We were babies back then, no matter how grown up we felt. Responsibility and independence have always been second nature to me, so I felt much older than I was. But the pictures do not lie.
At a mere 20 and 21 years old, we had much to learn about life and love.
Tomorrow, we celebrate 20 years of wedded bliss. We have come a long way since our youthful marriage, which mostly means we have gained a few kids, a few pounds, and a few wrinkles. There may also be a handful of other tiny things that we have acquired since then (school debt, I am looking at you), but we will pretend they don’t exist for the sake of harmonious discussion.
Despite half a lifetime of matrimony, we have yet to arrive at the pinnacle of marital omniscience. Perhaps, the twentieth year of marriage is the one where you start to understand all the nuances of living together as husband and wife. I will keep my fingers crossed.
In the meantime, we will be here, living the dream that we have created together. It is different from the dream we thought we wanted when we made eternal promises to each other so many years ago. It is more feet on the ground, and not so much head in the clouds. But I wouldn’t change the current version of our dream, even if I could.
Well, I might choose to get rid of the dirty socks that I routinely find in various locations around the house; I could live quite happily without those. But, when we are talking about the things that really matter, 20 years together have been good to us.
That is not to say we have a perfect, conflict-free relationship. We are two very different people learning to work as one, which often means we don’t see eye to eye. Constant communication and compromise have become our best friends.
As we work to make our marriage last, one piece of marital advice consistently stands out in our minds:
Put your marriage first – ahead of your children – no matter how old they are.
That is sage advice! Our marriage provides the foundation for our family. If we neglect it during these years of raising children by making the kids the center of our lives, our relationship might not outlast the empty nest that is growing ever closer.
Sometimes, the kids don’t like it when we tell them in word or action that they do not get our undivided attention. They don’t appreciate it when we leave them to fend for themselves one night a week so we can go out on a date. They don’t understand why we must get away for a weekend without them every once in a while. (The oldest is 18, and the youngest is eight…they can handle it!)
There are times when they voice their disapproval, but their childlike protests no longer bother us. We don’t feel a single ounce of guilt for creating a marriage-centered home where our dear children do not run the show.
We are providing them with a father and mother who spend the time necessary to keep their marriage moving in the right direction. We are building a firm foundation for each one of our kids where they never have to worry about whether Mom and Dad are going to stay together.
By putting our children second, behind our marriage, we are giving them the gift of a stable family. I cannot think of a single thing that I would rather give them at this stage in the game.
Marriage is hard work, but after 20 years with my favorite guy, I am more convinced than ever that it is worth the effort. I look forward to the next two decades, and beyond.
P.S. If you are struggling in your marriage or have been divorced, please know that I hold no judgment. My heart goes out to you and your family. I am only telling you what has worked for me.
P.S.S. If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy the one I wrote last year at this time: