Five Things I've Learned in Five Years of Marriage

by - Friday, June 01, 2018

Today marks five whole years since I walked down a million stairs in five inch heels to promise to love, honor, and respect Mike for the rest of my life. There isn't a day that goes by that I do not reflect back on that day and the vows we made. I can firmly say that I have withheld my end of the bargain and although circumstances have changed significantly since, my love for him has only grown. To say that our lives have changed during the past five years would be an understatement. From new jobs to a new town, to buying our first home and having two kids, life has been going at a pace so fast that it's been hard to catch my breath. 

I wanted to sit down and reflect on this time of our lives together and the things that I have picked up along the way. These are my thoughts and ramblings. They are not going to be gospel to everyone. Here is just a small sampling of what I've learned during our incredible first five years of marriage.

1. Love isn't everything
You're probably thinking... who does she think she is? Love is the center of everything, a reason for being, yada yada yada... YES, love is literally the most important thing we can give and receive, however it is not everything that a relationship is. Relationships can still have love but lack in other very important facets such as respect, admiration, empathy, and loyalty. I believe that when we can give someone all of those aspects we are showing them true love. 

I am currently going through the most difficult time in my life. I am on the upswing but it has been a long journey that for a while there I had no idea what was going to happen. I had just gotten the most unbelievable and horrible news that shook me to my core and while processing that, I found out that I was expecting my son. I have never been so shocked to say the least. Me, type A Jen, who plans everything to a T. I was terrified to tell Mike. I had no idea what he'd say but I knew he'd be upset. Of course we'd planned to have another child, but not yet. And certainly not while we were dealing with a terrible trauma. I called him crying(bawling) and told him that I was pregnant. I waited for the hurtful words to spew... but he said "that's great news!" WHAT? Here I was, sick over this news(not from morning sickness), and I just knew he was going to be upset, and he said exactly what I needed to hear! That was a greater shock than the two pink lines. Mike, although clearly taken aback, knew that this was ultimately a good thing. He built me up when I was feeling lower than low. I was very happy about the baby but I hated the circumstances that he was being born into. And when I developed prenatal and post-partum depression, Mike was there to keep me together. Always a shoulder to cry on, to scream into, and a hand to hold. Yes I had a lot of people show me love during this time but it was my husband who was there everyday, rolling with whatever life threw at us, who held our family together so I could begin the healing process of this trauma. 

Yes love is 100% important and necessary in a marriage. But it isn't everything. You need someone who holds down the fort so you can fall apart sometimes. Someone you can count on to keep it together when you cannot. Someone who sees the good when you can only see dark grey fog.

2. Raising kids is HARD business
My two children are 2.5 and 6 months old currently. We are deep into a season of bottles, dirty diapers, pbj, Goldfish crackers, and Elmo. Some days I count the minutes until bath and bedtime. On those days I feel awful because as a mom we feel bad about mostly everything. As a parent you rarely have any time to decompress. You're constantly worried about milestones and sunscreen application or if your kid is being exposed to too much media. But no one could have ever prepared me for the sheer amount of LAUNDRY we now have. How in the world can two small kids that weigh less than 45 lbs together have this much laundry? It's never ending. 

Sometimes you have one of those amazing days as a parent where both kids eat well and nap like angels. They are polite in public and give you hugs and kisses at bedtime(I'm looking at you, toddler) and they sleep all night without a peep! But most days are a series of events very different. They include spit up and tantrums, tear stains and boogers, screaming and laughter. Not one minute looks like the minute before. I find myself wondering if all families are like this? I talk to my girlfriends and realize that this is normal.

I think what makes raising kids so hard, in my opinion, is that it's so heavy. It's laden with the notion that our parents are the single largest influences in our lives. At least, that's what my parents were for me. I have this expectation of myself to be the very best and try so hard for perfection that cannot be reached. The more that I have learned to be laid back and that it's okay to wipe my kids nose with a dirty sock in a pinch, the more I've realized that kids are resilient. They're also programmed to LOVE you. And wow, the love they provide is incredible. Mike and I just sit back and talk about how they amaze us sometimes. They are truly awesome human beings. The more that we do this, the more we realize that our kids provide us with more than we provide them. And that, my friend, is perspective. And the job doesn't feel so thankless and hard at that moment. 

3. Travel is My Spirit Animal
Before our wedding, I had never left the good ol' USA. Now, five years later I have visited four new countries, two new continents, and three new states. We have explored the homeland of my father in law, attended the wedding of a friend in a tropical paradise, and the country atop Mike's bucket list! We have snorkeled with sea turtles, explored ancient ruins, and have been on an inflatable raft in a glacier lagoon with water 900 feet deep. We have basked in the glow of a sunset in the Grand Canyon and stayed up all night looking for puffins during the midnight sun in Iceland. We have people watched on the Vegas strip and Mike pissed off the largest iguana you've ever seen in Mexico. This is just a fraction of what we've experienced on our travels. 

Getting out of my comfort zone allows me to let go of many of the preconceived notions that I have. But what I've gotten most out of our journeys is that we compliment each other so well while traveling and in our everyday lives. I am the schemer of our family, so I enjoy the planning stage of a vacation so much that I am consumed by every detail and facet of what we can fit in during the time. Mike is the more laid back person. He usually lets me run the show and just lets me know the high points of what he wants to do. Of course, things happen, someone gets sick and cannot scuba dive in a cenote in Mexico, or a tropical storm threatens your plans for an entire week, but it's what you make of your experiences that truly determine what you'll get out of that trip. And what I've always gotten are wonderful and lasting memories to cherish and rehash forever. At least once a day one of us brings up one of these experiences in conversation. We laugh or speak in reverent tones about our favorite places.

Being addicted to traveling allows us to plan for something good and fun. A new experience that we will have fond memories of. I have the travel bug right now so bad. Lucas is only six months old so I do not feel comfortable leaving him yet. But come next summer, for our six year anniversary, we will be packing our bags and headed out on an adventure. I hope the kids will be as receptive to adventures as we are because we are already planning special trips to take them on!

4. Expect Change and Overcome
I mentioned above that I am currently dealing with some circumstances in my life that couldn't have been foreseen. During this time I have gone from the top of the mountain to the bottom of the hill, and that was all in one minute. Life has a way of throwing you for a loop. I have known this truth since I was 13 years old and lost my mother. But I could not have planned to go through what I am currently for anything. I am currently digging out from the deepest pit of my life and I can say with absolute certainty that although this experience has been awful and sometimes unbearable, it has made my marriage thrive. Throughout this time of turbulence I got up in the morning and had coffee with my husband, I kissed him before I left for work, I sat down and enjoyed watching the sunset with him on our back deck while he let me talk and vent about anything and everything. I genuinely enjoyed his company more than ever before. I crave our time together and prioritize it because it makes me feel good. When everything else is crumbling down I have one constant that I can cling to. An anchor that keeps me safe.

Change will come. Some changes will be happy and some will rock your world. But I've realized that I have a true partner to navigate these sometimes treacherous waters with. And that has made all the difference.

5. Life has Just Begun
Little did I know that 1826 days ago, when I said I DO, that sitting here today I would be reflecting on what has been, hands down, the greatest time of my life. I have never laughed so hard or had so much fun as I've had with Mike and things are sure to get better with time. We have only just scratched the surface and I am so excited to see where we go next! Five years in and we're just getting started!

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