June 22nd, 2020 marked the day on which I have been with my husband for half my life. We started dating when I was 19, and I’m now 38. We have been married for nearly 14 years (we’ll be celebrating our 14th anniversary on July 29th). We are very happily married, and we make our marriage work. But being happily married doesn’t mean we’re always happy. Actually, I believe we’re happily married because we’re willing to be unhappy at times.
We’re happily married, but we do have unhappy times
We’ve frequently received compliments about our relationship. At least one couple who has gotten separated has wondered aloud how we make it work. The truth is, we are committed to making it work, and we do some difficult things to make it happen. Dan and I have tough conversations, and we have them frequently. We have conversations that some couples may not feel comfortable having outside of therapy (or even in it). And back when the world wasn’t under quarantine, we were actually comfortable going to therapy too. But going to therapy was easy for us because we were already very open in our communication before getting there. We didn’t wait for some huge blowout to get help.
Marriage means give and take.
Dan and I have had this conversation. When you get married, you give up some freedoms, no question about it. Marriage is give and take; both spouses give up some things to make a marriage work. Sometimes, this will make one of the parties unhappy. The key is asking ourselves: is only one of the parties always unhappy? Is only one of the people in the marriage having to give up things to make the relationship work? That’s when those tough conversations come in… when you decide to have a frank, calm, and quiet conversation with the person who’s “your person.” Neither of us bottles up emotions and then blow out; we have those uncomfortable conversations before they become even more uncomfortable.
Marriage means not listening to the naysayers.
The way we do marriage doesn’t sit well with some of the more conservative people in our lives. It doesn’t sit well with the ultra liberals in our lives either. I’m often judged for leaving my kids and taking a weekend off each year (even though my husband does the same thing and not a peep is said about that). And I’m also judged for taking my husband’s opinions and feelings about what I do into consideration. It seems like you can’t win. So we just do what works for us, and we ignore the naysayers. We have our own beliefs about marriage, beliefs that some folks may not agree with. And that’s OK. We do what works for us. If others disagree, it doesn’t matter.
Marriage means commitment
Perhaps it’s because we’re practicing Catholics, but from the moment we were married, we knew divorce would never be on the table. When we married each other, we made a commitment to stay together forever. Both of us believe that. Many a divorced person has told me that they never planned on divorcing, either. I get that. But as far as we both know, divorce is not something either of us is interested in. We love each other, so we have those tough conversations before they become even bigger problems. We’re committed to making things work. I know that this isn’t possible for every couple, and that’s OK. But this is what works for us. And this is how we stay happily married: by knowing that in every happy marriage, there will be unhappy times. As long as we’re willing to support each other through those times and figure out solutions together, we’ll stay happily married.
We don’t know everything
We’ve only been married 14 years. There are couples in our lives who have been married for much longer and have happy marriages, too. We are still learning as we go. We don’t know everything, and we know that. We don’t pretend to have some great advice to give every couple out there for a happy marriage, neither do we pretend to be love gurus. I’m just sharing what has worked for us. As long as we’re willing to keep learning together, to keep having tough conversations, and to remember that our spouse is our priority, we’ll continue being happily married for another 14 years and beyond.