Today, Chris and I celebrate 14 years of marriage. June 25th, 2005 was the day we stood before 120 of our friends and family and committed to spending the rest of our lives together.
Looking back on it now, we were babies. I mean, physically speaking we looked like kids, but also mentally and emotionally speaking, we were young, in love and quite immature, even though I thought I was very mature at the time.
I was 21 years old, turning 22 that Fall, and Chris was 25. I had never really lived on my own, certainly never with a boy nor had I lived apart from family and friends, having moved from my childhood home in Ottawa, straight into the college dormitory in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where I’d spend the next four years of my life, until that summer of ’05.
Chris and I had been dating almost four years by the time we got married – which, if you’re counting, that will be 18 years together this coming September. This last year marked the year that I’ve officially been with Chris for more than half of my life, which is crazy to really stop and think about.
SO much has changed over the last 14 years , including how much WE have both changed. Let’s do a quick recap of some of the changes we’ve gone through together:
- We’ve lived in FIVE towns/cities
- We’ve moved EIGHT times
- We’ve purchased FOUR homes
- We’ve owned FIVE vehicles
- We’ve created THREE children
- We’ve started FOUR companies
- We’ve visited TEN countries (together)
- We’ve grown our plant family to over TWENTY houseplants
- We’ve been on countless roadtrips
- We’ve laughed so much it hurt
- We’ve fought more times than I can count
Looking from the outside in, we have things pretty good. Even with our recent news about Chris losing his job, life is still pretty sweet for us. We’ve built this blog to the point where I can sustain two full-time incomes and allow us the ability to work from home. We moved into a dream home less than a year ago with a large backyard and inground pool. All three kids are healthy, well adjusted and loveable kids. Life is good.
But our marriage hasn’t always been.
In fact, up until Chris lost his job two months ago, I’d say we’ve been in one of the harder valleys as a couple this last year than we ever have before.
Today, as we mark 14 years of marriage, I wanted to pause and pull back the curtain a little to give you a more realistic look at what it’s taken us to get to this year of marriage.
Recently, a friend posted on Facebook that the average marriage in Canada lasts about 14 years., according to Statistics Canada (well 13.7, to be exact). That post stopped me dead in my scroll because I knew we were coming up to the 14 year mark and I also knew what kind of year it’s been for us as a couple.
I sat there and reflected back on how many times we could have both thrown in the towel – there were many. The truth is, there have been many within the last 14 years that we’ve never shared with others.
And that’s why I wanted to open up a bit, with the blessing of Chris, to share a bit of what the struggle has been like for us. To peel back the layers and show people what a typical marriage is really like.
Here’s why — I’m online every single day. I consume SO MUCH content, while perpetually trying to create my own. And when it comes to marriage and relationships, there’s really only TWO things I see – 1. Marriage “experts” telling you how great their marriage is and all the books and seminars they’ve read and attended in order to invest into their relationship or 2. Divorced/Single Parents who talk about the relief of leaving a bad situation or the struggle in raising kids on their own and finding another life partner.
But you want to know what I don’t hear about that often? EVERYDAY PEOPLE STRUGGLING IN THEIR MARRIAGES.
And it hit me the other day – why don’t we share THAT?!
What if we stopped pretending that everything was perfect, wedded bliss and instead, shared the hard and sometimes ugly truths of how difficult marriage can actually be?!
This week alone I’ve had three separate conversations with people about how they aren’t sure if their marriages are going to last til the end of this year. These aren’t just random people I met online, these are close friends of mine, many of them hanging on for dear life to a lifeless marriage, filled with hurt, betrayal, loneliness and unmet expectations.
Why don’t we talk about THOSE marriages – the people who are going to counselling week in and week out, desperate to save their union. The spouses who have grown bitter because the other is never home to see them but yet they are so desperately in love with them and want to make it work that they wipe away their tears after a conversation with their best friends and go back to a cold and sometimes hostile marriage bed every night praying that it will turn around.
Why aren’t we being honest about the years that lead up to almost HALF of the marriages that end in divorce? Did you know that an estimated 41% of marriages in Canada will END by their 30th anniversary? WHY AREN’T WE TALKING ABOUT THIS?!
So today, I want to share a bit about our struggle, in hopes to maybe encourage just ONE other couple that it IS worth the fight. If we can do it, so can you.
Our first year of marriage was incredibly difficult, there’s no other way to put it. It was the first time I ever lived with a boy, obviously the first time I had ever been married and the first time I moved far, far away from family and friends and landed in a small town, in what felt like the middle of nowhere.
We had very few friends and we were catapulted into a ministry position where we were both leading groups of people when we ourselves had very little life experience. I didn’t love where we lived (sorry for any of you from there who are reading this…I still love YOU!) and that made the transition very difficult for me. I was a city girl, through and through and couldn’t handle life in this small southern Ontario town.
Soon after the tans from our honeymoon wore off, Chris and I started fighting. We had no one else we could really talk to that understood our situation and so we would come home and just fight. Money was tight and learning to live on a budget while managing student loans was incredibly challenging. We owned a little car that my parents had given us and rented a two bedroom apartment and we were desperately trying to find our rhythm.
I can remember some fights were so bad that I had the thought on more than one occasion, “What have I done?!” While I don’t know that the actual thought of divorce had entered my mind during those early years, I can vividly remember a sinking feeling that I had possibly made a huge mistake and felt trapped.
But we pushed through. We are both fighters, as I’ve come to learn, which can be both good and not so good at times. But in the case of walking through unstable early years of our marriage, we were both determined to make it work.
We both can remember just before our one year anniversary it seemed like the cloud that had been looming over our heads was finally starting to lift. We couldn’t articulate why or how, we just knew that something was starting to shift for the positive and we seemed to be finding our groove.
I’d say years three to six were some of our best. Funny enough, that’s when we moved four out of the eight times, to three of the five cities we’ve lived in. It’s also the time when we bought our first home, welcomed our first baby and really started seeing a lot of those things we had wished for coming true.
Then came years six and seven, which coincided with our second child being born. Little did we know at the time, but we would go almost that entire first year of his life with very little sleep due to his severe eczema and sleep issues. It was also a time of great stress at our job where things didn’t always feel safe or secure (which is the job I would end up losing in 2013).
It’s incredible what a lack of sleep can do to a person, let alone a marriage. The fighting reached an all-time high and I can remember feeling that I just had to survive that season. Little did I know that our next season was going to be prove even more challenging.
As I mentioned above, my job ended abruptly in 2013 and I found myself heart broken and wandering without a purpose for much of that year. A surprise pregnancy with our third child would prove to be the water in the wasteland that my soul so desperately needed, but along with that came some serious health challenges that I didn’t know would be the preface to long-term challenges I am still facing today.
Years eight, nine and ten were all transitional years for us as a family and just honestly felt like one hard thing after another. From losing my job to having our third child to moving to the city to dealing with the onset of postpartum depression for myself and then ultimately to starting this blog – there was SO MUCH CHANGE during that time. If I’m totally honest, there wasn’t much time to even stop and think about what was happening. We were just rolling through life, most days barely stopping to check in on each other.
Recently, during a marriage counselling session, we reflected back on when we thought our marriage first started going downhill and it was during this time. You see for almost 10 years leading up to that, we had been pretty much inseparable. We lived and worked together, in some seasons, in the very same office. But once we moved to Toronto to take a job for only Chris, it meant I was staying home with the kids, doing my own thing. As the blog continued to grow, it meant me going out to more events, building up other friendships that Chris wasn’t a part of and so on. This was something very new and different to our relationship.
And while some might say that some separation is a good thing, for us, it was what caused a massive divide in our marriage that we didn’t see or feel the ramifications of until years later.
Subsequently, years 11 through to 13.5 have been some of the loneliest, some of the hardest and some of the furthest apart (both physically and emotionally) we’ve ever walked through together. If I’m totally honest, I’ve felt numb at times walking through the craziness of life, desperately trying to just keep afloat. More days than not, Chris felt like a roommate. There was a major lack of communication, intimacy and connectedness. There were many choice words spoken to each other out of hurt, frustration and disappointment. There were promises broken and there were unmet expectations. There were many nights where we went to bed angry with each other and feeling somewhat hopeless about the state of our marriage.
I briefly touched on this in my post a few weeks ago about Chris’ job loss, but I’ll reiterate it here again – while job loss is not typically something you expect nor are grateful for (in the moment), we found ourselves processing that particular loss in a completely different way than previous ones. Because we had been doing some emotional work on our marriage, we had come to realize that our time apart was an issue in our marriage. So when the unexpected opportunity came for Chris to come work from home with me, it was almost like getting a big shot of cortisone in our weakest muscle.
Here’s how MedicineNet.com describes a cortisone shot and it’s benefits: “Cortisone injections can be used to treat the inflammation of small areas of the body (local injections), or they can be used to treat inflammation that is widespread throughout the body (systemic injections)…A distinct benefit of a steroid injection is that the relief of localized inflammation in a particular body area is more rapid and powerful than with traditional anti-inflammatory drugs given by mouth, such as aspirin….When administered by an expert, cortisone injections offer significant pain relief from inflammation with only minimal discomfort.
We see our most recent transition as a giant cortisone shot to one of our weakest areas in our home – our marriage. What likely could have taken years in therapy was achieved through a sudden job change that meant we were FORCED to start talking through our s@&t and start seeking resolutions so that we could be a powerhouse team once again.
So if you’re still with me after all of that history (it was important to set the stage for my point, as well as subsequent posts I want to share on marriage), here’s the main takeaway I want anyone reading this to take with them: MARRIAGE IS HARD WORK. PERIOD. Let me say that again and bold it for you.
MARRIAGE IS HARD WORK. PERIOD.
I think most of you know by now that we live in one of the laziest, consumer-driven, drive-thru-everything-at-your-fingertips type of society where everything is centred around how YOU, the individual, feel. One of the biggest things I see online revolves around ONE thing “Does this make me happy?” You have hashtags like #livingmybestlife #fomo (fear of missing out) and it’s counterpart #yolo (you only live once) – all of these pushing the idea that your happiness should be your number one top priority, above all else (and often times, above all others). That hard work doesn’t pay off anymore and that you can often cheat or short-cut or just up and quit the system in order to achieve your next BIG thing.
And while I can see some merit in some of these ideas (and am guilty of being an active subscriber to them at times), this WILL NOT work when it comes to your marriage.
Marriage isn’t a state of mind or a feeling of love. It isn’t being committed as long as it suits YOUR needs. It isn’t choosing to stay faithful until your cute colleague hits on you at work.
It’s a choice EVERY SINGLE DAY.
It’s a commitment through the good AND the bad…
“for better, for worse,
for richer, for poorer,
in sickness and in health…”
This is probably a good time to add that if you have gotten divorced or going through it now, I’m not here to shame or cast any kind of judgement. Also, if you are in an abusive relationship, sticking through it is likely not the best option and I’d recommend seeking professional help.
I’m simply here to hopefully shed some light on the real struggles that everyday couples face – those who are in the thick of it in life with young kids at home and are barely holding on – there are so many of us right there with you. So tie a knot at the end of the rope and hang on for dear life, because this season WILL pass.
Your marriage is worth fighting for.
Here’s the hard truth – I don’t think we need any more marriage help books or seminars from the “experts” who have it all figured out. What I’ve come to realize over this last year of countless conversations with close friends who are in marriages that are barely holding on is that we need EACH OTHER. We need to be more honest about our marriages with those closest to us who can help encourage, support and uplift us. We need to walk hand in hand with those of our friends who are struggling and help hold them up when it feels like all hope is lost. We need to know that this is NORMAL in SO MANY MARRIAGES. In the same way that society has worked hard to normalize the LGBTQ+ communities and the movements such as #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo, we too need to normalize what a typical marriage looks like. We need to drop the fantasy of what we THINK it should be so we can roll up our sleeves a little higher in order to fight a little harder for our spouses.
We don’t talk about these hard things when we are walking through them likely because we don’t have the answer and we certainly don’t know the outcome. Will it work or will it flop? Will we survive or will be become a statistic? The details of the day to day struggles can become too much to share with those around us and so we bottle them up, push them way down, put on our fancy shoes and nice dress and smile when our friends say “How are you doing?” “GREAT! Never better.”
It’s a lie and I honestly think that if we don’t start talking more about these struggles, particularly in our marriages, how are we ever going to succeed? Furthermore, how are we ever going to teach our kids and the younger generation what a normal relationship looks like – the one where things aren’t always rosy and where parents do fight and learn how to co-exist.
So today on our 14th wedding anniversary, as Chris and I just gave each other a side hug saying “Happy Anniversary” while prepping school lunches and chugging coffee with barely both eyes open because we were both awake all night long with our youngest son who had a fever and was coughing, I wanted to let you in a little deeper to remind you it’s not all fairytales and butterflies. It’s not always passionate sex or breakfast in bed. It’s not foot massages while they whisper sweet nothings into your ear. Those things are GREAT and are present in MANY marriages, but it’s also VERY normal if you haven’t had times of intimacy with your spouse for months.
Marriage is work. Hard work. Day in and day out with not a day off. It’s giving of yourself, 100%, without expecting anything in return. It’s compromise. It’s putting someone else’s needs before your own. It’s wanting to be the best version of yourself for someone else while accepting someone’s worst version of themselves when they are going through a tough time. It’s patient. It’s filled with grace. It’s frustrating and yet it’s beautiful. It’s messy and yet it’s sacred.
In the end, it’s WORTH it, so if you are fighting to save your marriage, KEEP FIGHTING. There are SO many of us fighting right along side of you!
Happy Anniversary, Chris. There’s no one else I’d rather walk through this crazy journey with, even if I don’t always show it. I love you and I still choose YOU, everyday, through thick and thin, through good and bad.
Love & Blessings,