“Divorce isn’t an option for me”.
He said this to me with tears in his eyes at the end of one of our first dates in college, and I knew that he meant it. Coming from a broken family, he knew the value of a commitment to a healthy relationship and the repercussions of broken promises. At that point in my life, my parents had been married nearly 30 years. They had shared their ups and downs, and as the second oldest of four children, I had been a key witness. Both of us were coming from a lifetime of lessons-learned, both the how-to’s and how-NOT-to’s, and we knew that what we were getting into by falling in love was not to be taken lightly.
Now What? - The Beginnings of a Healthy Relationship
Fast-forward a few years, and it was our wedding day. We said our vows, cut the cake, and went home together. There, standing amid the wrapping paper, leftovers from the rehearsal brunch, cards, and dishes in the sink, we looked at each other with the question “now what?” buzzing loudly in our brains. We worked hard to graduate college. We worked hard to earn our teaching certificates. We worked hard to find a place to live, jobs, reliable transportation, and now, here we were, real-life grown-ups standing at the precipice of the immensity of the many years ahead of us, God-willing. We had always looked to the future - to the next big step. Now what, indeed? After all of that hard work to get to the top of this mountain, was this really the top? And if so, now what?
Define it - What Does Marriage Mean To You?
Over the next year, we decided to define our marriage and come up with a game plan for a healthy relationship. (Better late than never, right?) Good teachers always have evidence to support their ideas, so what made this any different? We sat down together over many nights and lots of wine and laid it all out. We asked ourselves: what is truly important to us? What will be important for us to share with our future children? We developed a mindset that allowed no take-backs. We made our rules and, almost a decade in, we have stuck to them.
We knew the basics: Family is everything, God is everything, and always remember that when we are facing a problem, we can never solve it by turning away from each other. We are stronger together no matter what. We chose to love each other every day, to want what is best for the other, and make it happen as a team.
Finally, we decided that our jobs were important, not because they were paying our rent and student loans, but because we truly believe that God created us to do these jobs, this work that we do on earth. Work is important no matter what the work is. The way you decide to spend your precious, limited time on this earth is truly a reflection of who you are as a person.
I know this all sounds romantic, but it really isn’t. It’s the same idea as the basic “Think Tank” that may happen before you start your business. We created our business plan together, and have executed it - not flawlessly, but hey, done is done.
It Ain’t All Romance: A Lifetime of Forgiveness
My great-grandfather had a way with words. I know this because the stories that are passed down are recited the same way every single time, and they usually end with the listeners laughing and the story-teller with tears in their eyes. Of all the things we all know he said, one of them is “it ain’t all romance”. While a starry-eyed teenager may be bummed out to hear that adage about marriage, anyone who has made it through the first year can nod in agreement. It is not all about the romance, folks. Marriage and creating a healthy relationship is work. Marriage is waking up every single day and checking off your business plan with your business partner. Of course, like any business, both partners won’t be able to bring their A-Game every single day. That’s when the best marriage advice I ever received comes into play: Marriage is a lifetime of forgiveness.
Again, my apologies to the starry-eyed teenager who stumbled upon this post. I know that sounds depressing, but forgiveness is grace, and grace overflows the soul with love and understanding. Forgiveness is brave and fierce, and forgiveness is the ultimate secret weapon. Did your husband leave his cheesy nacho plate on the floor and it got kicked under the couch and got crusty for 2 weeks before you found it? Forgive him. Did your wife clog up the shower drain with her hair and couldn’t be bothered to clean it out? Forgive her. Did you get in the worst argument of your life because the mother-in-law needs to mind her own business and your partner isn’t sticking up for you? Forgive Forgive Forgive. Remember, you are in this together. For LIFE. You are each other’s partner. These choices that you make every single day to love each other are the building blocks of YOUR successful marriage.
This “lifetime” of forgiveness advice does NOT condone physical, emotional, or mental abuse. If you feel that you are vulnerable or being abused, PLEASE call the domestic violence hotline at 1-800-799-72331-800-787-3224 (TTY).
Working Everyday towards a Healthy Relationship
Now, we have two beautiful children. I am no longer a full-time educator, but I work full-time in a church. I am the primary parent during the week for our children, as my husband’s vocation as a teacher requires that he teaches his classes during the day, has planning and prep time at the office, meetings in the evenings, and
My vocations as worship leader and mother aren’t always easy. My kids have been to Mass more than other Catholic children their age. They’ve been to funerals, weddings, burials…the list goes on. It’s our life. That is our reality. It isn’t easy, but it’s important.
The funny thing is that I am ALWAYS asked why I don't get mad that he works so much (isn't that weird? I'm sure he's never asked that about me) especially since we have children. I always smile and think back to those two young kids creating their business plan, and I respond:
“Here's the thing: It is GOOD for our children to see the sacrifices people make for their vocations and work. It is GOOD for our children to see that building people up takes TIME and EFFORT. It is GOOD for our children to see their parents supporting one another in their work and to make them a part of the results. Children who see that working hard is the norm will be raised to be hard workers.”
My husband is my partner and my best friend, and I am his. One of his vocations on this earth is to be the best father and husband he can be and he is fulfilling that vocation better than I could ever have imagined. We truly believe that we were put on this earth to teach music and touch lives through music. If I can help him to fulfill his vocation, then I'm doing my job as a wife and mother to our children.
This is our marriage. This is our business plan. This is a healthy relationship. To make it work, we choose each other every single day.
Photo Credit: Unsplash