Tomorrow is our anniversary.
Twenty years since we said “I do”.
Twenty years together.
And there is a part of me that wants to write this post about how AMAZING marriage is, how BEAUTIFUL our life is together, how UNBELIEVABLY PERFECT our relationship is. Because it is. In some ways. There are parts that are amazing and beautiful and perfect. There are ways in which this man is so completely perfect for me, and he has been so amazingly supportive, and there are moments where – even after twenty years – I get a little weepy looking at these beautiful children and this life we have made together.
But, in reality, there are parts of marriage (any marriage I would assume), that aren’t perfect. Aren’t amazing. Aren’t beautiful.
We were 18 when we got married. I don’t know what it’s like if you get married when you are a bit older, but getting married young has some specific weirdnesses to it.
I was married for almost all of my college years. I moved directly from my mother’s house to our first apartment. I started my first job 2 days after college graduation (while 5 months pregnant) – there was a mortgage that needed paying.
None of which are bad things – in any way. They are just things. The ways in which my early marriage shaped the rest of my life. But the biggest weirdness of all, of getting married so young, is that while lots of people can say they hardly knew what marriage would be like, or how looking back there was so much about their spouse they didn’t really know or understand when they first got married – I can say that I really didn’t know myself.
At 18, I had struggled with anxiety and depression for 7 years already. Silently. Alone. And because of that isolation – I had no idea what was normal and what wasn’t. Did everyone hate their own mind? Did everyone second guess every decision and overthink every conversation? Did everyone despise their own bodies? Did everyone think themselves unworthy, stupid, unlovable – no matter what their successes in life? Did everyone believe that God was constantly disappointed in them?
The answers ended up being “no”, of course. . .but I didn’t have a reference point, and working through all of those questions has taken YEARS. Years that I was also married to James.
There are times where I honestly feel that I duped him in some ways. Not purposefully, but duped nonetheless. If I didn’t know how to care for myself and my illnesses, well. . .neither did he. And yet here he was, bound to a woman with a thousand extra needs, who often looked to him for validation, for her worth, for every alternate thought to combat what my own brain was telling me. And heaven knows I hadn’t warned him beforehand. I didn’t know.
He assures me he doesn’t feel that way, duped. . .but the thought rattles through my brain regardless.
And over our twenty years together we have walked through all of the things that married people walk through together: jobs and houses and babies and toddlers and job loss and questions about God and questions about life and friend groups and elementary school aged kids and tweens and teens and the prospect of moving and not moving and aging parents and a thousand other things.
And we have argued our way through conversations around parenting and extended families and job offers and politics and budgets and “I don’t feel loved” and “I don’t feel appreciated” and “I can’t believe you are saying that” and “I’m not going to that event with you”.
And we have cried our way through leaving churches and funerals of friends and divorces of friends and parting ways with friends and health scares with our children and health scares of our own.
And we have fought through my story. We’ve fought through the moment when I told him I had almost killed myself. We’ve fought through the medication cycle and the shame and the constant fatigue. We’ve fought through realization that the medication wasn’t working and the search for new answers. We’ve fought through the darker seasons and my anger at God.
We’ve fought through all of that. Together.
So it hasn’t been easy, these past twenty years. It HAS been beautiful and amazing and some days are perfect. But it has also been a battle. I’d be lying if I tried to sugar coat it. It’s a life full of joy and laughter and love and smacks on the butt as I do the dishes. And it’s also a life full of struggles and tears and uncertainties. It’s a battle.
I’ve been a wife for twenty years, and I wish it had been easier. For his sake and my own. But here we are, twenty years later and still fighting. Not against each other – but FOR our relationship. Against what life is throwing at us this week, this month, this year. Against my illness. Against the pitfalls of our marriage. Against monotony and routine and apathy. Fighting for love and commitment and laughter and grace and compassion and hugs by the fireplace and kisses in the kitchen.
I have no way of knowing what the next twenty years will bring.
But I plan to keep fighting.