Recently my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. Part of me wants to shout it from the rooftop!! How exciting – 25 years; what a beautiful and wonderful accomplishment. And while yes, this is true, the authentic part of me will share with you the reality of 25 years together and what I think is most important in a marriage.
Couples in long-term marriages are often asked “What’s your secret?” Many have good and helpful insights about how to sustain a long-term relationship. However, relationships are far too complex to find THE secret that makes a marriage work. Hopefully you will discover many things along the way that aid in maintaining a long-term relationship.
But here are some of my reflections on our years together.
My first thought is – Marriage is not what I imagined it to be.
Maybe I’m a product of TV shows that portrayed the ideal happy family. Although this is my second marriage (we came together with two children each!) I can assure you that it was not The Brady Bunch! However, we did have enjoyable blended family moments. Meaning that a house full of children and pets can be fun and we were lucky that our children really liked one another. OR – maybe I am simply a product of never being educated on the realistic challenge of marriage and never being taught how to sustain the many challenges that most of us endure in marriage.
When I married my husband – I only imagined the possibilities of our love together. I was only 27.
Never did I imagine that a relationship would be so damn hard. Never did I imagine that we could inflict hurt on one another as we have done (although after 25 years, we are getting better). Never did I imagine that I would have to accept things that I would rather not accept – such as apologies that come in the form of gestures rather than words. I needed the words but accepted the gestures. Never did I imagine, EVER – that we would live apart for eight months, even though it was the best thing for both of us. Never did I imagine that I would have doubt and wonder if I could be happier in another relationship (fantasized – not real) and I’m sure my husband has fantasized as well (although I lie to myself and don’t imagine that possibility!). Never did I imagine the moments where both of us have felt shame due to the way that we behaved toward one another – although if you continue reading, you will learn how I feel about those moments. Never did I imagine that we could engage in conflict with one another and never did I imagine that we were both so fragile.
I am sure that there are also many things that my husband never imagined, but I won’t speak for him!
And yet – here we are – 25 years later. So far, we’ve made it. I say so far because I have learned that one never knows what life will throw your way and one never knows if we as individuals and as a couple have the capacity to endure the unexpected suffering of life.
As I have reflected on our life together – one of the most important things that I realize – is this:
Regarding the challenging times and painful times in our marriage – I regret nothing.
That is not to say that I don’t feel remorse for the times that I have been the one who has (unintentionally) hurt my husband. But, I don’t regret the worst of times together and I treasure the best of times. Why? Because I have learned so much from our challenging times together. I have learned and grown in ways that I never could have imagined. Personal growth brings peace of mind. THAT is the best part of what I never imagined.
Learning about myself, about my husband and about marriage has provided me the opportunity to be a better person, wife, mother, and therapist (that is not to say that I don’t continue have my many, many challenges – I am simply more aware and just do my best to manage them!). Now let me be clear, there have been many times that I have wished personal growth could come to an end! Even though pain can inspire growth – it still hurts. However, pain is a part of relationships and a part of life. I wish this was not true but balancing the pain with growth can provide meaning to what we go through in our life and in our relationships.
For me, I can say the process of self-discovery is not enjoyable. Well, some of it is – I’ve discovered strength (among other things) that I never knew existed. I’ve discovered that I am forgiving and giving. But I’ve also discovered that what I’ve perceived as being persistent as well as standing my ground is felt as pushing. I’ve discovered that my expectations can sometimes be felt as feeling unappreciated. I’ve discovered that being vulnerable to my husband when I hurt him and express my remorse is not easy. Yes, vulnerability does not come easy! I could go on and on – the self-discoveries are endless – both the negative and the positive. So after 25 years together – I can say that I never imagined the pain and yet, I never imagined the growth. For that, I am grateful.
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If you want to learn more about relationships – I wrote this for you “Ten Essential Things I’ve Learned About Marriage & Relationships” I’ve included the lesson that saved my marriage. I care about the work that I put out to you, and I hope you find it helpful. Please let me know!
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Thanks for reading!
One more thing… I really would love for you to share your thoughts with me. I know it is not easy to do! I understand because it took me a long time to work up the courage to begin blogging! But I want to get to know you. When you feel ready, please feel free to share your thoughts with me in the comment section.
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Details of any stories told in my blogs have been changed to protect the identity of people that I work with in therapy.
Photo Credit: Martin Cathrae@flickr.comShare