He was sweet and kind, considerate and caring, protective and selfless, and I was certain he was the right one for me. He loved my daughter and knew from day one that dating me meant dating both of us. Jaedyn would always have to be part of the equation. Anything we did centered around what was best for her. So on May 7, 2005, I left my life with my daughter and stepped into our life with our daughter. Little did we know how much work marriage would be. We weren't just playing house, we were building our life together. Life. Singular. We were one unit. Three souls.
I had no idea what marriage entailed. I'm certain Dan didn't either. Marriage is one of those things, as I've found with teaching, that can't be taught or understood until it is lived. It needs to be felt and breathed. Sometimes it brings lots of happiness and other times it hurts. A lot.
In the first many years of our marriage, and even still sometimes today, it was easy to compare our marriage to those that "seemed" perfect. Social media, while great for many reasons, can also steal your joy if what you use it for is to compare your entire life to someone else's highlight reel. Nobody's complete story is plastered on Facebook or Instagram. Even if others want you to believe they have it all together, chances are they don't.
I struggled with the notion of a completely storybook marriage. One where both parties are always madly in love with no seemingly large issues. It seemed as though our marriage was an oddity, as we were so far from that picture perfect union. Today, however, I'm starting to feel like the marriages that last are the ones that are more similar to ours rather than the ones that seem perfect from afar.
Because we are used to swimming through tumultuous waters. We've even survived a few hurricanes. Despite near drowning fatalities, we've desperately continued to tread water and keep our heads above the surface. It isn't a pretty picture, but perhaps it's more realistic. Perhaps it's what keeps us together despite the storms.
Eleven years ago on this day, I married the man of my dreams. Is he still the man of my dreams? Well yes and no. Am I the woman of his? Well yes and no. We are far from perfect. So far from perfect. But we are perfect for each other. He's perfect for me because he shows up. He's seen me in my darkest moments and loved me anyways. He's tolerated me in my most unlovable moments and continued to hold my hand the next day. He supports my dreams and aspirations without fail and propels me forward when I'm ready to throw in the towel.
He makes me smile. Always. Even when I'm not in the mood. He's taught me that life doesn't need to be taken too seriously. His spontaneity has filled my memory bank with some of my most cherished experiences. He's continually modeled a positive, grateful life and taught me more about forgiveness, gratitude and love than I ever could have imagined he would. He's taught me how to roll with the punches of life and is able to say I love you in moments when I can't.
Our marriage has endured its fair share of ups and downs. We've had fights that are explosive, ones that are needed, and some that were embarrassingly petty. We've loved hard and fought harder. We've fought to keep our marriage alive. We've fought to make sure we didn't lose each other amidst the earthquakes of our life. We seem to glide along seemingly well and then all of a sudden a storm will hit, and we fight, not to love, but to pass through the dark tunnel without letting go of each other's hand. We keep swimming. Keep paddling. Keep showing up. Sometimes it's me. Usually it's him. Sometimes it's both of us. But we don't give up. Sometimes I want to. Sometimes I need him to be my anchor and tell me that giving up isn't an option. No matter what though, we don't let go. We don't quit.
Being a mom and a wife have required me to let go of the word my and replace it with our. I've learned that people are more important than things and circumstances, and while it is very humbling, it is still a beautiful thing.
We are different from the kids we were eleven years ago. Our hobbies and interests have changed a little. We are constantly learning new things and becoming different people, but marriage isn't about being the same person. It's sharing our life together and knowing how to give each other space to grow and do things that fulfill their own individual part of the equation. It's messy and confusing. It makes sense that this marriage gig is a hard job.
Happily ever afters exist. It's just that, unlike the fairytales, you actually have to put in the work. Just like anything else in life that's worth it, you reap what you sow. My hope for our marriage is that we are still holding each other's hand 50 years from now, showing up every day and not giving up.
If you are reading this, know that I am incredibly thankful for your love and your selflessness. Thank you for showing up every day, when there are more days that I don't or can't show up for us. Thank you for listening to my needs and taking action even when my needs seem silly or small. Thank you for rolling over in the morning to hug me before you get up because you know I need that reminder that even though you aren't a morning person, you still love me. Thank you for coming to Sioux Center when our kids have activities so that we can be together as a family, even though I'm sure you'd rather be at home enjoying some quiet time. Thank you for promising to still love me when I get early onset Alzheimer's and pinky swearing that you won't put me in a home until I'm at least 80.
Thank you for being my anchor. My arrow that propels me forward when I'm stuck at the bottom. Your sacrifice and love is unwavering. It's steadfast. It's constant. It's everything that I never knew I wanted eleven years ago. I'm sorry I don't say I love you enough. I know there are many moments that I'm hard to love. I'm sorry I don't give you my best on a daily basis. But rest assured that I love you to the moon and back. That even when I'm at my most unlovable, I recognize what you do for this family and how much you love us with every fiber in your being. Thank you for being exactly what my soul needs.
Happy Anniversary to us.