Thursday, July 21, 2011
Four Years Later
July 21, 2007 was a great day.
Today, I realize what an amazing day it really was.
When you get engaged and prepare for a wedding, you get a lot of unsolicited advice. I remember hearing the same thing over and over again: "The first year of marriage is always the hardest." People (women) would tell me how annoying their spouses were or explain how long it took them to adjust to living with another person who, in nearly every tale I heard, was a complete slob.
I took it with a grain of salt back then. Could marriage really be that hard? Was the first year really so awful? I now realize, after four years of marriage, I was given the wrong advice.
What I believe is this: instead of telling a bride that her first year of marriage will be the hardest, you should tell her something else. You should explain to her that there will be a "hardest year" and there might even be some "hardest years," but no matter when they occur, she needs to understand something important. Every marriage, no matter how perfect, will be tested. You will be thrown into the fire, and you will have to figure out how to keep from getting burned. And you have to do it together. The moment will come in your married life where something comes along that will either make or break you as a couple. It's just that simple.
For us, the hardest year took us completely by surprise. It wasn't the first year. It wasn't the second year. It was the third year. And, it wasn't because I just couldn't take the fact that my husband doesn't clean his facial hair residue from the bathroom sink. It was the hardest because we were trying desperately to have a baby that would never arrive.
The arguments we once had late at night over how many children we wanted (I said two, he said four) or what they might look like (lanky, uncoordinated and acne-prone, we decided) seemed trivial in the wake of hour-long drives to semen analyses, surgeries and internal ultrasound appointments. It was the earth-shattering, life-altering, this-is-the-hardest-year-ing I had heard about years earlier. It just arrived a few years later than predicted. Though it really wasn't that long ago, today it feels like it was ten years ago. I think that's just how our brains process something traumatic; it's easier to think of it as a distant, fleeting memory than one that is still fresh and raw in our hearts.
So what does this have to do with our anniversary? Turns out, a lot. That hardest year, the one that arrived without warning, tested every shred of our relationship. It threw us into quicksand and we have spent years figuring how how to get out--together. It could have broken us, but it didn't. Instead, it only strengthened who we have come to be as a couple--and as individuals.
So today, four years later, we are standing together on the other side of our hardest year together. Unbroken. Stronger than ever.
We learned how to survive together, and that's a beautiful thing.