Working on Happily Ever After

Nineteen years ago today, I married my high school sweetheart. We were kids. Really just kids. I was 18. He was 19. At those ages, the odds were against us. I’m pretty certain most of those who shared the day with us thought so too. So what made us decide to get married so young? A lot of things.

My mom had died, and I wanted to get out of the house. He got a job with his dad’s company and was going to move two hours away. His mom was seriously ill (and died a week before our 1st anniversary). We were in love. Put it all together and marriage made some sort of sense. Living together without marriage was not an option. His mother was devoutly Catholic, and mine had been devoutly Protestant. It never even crossed our minds to not marry. So we did. In a simple church wedding followed by a lunchtime reception. It was appropriate for teenagers.

The wedding was the easy part. The marriage . . . that has required some effort.

And marriage is effort. Living with another person does not come easily. Building a life that is mutually satisfying does not just happen. Managing finances and raising children are not things we know how to do. These things are learned. It takes conscious effort everyday. And that’s where so many couple stumble and fall. They forget that there is another person in the room with them. They forget that there is now a “we” and not just a “me”.

Our marriage is not perfect. Far from it. There have been many times where one or both of us have forgotten about the other person in the room. It happens more easily than you think. It happens without even realizing that it has happened. It happens without malice or ill intent. It happens because work is stressful. It happens because the kids pull you in a million different directions. It happens because the laundry and dishes have piled up to the ceiling. It happens because you work on opposite shifts and live in different worlds. It happens so very, very quietly. It happens without anyone realizing it. Then one day, you look up and see the person in the room with you and don’t recognize them anymore. How many times do we hear of marriages dissolving because a couple grew apart?

We’ve been there. We are there. We’ve grown apart for all those reasons. We don’t want to be there. We have four beautiful children who deserve  to grow up in a happy, stable home. We have the kind of home our parents only dreamed of having. There’s no abuse or infidelity or cruelty. There’s just two people who have forgotten what the other person looks like.

So today, we left the teenagers in charge. We went to shops we never go to because they have breakables, and we always have small children with us. We went to lunch at a restaurant without a drive-thru window. We talked and listened to each other. We held hands. We laughed. We started to see the other person across the room again. We decided to work on our happily ever after.

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