Before my husband and I got married, numerous people told me that the first two years of marriage were the hardest. If we could get through the first two, then we would be good. And we did. In fact, our first two years were good. There was my struggle with depression that made parts of it rather difficult, but as things would turn out, it has been the third year of marriage (also the most exciting year thanks to the arrival of our littlest) that has challenged us the most. Our third year of marriage has been filled with tough choices life choices. And as many of you know, sometimes the crappy hands that we are dealt in life can wear on us the most. So much that if we aren’t careful we start seeing things differently. The rose-colored glasses we once wore are gone. At times we struggle to see all that is right because it seems like what is wrong is staring at us with big florescent lights at every turn.
For the past few months I have been in a rut. Shocking, right? She’s living her dream. She’s doing what she always wanted to do. She leaped. So what’s the problem? The problem is, I’ve been struggling. I have been struggling with not letting the things that are wrong in life consume me. I have been struggling not to let the challenges that we are facing weigh me down. I’ve been in limbo between my career dreams and my dreams for my family, between wants and needs. Attempting to prioritize while not losing focus of what is at the heart of everything I do my desire to be there for my husband and our children — and not just physically there, but emotionally there. To be present. It is perplexing to me how my heart can be so full when I look at them and yet feel so heavy when I think about some of the decisions my husband and I have had to make during our marriage. There are moments when I will look up asking, “Can we please catch a break?” And then life will somehow remind me that even when it feels bad, it isn’t that bad. Through it all, His grace abounds.
An article by The Huffington Post referenced a study that found that couples are happier three years after the wedding. Three years. Last month, after almost eight years of dating and three years of marriage. That’s right, we turned three.
According to the article, couples found that after the third year they began facing more “serious challenges.” The couples that were polled described year five as the hardest. They were tired. They had more work, and sometimes even having children played a role in this. Also noteworthy was the fact that the first year was good. Not surprising…after all it’s the honeymoon period.
For me, this study confirms something that I have known all along, something that life has shown me in three years of marriage and 29 years of living. There are high points and low points. There are times when it seems as though things are falling into place just as you had hoped, times when you are living your dreams and life isn’t just good, life feels good. And then there are times when you find yourself bracing yourself because the hits keep coming. Another round of questions or group of people might report how glorious year seven was and how year nine looked a lot like year 10 because the workload didn’t get lighter and kindergarten started.
But the thing about surveys is — it’s all relative. There is no magic number that applies to every couple.
I’d like to think that the best years of marriage are the ones where you don’t let life come in between you. The ones when you decide that despite being in the midst of the storm, you aren’t going to jump ship. Instead you hold on to each other, your love, and your sanity and remember that storms end. And even during those times when you feel like you are drowning, your love keeps you afloat. You come out on the other side and realize that it wasn’t all that bad. Sure it wasn’t easy, but you got through it — together.
My love for my family — for my husband, and his love for me — coupled with my faith, have kept me from sinking even during those days when I feel like I’m drowning. And for me, our anniversaries are not just symbolic of the days where I felt like I was frolicking through a field of wildflowers hand in hand with my love, but a true reflection of our love and commitment for each other and the fact that we’ve got a love that won’t quit. No matter what life throws at us.
It’s possible that our fifth year will challenge us in new ways — this year too. Life always seems to think that we are up for a challenge, but I believe our clear skies are coming. They always return.
I think there is a time in your marriage when the growing pains stop. You are still growing, but it no longer hurts or feels awkward or uncomfortable. Instead, it becomes a matter of fact. It doesn’t hurt anymore because you stop resisting. You wake up and realize that compromise isn’t about giving in or losing. It’s realizing that in the grand scheme of things, so many of the things that you thought mattered really don’t. You realize that sometimes seeing your spouse smile means more than having your way. Sometimes you realize that your way was the wrong way and you realize how blessed you are to have a spouse who knew the right one. You realize that peace is what you should be striving for. You reach a point where you don’t just say you accept your spouse for who they are, but you actually do. And you begin looking at them with the same eyes you looked at them with years ago when their shortcomings didn’t matter — because you knew they were more than their weird habits or quirks. The two of you find freedom in being who you are, in accepting each other for who you are, and continue to grow separately but not apart. The rose-colored glasses emerge after being tucked away. And you realize that having them isn’t all that bad. Sometimes you need to put on the glasses and allow yourself to see the things that are right in the world, in your life, in your marriage.
So based on the findings of the study, if you haven’t been married that long, you can brace yourself for year five because man it sounds like a doozy. Or you can simply live. Live knowing that life is a mixture of the sweet and the bitter. Remember that the bitter helps us to know just how good the sweet is. Sure, sometimes it hurts, but it doesn’t always hurt. You can remind yourself that challenges can be overcome — life challenges, personal challenges, and marital challenges. And on those days where you feel like you are drowning, reach up. If you’ve got a good partner, something tells me they’ll be there reaching back.
One of the most beautiful things about companionship is the fact that you don’t have to weather life’s storms alone. And by all means take out those rose-colored glasses again. Because they just might change the way you see that storm. Never-ending vs. almost over. Taking everything from you vs. washing away what didn’t need to be there so you can see the beauty of what remains.