Last week my husband and I celebrated our 20 year anniversary. This is no small feat in my family, so I’m quite thrilled to reach this milestone. Let me share with you some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in the past two decades.
Before we married all those years ago, I had a child. Her father died from complications with diabetes and we not only still hadn’t fully recovered, we were also very acclimated to being on our own. Both of these would be extremely difficult for anyone to step into.
My incredibly loving husband entered our new marriage and his immediate role as a dad with such strength and grace. I knew then God brought me this man as only He could find just the right person we truly needed at that exact moment in time.
Within 6 months after our wedding, our precious daughter was diagnosed with the same disease we lost her father to and I miscarried our first biological baby. One of these would have easily sent someone with a history of depression like myself into hibernation. My sweet hubby stepped up in ways I would never have imagined.
Lesson 1: Choose a partner who will step up in hard times and allow them the space to do this.
He stood beside us as a fully mobilized husband and newly adoptive father while our daughter was hospitalized, in the classes to learn our new normal, and as we implemented this demanding lifestyle. Letting him step into these roles was sometimes actually quite difficult, but that allowance is a huge part of this lesson’s equation.
After we lost our baby, I was broken in a deep and frightening way. He allowed me the space to heal, holding my hand as I struggled through the pain yet also pulling me forward by that same hand to keep me from spiraling downward. This balance is something I’ve never seen another human handle so breathtakingly well.
We survived a great deal of overwhelming life circumstances since that rough start to our marriage, including our son’s epilepsy diagnosis and my lifelong dream business going under. Through it all, he’s been the man I’ve leaned on exclusively for 20 years and I will always fully trust him to hold me up when necessary.
I’ve thoroughly stressed the importance of supporting each other, but there’s a flip side of this coin. There must be a lightness to marriage as well. The heaviness will come no matter how much we care to avoid it, but it’s imperative to try to balance this.
Lesson 2: Laugh often.
It’s easy to take life too seriously. This needs to be counteracted. We must find ways to enjoy life together and let go of all the pressure at times.
There is a time to weep.
And there’s a time to laugh.
There is a time to be sad.
And there’s a time to dance.
-Ecclesiastes 3:4 (NIV)
Find someone who can make you laugh uncontrollably. Like this:
One of the many things I love about that picture is the laughter is real. Yes, that’s a staged shot and he was instructed to whisper something funny in my ear. I honestly don’t even remember what he said, but that laughter and joy is 100% authentic.
Lesson 3: Find a joint venture/passion.
Coming into a marriage as parents can make it difficult to bond with couple like ventures in those early years. We love our kids wholeheartedly and often put their needs above ours as so many of us do. A rather large chunk of the last 20 years was dedicated to cheerleading and lego league competitions, doctor appointments and research for our kids’ health issues, and other various childhood activities.
These parenting obligations often left us exhausted and unable to find time to just spend as husband and wife. Balancing these two responsibilities is a struggle I think most families deal with. I truly believe finding something you’re both excited about, a joint venture or passion, is key to finding balance in this area.
As I shared in preparing for your empty nest, we recently purchased an RV. We both love the outdoors and this was the perfect choice for us. It also has the added benefit of turning our excitement level for retirement way up.
This lesson doesn’t require such an extreme purchase. Other ways we’ve done this over the years is binge watching shows, going to movies, or just hiking through the woods. It really all depends on the life stage you find yourself in.
After 20 years, we’re headed toward the end of our parenting years and sailing right into the GiGi and Papaw ones. Our daughter is now happily married with her own adorable daughter and another one due in two short weeks. Our son is starting college next Fall, already adulting beautifully but also allowing us to hold on to those last priceless parenting moments with him.
All those hard times, screaming fights, and days you really don’t think you’ll survive can bring about something beautiful. In all honesty, there were certainly times we didn’t think our marriage would survive, but thankfully it did. We continued to choose each other again and again.
I’m forever grateful to my husband for never giving up on me even when I was ready to throw in the towel. I dedicate these words to him, a man of honor, sacrifice, and an unconditional love I never thought possible.
Because of our deep commitment to life and love, even in the worst of times, life has come full circle. Just as our daughter walked with us into our marriage (pictured far above), her daughter, our angelic granddaughter, is following us into this second half of our lives:
Marriage is worth it. Sticking it out is so rewarding. Hold each other up. Laugh uncontrollably. Find common ground. Choose love again and again…
I must give a HUGE shoutout to our awesome daughter, owner of Play2Pro Photography, for this heartwarming day at the park photo shoot she gifted us for our anniversary! That knowing look she’s aiming at the photographer in our wedding picture is definitely her already predicting she would grow up to join his profession and recreate that exact shot with us and her own child. We are so very proud of all she’s accomplished and for standing beside her often flawed parents through our entire 20 years of marriage.
As always, thank you for being on this journey with me. If you’re new here, please subscribe to my free newsletter so we can get to know each other better!