Jon and I celebrated our 10th anniversary earlier this year by renewing our vows in Vegas with Elvis officiating. We got married the first time in Vegas, but it was a more traditional ceremony (sans Elvis)…so it was a lot of fun to celebrate our milestone with the King.
And we deserved to have some fun; after all, making it to a decade is quite the feat when it comes to marriage. Our parents are still married – mine for over 45 years, Jon’s for almost 40 – and this has been an unspoken source of encouragement for us. We know it’s possible to make it.
But…we all know that many marriages don’t last. Jon and I have traveled through many peaks and valleys ourselves, but one thing has always carried us through: Commitment.
It’s not just commitment in the sense of committing to each other, it’s bigger than that. It’s committing to marriage. It’s enjoying the good times and weathering the storms together.
You have to know going in that it’s not going to be a rose-petals-on-the-bed kind of life. That might be how it starts out, but be prepared and understand that your love for each other will change over time. It’s supposed to.
Now anyone with a brain knows that before you get married you have to tackle the lifestyle issues including religion, kids (many issues with kids but I’ll save that for another day), finances, family roles, where to live, etc. If you don’t deal with these basic themes, you’re setting yourself up for major drama at best. Listen to each other and find agreement on how you want to life your life together. Be on the same page.
But preparing for marriage isn’t just about being on the same page, living together, pre-marital counseling, or being best friends. It’s also about taking a hard look at how you define commitment. Will love be enough to carry you through? Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes you have to rely on the mutual understanding that “no matter what we will get through this”.
Jon and I met after college. He moved into the apartment next to mine, and I knocked on his door to welcome him to the neighborhood. We had our first date a week later. After over a year of dating we got engaged, and got married about a year and a half after that. We did most of the typical pre-marital stuff, but my story with Jon is not typical.
The first couple of years were great, then we fell into a major valley. Jon had to deal with his addiction issues, and I had to try to understand what he was dealing with and what it meant for our family. Did I know he was an addict when we were dating? Not at all. We were both partying, so it never occurred to me that there was a problem. It didn’t rear its ugly head until about 2-3 years into our marriage.
Rehab, half-way houses, therapy…you name it, we tried it. Throw 3 kids into the mix and life gets very complicated.
During these years I asked myself on a regular basis, “Why am I in this marriage? I don’t need this.” But in my lists of pros & cons, three things were always at the top of the pros: Love, Commitment, Family. Every time I was ready to end it, I saw those three things and chose not to.
Thankfully Jon turned his life around with God’s help, and we began to repair our marriage. The scars are still there for me, but they don’t define me or my marriage. The vows we took mean something, and we are both committed to making our marriage and relationship work.
This is all heavy stuff, and I hope that more traditional marital challenges are what you encounter (he’s a slob, she’s moody, crazy kids, meddling in-laws, etc.). What I hope you get from this is the message of sticking it out. If the love is there, and I mean really there, you will see the value weathering the storms.
Ten years of marriage has taught me a lot, but I am aware that fast forward another 10 years and I might have a different perspective on how to prepare for and survive marriage. But for now this is my take on it. I’ll end with a few things that have helped me along the way:
- If you are in it, be in it for the long haul.
- Mean what you say.
- Forgiveness is a powerful thing.
- Family is all you really have. (For us our kids are the glue, they are everything to us and our greatest reward.)
- The good times are great times. They are what sustain, so treasure them.