has. It was that way for us. At the end of the day, once Joy was in bed, it became routine for us to sit on the couch and binge some show, not communicating at all.
Not that watching television is wrong, of course. Netflix is super awesome and we’re huge fans. But we spent all of our free time in front of the T.V. or some other mundane activity instead of actually being together. Relaxation became our priority – survive the day so you could get to night, and then we’d distract ourselves to forget just how hard life was.
We started fighting more. Since our conversations were limited, we never were on the same page. Some fights were small, like someone not doing the dishes or feeding the dog. Other fights were much bigger. Because we weren’t sharing as often, resentment started to grow in each of us for different things. We started keeping count for how often we would change diapers, or do dishes, or vacuum- little things like that. Everything we knew not to do in marriage we started doing because we didn’t take the time to avoid it.
Fortunately, we caught ourselves. I don’t know when this happened, exactly – somewhere between the many road trips we took in May that forced the silence to be broken. Although we don’t (and can’t) go on a date every week, we *can* have those small, but important, conversations throughout the day and in the evening. The genuine “how are you feeling today?”, or the “what can I do for you?” goes a long way.
Although prioritizing each other is something we still struggle with (why is life so complicated?), it’s possibly the most important on our list. We’re sharing together again, and communicating raw and honestly with each other. Even when it’s hard, and even when the baby is in bed and all we want to do is relax. Sticking together is that important.
In the end, we’re pretty fortunate. We have people who care for us and live in a city that we love. I can’t say enough how I don’t have all the answers- and I hope you can see this post as a conversation rather then a step by step to having a awesome marriage. These are three major things we’ve learned recently in our relationship together, and personally have been huge steps for us growing closer together and stronger as individuals. I hope these small stories can encourage you that no matter what struggles you are facing in your relationships, you are not alone and don’t have to have it all together.