Love and marriage are such sacred commitments between two people who desire to share the rest of their lives. It requires so much more than what is portrayed in romantic movies and music. As Frank Sinatra sang, love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage. What you didn’t hear is that it takes much more than just being in love to build a happy marriage.
Most of us grew up in a society that idealized marriage and it leading to living happily ever after (thank you, Disney). I was 19 years old when I married my high school sweetheart. While there has always been love between us, I did not know that marriage required more than being in love.
Marriage is comprised of love, anger, communication, misunderstandings, humor, sadness, light, darkness and so much more. I know this because I have been married for 10 years now. Those who know us often say they aspire to have a marriage like ours. However, I have a little secret to share—our marriage has been filled with a combination of darkness and light. We were quite young when we got married, and because of it, we have had the honor of “growing up” with each other. It has not always been joy and love. It has been a relationship experience supported by surrendering, vulnerability, acceptance, and choosing to stay through the discomfort of change.
Thirteen years of being in love taught us the most important lesson of marriage is to accept each other exactly as we are—in every moment. We have learned we chose each other to hold up the mirror, and be the reflection of the painful stuff of our past in order to dig deep within that pain, and begin to heal from it. It was a hard invitation to accept, but it has been worth it to see each other grow emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically—especially when it was easier to give up.
Below are the ways we have cultivated the marriage we currently have:
Our marriage has required us to surrender to ourselves and to let go of the false expectations we created based on the beliefs we developed about relationships and marriage. We had to support each other as we both unearthed the roots of these beliefs and began to create our own beliefs based on the desires of our souls.
It asked us to share the deepest fragments of ourselves with each other. We shared the dark aspects of our lives we had never shared with anyone else. This was the most challenging for us as we were exposing ourselves to the bareness of ourselves. While we’ve been physically naked in front of each other, being emotionally naked with each other created a level of discomfort that encouraged us to trust each other wholeheartedly.
It asked that we communicate often and that we listen without interruption, even if we do not agree. We accepted the dark and light that lives inside us. We accepted there will be sadness, and we don’t need to be “fixed”. It has been about being present with each other and knowing we are two individuals, with our own ideas and beliefs. It means we give each other space to work on our individual stuff while trusting we will be okay no matter what life brings to us, because we have done harder things in the past, and we always come out of it.
4. Staying through the discomfort of change
This has been a great teacher to us. I would be lying if I said I never thought of walking away, and Robert would be lying if he said the same. It is because we have grown up from being two teenagers searching for love into two adults who realize how complicated love really is. We’ve seen each other at our absolute worst, but we’ve also seen each other at our full potential. We know we will continue to hold up the mirror for each other, no matter how hard it will be. We will watch as we both evolve, and we won’t hide from it. We will encourage one another while surrendering, being vulnerable, and accepting the situation no matter how uncomfortable it is.
5. Marriage is about paying attention to the one you share your life with.
There have been many moments of heartache and disagreements.
This is the truth about marriage they don’t tell us about. The marriage we have created today is not the same one it was a few years back and it will continue to evolve as the years go on. Our marriage is a result of years of personal work, individual work, and a commitment to loving, respecting, and trusting each other through it all.