We are not the couple who had years of wedded bliss before kids entered the picture. I mean, we’re no shotgun wedding couple either, but we had one solid (and fast) year of marriage before we heard that sweet, sweet 6 week old heartbeat, and our lives (and relationship) changed before our eyes. We are now 5 years into marriage and 2 kids down, and boy do we have stories to tell. Stories of love and war, stories of laughter and tears, stories that we probably never anticipated when we said our vows or celebrated that first baby kick. But stories that have made our life ours, nonetheless. And more stories are sure to unfold.
The number 5 feels significant in its “roundness,” yet a speck of time in its relativity. We’ve been together almost twice that long, and we had some wonderful times together as just us two – beautiful memories that I often yearn to recreate when I’m feeling nostalgic or homesick for those “simpler” times. But in our new and forever reality, marriage and parenthood are almost synonymous. And that brings on a whole new meaning to our relationship.
We LOVE each other deeply. We RESPECT each other with our whole hearts. And there has never been a day or night when I haven’t wanted to see my husband, kiss his face, or feel his presence in our home. (Perhaps an hour or two, but never a whole day). And aside from our moments, we have a very good, very even, and very happy marriage. It sure as hell ain’t easy, we’ve had unhappy spells, and we’re not even that far in. But we have a 3-1/2 year old and a 1-1/2 year old, so I’d say we’re doing pretty well, all things considered…
When we were expecting our first born, a family friend (and mother of 2) gave me this piece advice: “don’t mention, think or utter the D-word until at least 2 years in – even in the most heated of arguments.” I remember laughing it off, and thinking deep in the back of my mind what an awful marriage she must have. Girlfriend, if you are reading this, know that I so very much appreciate that advice, and I have since given it to a number of pregnant and married friends. Now that we are 2 kids in, we have been in that 0-2 year range for almost 4 years, straight; “The Trenches” as people so fondly refer to them. And if we want any more kids (which we do), we’re surely not in the clear any time soon. While that infamous D-word is not actually something I’ve ever thought in real terms, parenthood in marriage brings up all the thoughts somewhere along the way.
Now, I have to say this – it does feel strange and emotionally challenging to discuss the hardships of marriage when I would overall consider my relationship happy and successful. Perhaps I am alone in this. But I have a little inkling that I’m not, and I’ve learned the only way to make something okay and understood is to talk about it. So here I am. Getting married is a big life step – and no matter how in love or how strong your relationship is, the feeling of being married is markedly different from the feeling of not. It makes your relationship stronger in more ways than one, yet it does not skirt any issues along the way. But having kids is a big life step, too, and if you thought marriage brings up issues, parenthood magnifies them. Suddenly, you see yourself AND your spouse in your children, and your desire to be that nonexistent “perfect” parent means that eggshells and feelings will be inadvertently crushed while trying to navigate the mommy/daddy dynamic along side the husband/wife one. The two are no doubt friendly companions (marriage and kids), but sometimes they can really get in each other’s way.
So at 5 years married, I can’t help but think what our marriage would be like without the little ones running around. But for the rest of our lives, our married life will be about being a family, and we can pretty much say that’s our whole married life. We learned how to be married and how to be parents right on top of one another, and one could argue we are still learning how to do both – together and separately. But I can see now, looking back, that one year married is nothing. For a lot of people reading this, I’m sure 5 years married is nothing, either. And for some, 5 years married with 2 young kids is nothing. But each year seems to put things into slightly different focus, for each year brings new discoveries, new adventures and new turning points. New levels of understanding, gratitude, and compassion. New ways to communicate and support each other, new ways to compromise, new ways to be a team, and new ways to redefine the self. New expectations and new things to learn. And always, new ways to love and feel loved.
Learning to be parents and a loving married couple, learning how to separate the two
and appreciate them as the whole piece they create together, is, I believe our life journey. We are a wonderful family. But we often get so caught up in the go-go-go of parenthood that we often lose that simple romance I see in they eyes of kidless couples around me. As we look down the road to all the years to come, watching our kids grow up, finding new seasons in our marriage and within ourselves, and remembering both the good times and the bad that will always be our unfolding story, I know we will hold onto one another with the strength of two humans who chose each other, and who continue to choose each other. We will reclaim those days of sweet and innocent romance. When we meet couples who have been married for far longer than we have, who have raised kids to adulthood, and have seen more layers to marriage than we probably know exist, and they look at us and say “the secret to our marriage is that we never fell out of love with each other at the same time,” we laugh, and cry, and take that to heart. We know that is coming from a place of true, honest, loving humility. We see the strength in their partnership, and the work they’ve put in to what they have. And we know we are going to be just fine. 5 years married, 2 kids under 4… we’re not even through the tunnel yet.
I love you, 5 years. And I love each year still to come.