My husband and I just celebrated our twentieth anniversary. I never thought we would be in the situation we are in now at this time. My expectations were different and life at many times has been disappointing. If I could go back and tell my twenty-year-old self a few things about marriage, this is what I would say.
Problems from Within and Without Can Make You a Team or Enemies
First, I would tell myself that I would face problems from within and without. And furthermore, to be prepared for both. The problems within you have control over–how you deal with a conflict, how you react to your mate’s weaknesses or issues. The problems from without can either separate you or bring you together. You either act like a team or enemies.
Expectations Will Not Always Be Met
As I look back on our twenty years together, at times I feel sad. There was a lot of pain and a lot of time we lost together. At least I feel like it was lost. Maybe because of the expectations I had set. I would tell myself to have dreams and goals, but to realize that expectations will not always be met.
I had always wanted to be a mom. Early on in our marriage, I was diagnosed with Stage Four Endometriosis–having biological children was not something that likely would happen for me. We tried infertility treatments and drugs for five years to no avail. We turned to adoption and that also was a disappointment. Three birth mothers picked us and then changed their minds. Nevertheless, during that time, Tim and I became our own family, kids or not. The two of us were in this together. We choose to take time to travel together and focus on the things we could control.
Take the Vows Seriously
Tim and I now have five biological children (a story for another time). We have five boys, but the road to pregnancy and health was not always easy. After the loss of our fourth child through miscarriage, I began to have a lot of health problems again. We tried many doctors, getting ourselves in debt to try and find out what was wrong. Life became surviving and just getting through one day at a time.
This is where I would tell my younger self to take the vows seriously. One day I was so sick. I had been up all night. Tim was taking care of the boys, and I asked him, “Why don’t you just leave? You’d have every right to. All I am is a burden to you.” He turned to me and said, “This is what I signed up for . . . in sickness and in health.” Yes, I said the words, but I did not really think of all that they meant. Unfortunately, for me, the wedding was all about the superficial things: the dress, the hair, the flowers. I wish someone would have asked me, “What will you do if things get worse? How will you react if you lose a job? How will you deal with long-term sickness?”
To have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death do us part.
Marriage Is About Companionship
Now we are in our forties. Again, my expectations were that we could coast a little and reap the rewards of the hard work we have done. But, my husband’s company of eighteen years closed down. Financial stress has hit our family. We had planned to go on an Alaskan cruise for our twentieth anniversary or at least do something big. But, instead we sat on the back patio and Tim made me dinner.
I realized (and this is the last thing I’d tell my younger self) that marriage is not about the things you do, the stuff you have, or even the dreams you have, but it is about sharing the good and the bad, the happy moments and the hard moments with someone who won’t leave and will stick with you. It is the gift of God to live life with a partner instead of being alone. It’s companionship.
Find a heart that will love you at your worst and arms that will hold you at your weakest.
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