Married life is so different than I thought it would be.  When we were young and in love, I was sure we would be the couple that would beat the odds—and you know what, in some ways, we have. But it’s nothing like I expected. I thought true love was fluttery feelings and never disagreeing.

“Okay,” I used to think, “we can have the occasional disagreement, as long as we communicate well, listen to each other and resolvd things in a calm, healthy manner.”. But marriage isn’t usually so neat and tidy.

Now I think true love is something altogether different. It’s actually deeper and more profound than I used to think.

Steve and I are well matched. During pre-marital counseling, our pastor had us take an assessment to help us identify ‘red flag’ areas where conflict would likely arise. When the results of the assessment came back, there were no red flag areas. Sure we had different backgrounds and slightly different perspectives on some things, but overall we approached life with similar beliefs. We exhaled a huge sigh of relief. We were going to be okay.

We got married, decorated our apartment, and stepped into life thinking we had it figured out. We had a solid friendship and we truly enjoyed being together—but we didn’t have a clue about what life was about to throw our way. We started off optimistic and in love, then real life happened all around us. We’ve been through some crazy, hard stuff—depression, getting fired from a job, friends divorcing and having a baby with a severe disability. We’ve held each other and cried with grief in moments so dark we could hardly see a way forward. Through those rough waters I have been so glad to have him by my side

We’ve also had some amazing experiences together—walking the red carpet with Gerard Butler at a movie premier in Los Angeles, attending a ball in Ginezno, Poland, sipping tea in an old estate home in England, oh, and building a thriving business together. We’ve done things I never dreamed I’d have the opportunity to experience. I remember moments, staring into each other’s eyes, and not being able to hold all the joy inside. And through those fairytale moments, I have been so glad to have him by my side. His smile, his friendship, his sense of humor makes the exceptional even better.

But after 15 years of marriage, I no longer believe it’s the highs and lows that make or break a marriage. The lowest lows and the highest highs are the exception to the rule. And while they may be extremely difficult or hugely exciting, they don’t define a marriage. It’s day to day life that makes or breaks a marriage. The drain of the mundane can be exhausting. We work together, raise our boys together and live life together. It’s busy and stressful. Sometimes, after the boys are in bed, and we are both sitting on the couch catching up on our favorite BBC show, I wonder why it feels like there is a wall between us.  Those bricks pile up one at a time—a small comment that hurts or being too tired to share details from the day. Each one doesn’t seem like a big deal, but over days and weeks they pile up to create a wall. Sure, these bricks can be torn down, but it takes vulnerability. Someone has to reach out to the other person with a hug, kiss, or a kind word. The same fatigue from the every day stress of life, the stress which allowed the wall to go up, makes it hard to tear it down.

I used to think highs and lows put strain on a marriage—but now I see it’s more than that. The every day stress of life is what makes marriage so challenging {and so beautiful}. Every day we have to fight the distance that wants to creep in and build a wall between us. I wake up in the morning to Steve making breakfast for our family and give him a little kiss. And bricks come down. Sometimes I slip a little note into his bag that says, “You are brave.” And bricks come down. Every day we have to hold each other, listen to each other, and share our hearts with each other. It isn’t fancy, but it matters. It isn’t complicated but it’s not simple either. Marriages are built in the little, everyday moments of life. Marriages are broken through the everyday strain of life and the drain of the mundane.

As I sit here reflecting on how different married life is from what I expected, I feel grateful that I married my best friend. I am grateful that he and I are committed to breaking down walls and fighting the distance. Together we are learning to be more vulnerable and to love each other better in the midst of the mundane.

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