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In January, hubs and I celebrated 20 years of marriage (together 23).  Twenty years is a bit of a milestone, and usually, the very wordy “me” would write something.  But I didn’t so much as post it on Facebook.  I was going to…but the words didn’t really come together and so I let it slip away.

But in all honesty, when you get to 20 years (and having children in the mix) I reflect on how much work we put into our relationship.  Twenty years is a LOT of work.

When I write, it’s always from the heart and usually something pulling me pretty hard, so the words come easy.  But this 20 years didn’t come so easy.  However, for some reason, I’m pulled to write about this today because I see so many posts on Facebook where wives are disgruntled and asking for advice, and more often than not (because we only get ‘her’ side), the ‘supporters’ come in HARD in favor of landblasting the husband, or even worse….DIVORCE.

Now, why ANYONE would encourage someone in need to go straight for divorce after only hearing one side is not only ridiculous…it’s downright irresponsible.  And as I read the posts, I can only hope that the OP (original poster) has the wherewithal to NOT take these opinions to heart and make a rash decision.  But it’s clear that the OP is feeling lost and looking for guidance.  And I think that is why I’m pulled to write this.

If you know me, you know I don’t hold back and my poor family has to pay the price.

That said, my posts have helped many over the years and that is my goal.  To HELP.

I have been through years of therapy.  I suffer from Generalized Anxiety disorder (which is a little slice of hell on the daily), but am currently medication free (as long as you don’t count wine).

Therapy has included couples therapy.  Plain and simple…relationships are HARD!!

My husband and I came from distinctly different backgrounds.  My parents were married with five children (I’m #4).  We grew up Catholic (I’m still recovering from that) and we had what probably most would say is a bit of a dysfunctional yet functional family.  My parents worked hard for us and wanted for nothing, but were not rich.  I have no regrets in my childhood, we had tons of freedom, which helped me become an independent person.

Hubs came from a divorced family.  Dad was gone at 5, but always in their life and always very supportive of the boys.  Mom worked hard and raised the boys as a single mom, so my husband had to be the big guy in the house.  That said, he played in sports, but followed his passion of music throughout his life.

Hubs is shorter than me, which I think I took issue with more than he did over the years, but of course that has diminished with time and I couldn’t love him more.

That said, the beginning of our relationship was a bumpy one.  The thing that drew me to him was his ability to make me challenge my thinking.  He was smart and funny and super determined to “get” me.   We met in an advertising class.  I was always late because it was off campus and I had to drive there from work.  I used to come in smiling as a defense and lo and behold, that smile is what got him…

He asked me out pretty soon after meeting, but I was dating someone and told him that wouldn’t be appropriate (even though I knew the current relationship was over, I was just lazy and didn’t want to move into a new place).  He was a persistent little guy and by a few months later, I was out from the dude and into a new place and dating hubs.

Wasn’t long before we were living together, then bought a house then married…. (yes, backwards, but whatever).

The first year of marriage was harder than I thought it would be.  It was really a coming together of two personalities and we are BOTH very stubborn and don’t back down.  I’m sure many of our neighbors have heard us fighting over the years.  I still scratch my head and wonder how we kept going.

Shortly after marriage came baby one, baby two and then a new, bigger house…

Insert major stress….

When I see couples divorcing with littles, I can honestly say I get it.

When our first was born, I pleaded to hubs for me to stay home with her and he said okay.  It was an easy answer with heavy consequences.  Little did I know the pressure I put on his back.  Or the way the stress would come out in our marriage.

Marriage in and of itself is hard… adding kids is harder…taking away one income is potentially detrimental.

Being a mom at home with babies is so hard.  You never know how hard until you go through it.  I know parent-free kids don’t get that and are probably tired of hearing it, but I will never forget when hubs got a call from his (new dad) brother and he uttered the words, “I didn’t know it would be THIS HARD”.

YEP…it really is… And it takes it’s toll on everyone. (insert stress fracture on marriage).

I remember being at a wedding of a friend.  It was a Catholic wedding, so the priest was doing his shtick… His words resonate with me still, (even though I’m recovering catholic, dude knew what he was saying):

The devil will try to put a crack in your marriage that can grow over time.  You tell that devil to go to HELL!”  (he was a little more profound in his delivery, but you get the idea”.

But the bottom line is, it’s true.  The day you marry, you are solid and devoted… then life begins.  And it’s never as easy as your wedding day!

I know, because I have been through it.  Many think that the vows will take care of the marriage.  That with the stress of life and kids, that you will just be okay, because you said “I Do”.  It’s simply not true.

Just like a garden, you have to water and care to maintain, the same is true for marriage.  You have to tend to a marriage daily, to keep it flourishing.

When babies come, it’s the first crack.  I’m grateful for my mother in law who told me when our first daughter was born, “Now you have TWO children”.  It took me a bit to get what she meant, but she was right.  We woman have to take care of our men.  And just because you have a baby, doesn’t mean you forget the husband…the man you vowed to.  The problem is, babies need EVERY ounce of our attention and a husband is an independent self-sufficient being, so it’s easier to cast them aside.

But that is a crack.

When our girls were little, hubs traveled a lot.  Parenting two kids alone sucked the LIFE out of me.  It was a 24/7 job with no relief.   Hubs and I got in  arguments because I would yell at him saying, “You GET to travel”.  I see now how those words unhinged him.  HE, who was trying to keep our family together, sacrificing his time with us for a paycheck to keep the roof over our heads.

He felt slighted and so did I.

Crack.

The one thing hubs and I have done very well over the course of our marriage is …we FINISH our arguments, and we don’t hold grudges.  I truly have to credit HIM with this because I was content to walk away and stay pissed.  But he would literally chase me around the house until we were done.  It took me YEARS to understand that our processing was totally different, and why I felt so attacked when he talked at me.  He knows everything RIGHT THEN AND THERE, while I need time to mull it over and take time to process, because I am so emotional and so afraid to say something that will insert another crack, so I shut down.  Over the years we have had many heated arguments face to face…but have finished our arguments over text, because we separated for a bit settled ourselves and could articulate better while not staring at each other (and words have always come more easily to me through writing.)

Over the years we have found our way.  But it was HARD and it took many trials and errors.

I’m very lucky with my husband, because he has a quick wit and has always made me laugh.  I often call that the glue that has kept us together.

I work from home, I’m a photographer and that’s been an issue over the years.  It’s extremely fortunate, because I get to be home with our kids while contributing a bit of an income to our house, but took time to build.  It’s worn on me over the years because I don’t get out and at times that was an issue for us as well.

He recently started working from home and I was dreading it.  I had become pretty comfortable in my alone-ness (even though I also call myself institutionalized).  I wasn’t sure what it would be like seeing him every single day from morning to night.  Eep…

But I dare say, it’s been really nice.  At first he would come upstairs while I was working and trying to focus (which if you know me and my squirrel brain I need all the help I can get), and I would look at him and say, “Is this how it’s going to be now?  I’m your bitch that you can just interrupt whenever you’d like?” or “I’m not your secretary, you can go now”

These words were said in jest, for the most part.  But I was also claiming my space and asserting myself a bit.  In years past, had I said something like that, it would have started a fight. But with all the work we have done in our marriage, my husband just smiled and walked away.

I have a learned to have fun with hubs working at home… Every so often, I come into his office and see if I can distract him while he is on calls (you can run with your imagination on this), I won’t go into details.

And as I write, my husband just made me breakfast (because he’s a BOMB cook).

We have come a long way in our 20 years of marriage.  I know that in that duration, I thought to leave him at least 3 times, because it got so hard.  I remember the day I called his dad and said, “I just don’t know if I can do this anymore”.  And he responded, “I understand”.

But somehow, maybe by the grace of God, we found the glue to put us back together.   We talked our way through the anger, resentment, abandonment, disdain etc…

In ANY longterm relationship, that is bound to happen.  The question is, what are you doing to get past it?

Sadly, resentment turns to poor communication, then no communication with further resentment until people can’t take it anymore.  Then they feel hopeless and don’t know where to start to try and repair things.  People post on Facebook, asking questions about their marriage only to be led astray by the embittered, further opening the crack that is already there.

You need to find your glue.

I remember once upon a time, I was venting to my mother and her response was in defense of my husband. I was a little taken aback, because I needed my mom right then.  She said, “I think he’s stressed.  I remember your father doing the same things”.

Glue

I took a step back and realized that my husband was lashing out because he couldn’t tell me that he didn’t know if we’d make bills that month, because he knew I had nothing to offer financially at that time.

That understanding went a LONG way.  I started looking for ways to relieve his stress and I became a bit more attentive, a bit more compassionate, a bit more understanding.

Many people in marriages don’t survive that.  And they don’t understand that a bit of compassion goes a long way.

In marriages I hear so much about the “What about ME!”  Marriage isn’t about “ME”.  It’s about “WE” and the vows that you took so passionately on the day of your marriage.

Celebrating this 20 (+) years with hubs is pretty sweet, because I can see all the work we did that paid off.  I’m thankful to the therapist who taught me to not turn outside my marriage.  And I am also VERY grateful to the friends and family who supported us emotionally (and sometimes financially) through trying times.

Marriage is no joke.  It’s a partnership through and through.  I don’t have the magic answer on all marriages, just mine and how we got through it.

I have learned that complimenting even the smallest gesture (instead of attacking for leaving the toilet seat up) will make my husband feel like a man.  I have learned that he is VERY forgiving of my cluttery ways.  I have learned that he will do anything to make us happy.  I have learned that he has kept things from me to protect me from an anxiety attack.  I have learned that he is everything I asked for in a husband and father.  I have learned to look outside of myself and my needs to realize I wasn’t the only one suffering at times.  I have learned that when I give, I get back way more.

I’m blessed by the man I get to call my husband.  He’s not the most touchy feely guy, and he can be abrasive at times, but that abrasiveness is quickly diminished when our #lifewithred asks if he’s on his man period!

When people complain about their husbands on Facebook, my response is usually a question back….

What would HE say about YOU!?

Fix the cracks.  Find the glue.  It’s definitely worth it.