The Five-Year Mark

Last week my husband and I celebrated five years of marriage. It feels like a milestone, and honestly it kind of is. The average marriage in the U.S. lasts less than a decade, like years short. So I feel like making it though the first five years – we each deserve a big pat on the back. I also feel like because of what our marriage has endured/survived – it makes me all the more sure we’re going to make it “’til death do us part.”

I’m not going to lie, being married was nothing like I thought it would be, and I feel like I have a pretty down-to-earth un-romanticized idea of marriage, which led me to think about how I feel about marriage, and what it is.

  1. Marriage is never how or what you think it will be. Even the most level head, it’s like having kids, you think you can be prepared but the picture you have in your head is never what you actually get. This isn’t a good or bad thing, because it’s a little bit of both. Marriage isn’t what you expect in ways of reality, commitment and difficulties along the way. Marriage also isn’t what you expect in the most wonderful ways. You can be head over heels in love and think, “Wow, I get to spend the rest of my life with this person,” but you still can’t actually grasp the joy and wonder and awesomeness in finding your other half and making the choice each day to be committed to each other.
  2. Marriage isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s hard, it’s work, it’s every day but the point is it is worth all of that and the good outweighs the bad without question.
  3. Marriage is a marathon, not a sprint. I’m always talking about “long-game” because the big picture matters but how you get there can change. It’s about be adaptive, flexible and understanding you married another person, not an extension of you. They are going to have their own ways of doing things, traits, quirks and priorities so nothing is your way anymore, and it shouldn’t be theirs either. It’s all about compromise. Your goals, values and vision of your relationship should be in sync, but that doesn’t mean two people will be in their execution.
  4. Marriage is about compromise – see above.
  5. Marriage is not about changing each other, otherwise why did you get married? In my vows I told my husband that he isn’t perfect but that he was perfect for me. He does things that drive me crazy, I do things that frustrate him, but we knew who we were before we got married, and who the other person was. Changing him would mean I would be married to a stranger. I didn’t marry him as a project, and he didn’t marry hoping to make me more like him. Obviously things like mental illness, compulsive behavior, addiction, or other harmful behaviors may come up in a person’s marriage, but that isn’t about who the person is, it’s about them changing a harmful behavior. Everything else should only change if it is a part of that person’s personal journey and evolution. Not because someone else is trying to turn them into something they’re not.
  6. Marriage is a choice. Every day that you are married, you’re choosing that person, and choosing to be committed to them all over again. Marriage is a choice you keep making until you’re not married or that whole “death” thing happens.
  7. Marriage is built upon pillars that are necessary, but doesn’t abide by any rules or prescribed plan otherwise. A marriage needs love, trust, communication, respect and support. Without these pillars, the relationship will ultimately crumble. It doesn’t mean that those things will always be present in bad times, but they should be nurtured and tended to. Beyond that, in terms of “how” you tend to them, what else is important, what exercises or habits one should do – there is no right way. I know a couple that actually consist of three people, so a throuple. It’s not something I understand or could ever do or want, but they’ve been married and faithful and happy for over twenty years. I know people in open relationships, people who, like my husband and I, are old-school monogamous. Some couples swear one date every other week is enough, others say twice a week, others, particularly with kids in the mix say they’re lucky to go out once a month. I feel that there is no right way. What works for me may not work for someone else. As long as the pillars are in place and healthy, then do whatever works for you, and of course you find that out through trial and error. Some people act like they have the secret to a successful marriage, but there is only one secret – stay married. The thing that every single successful marriage has in common is the choice to stay married. That’s it. You stay married. You choose your spouse and commit yourself to them again and again and again. Because your love and commitment is the sun, and everything else is just a bunch of noise. Roy is my sun and no amount of noise will make me forget that, and while I don’t usually speak for him, I know he feels the same.

I’m grateful for the five years I’ve been married to my husband, and the years before that and all of the years to come. Our five years have been marked by incredible highs with special romantic getaways, anniversaries, birthdays, fun dates, just being content at home as well as the hard stuff: sudden unemployment, mental illness, life and death health stuff, family drama on both sides, and each breaking habits/corrected behaviors that hurt the other. Now, it’s not like I think from here on out it’s easy, but I’m saying we got through all of that still intact. Some marriages encounter a slump, others have bad times spread out, but we have survived and come out stronger from an awful lot of crap that I don’t feel most marriages face in their first five years – and here we are. Still standing.

It’s been a wonderful anniversary, which I’ll write about later. My husband has celebrated me and today I am taking him on a surprise adventure to celebrate him. Five years – what a ride it’s been and I’m excited to see where the next five years take us.

-DMW

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