I always smiled politely at the well-meaning folks offering their wisdom. But behind that smile was the mindset that marriage would not be hard for us.
Big surprise: I was wrong.
By our first wedding anniversary we had a baby. Our infant son sat in his baby seat at the table in a restaurant as we went through the motions of a fancy dinner, both secretly praying he wouldn't let out a wail to send our fellow diners running.
As I watched my husband over our steak, he opened his mouth to speak and then closed it again.
“What?” I asked him.
“Kind of amazing, isn't it?” he responded.
He didn't have to explain. I already knew what he meant. The year before, it was our wedding day. We were young, carefree and well-rested people. 365 days later, we were parents. Life had already changed dramatically. And to our surprise, it had not been easy at all.
The years continued to pass, and with them came two more children, two dogs, various family vehicles and a change of address. Before we knew it, we were on the cusp of our 10-year anniversary. That fact struck me particularly hard on a recent coffee date with an old friend.
“Wow!” she exclaimed after we had caught up with each other's lives. “You guys have been married almost 10 years!”
They say that life can flash before your eyes when in a precarious situation. I found the same to be true when you realize a decade of life partnership is upon you. In a matter of seconds, everything from our first date to the present day played out before me. To my surprise, tears inadvertently came to my eyes.
“Are you ok?” my friend asked me with concern.
I nodded and smiled.
Yes, I was more than OK.
Because marriage is hard – it's hard work, to be exact. In an age when it's as viable an option to get out of a marriage as it is to stay in one, it's a commitment that surpasses all others. It's a choice to hang in there during it all: money woes, temperamental children, sleep deprivation, career changes, and the realization that the fireworks of early relationships aren't necessarily present in the midst of bedhead and baby weight. It's the acceptance of the other person exactly as they are, with only a desire to be next to them as they move through life.
That afternoon, I brainstormed the perfect 10-year present for my husband. The man who holds me when I'm scared, comforts me when I'm upset and sends me back to bed when I'm sick. The man who both gets under my skin and knows exactly what I'm thinking. I laughed as I thought about the one thing he loves to do (that I don't necessarily love that he does). So I entered the very foreign territory of a fine liquor store, where I bought him a 10-year bourbon and an “exceptional” cigar. As I watched him open it a few days later, I knew by his wide smile that I had done well.
“This,” he said slowly, “is an amazing present.”
Here's to the next 10 years, and all the adventures they are sure to bring.