When I was younger, I wanted to be married so badly. I wanted the companionship, the family, the love. I wanted lazy Sundays in bed and long walks. I wanted gazing into each other’s eyes and secret smiles and laughter.
I wanted a movie scene.
The problem is that movie scene portrayals of relationships are NOT REAL. Who knew?
My husband and I got married when we were both 23, a retrospectively young age to commit to be with another person for the rest of your life. We had an amazing dream wedding, an equally magnificent honeymoon, and then we returned home for real life.
We were terrible at it. By our six month anniversary, we were having some real problems. By our one year anniversary, the problems escalated into probable deal breakers. By the time we reached 16 months of marriage, we were sitting in a counselor’s office talking about a divorce and I had all but moved out. Right before our 17th month of marriage, we found out that I was (unexpectedly) pregnant.
The pregnancy was a game changer. Having a baby does certainly not solve relationship problems, but it does force you to evaluate life beyond yourselves. It wasn’t just about me or him anymore, it was about us and how we were going to move forward.
We went to counseling until my 6th month of pregnancy. We talked. We did counseling exercises. We went to doctor appointments and bought furniture for the nursery. We got ready to become a family.
My pregnancy quickly became complicated and my delivery and recovery proved to be even more of a challenge. My husband and I navigated through new parenthood, my postpartum depression, buying a house, and moving to a location 10 hours away from family or friends all within the first 9 months of our son’s life. We were finally making life decisions together.
My marriage is far from perfect. It is a constant work in progress. We have learned how to communicate, we have a better understanding of how to navigate life with each other, and we have both stopped some behaviors that weren’t working. It would be a lie if I told you that there are times I don’t still think about what it would be like to get out. But every day, we both make a choice to stay committed to this marriage, to our family, and to each other.
To add to our mix, my husband has never had a regular job. For our entire marriage he has been in medical school or residency. Residency truly honors its name with 80 hour work weeks, few vacations, rare weekends, and many nights away from each other.
Being in this relationship has allowed me to become very independent, and I have mastered many things that I would have relinquished if I had been in a different situation. Who knew that I was capable of changing a doorbell, putting furniture together, and being so frequently alone? Having my own time outside of coupledom has allowed me to continue to pursue all of the things that make me uniquely “me” that I wonder if I would have given up if I had been more entranced in an always-together type of marriage. My marriage also allows me to stay at home with my son, a gift I am thankful for every day, even the days when the toddler drives me a little bit crazy. It gives me the time to write, to perform, and to have alone time, all things that are important to my own sanity.
There have never been Sundays snuggled in bed or romantic walks. But every weekend he is home my husband wakes up early with the toddler so I can sleep in, and we take family walks through parks and our neighborhood. There are no long gazing looks into each other’s eyes but there are secret smiles and looks of understanding. And there is a lot of laughter.
My marriage is not my masterpiece, but it allows me to create the things that are. And that, I wouldn’t change.
Julia Hembree is a full time Mommy and part time freelance writer. She loves Starbucks and chocolate and thinks running is the-worst-thing-ever. You can find her words at http://www.