After the "I do"...

How to make the marriage last.

by Kim McNeely

Ask any happily married couple how their marriage stood the test of time and undoubtedly, you’ll hear words like: love, trust, honesty, communication, and compromise. It makes sense that these are characteristics of a long-lasting- marriage.

In every relationship, there are the amazingly perfect, can’t live without you, never imagine life any better moments; and sometimes, moments you didn’t expect, moments that leave you in tears, maybe even moments that leave you wondering why you ever married in the first place. Most of the time, we fail to mention the rough days and hard times. Truth is, it’s surviving those moments that build the strongest marriages.

It Isn’t Always Pretty

On your wedding day, you assume you know everything about each other. You know his likes and dislikes, he knows yours. You know he snores and that he steals the blankets; he knows you fall asleep if he plays with your hair and that you are a sucker for roses. Does he know all your weird quirks or deepest secrets? Do you know his? We assume we have shared everything and there’s nothing about our soon to be spouse that we do not already know and love.

I knew my future husband was a procrastinator and I loved him despite it, but it was a whole different ballgame when we got married. It went from forgetting to take out the trash, to being late on rent (multiple times). I couldn’t believe he could be so irresponsible. Neither of us ever expected me to become a “Nagging Wife”… oh, but I did. Gentle reminders turned into petty arguments. He saw a side of me that he hadn’t before. This wasn’t the care free and soft spoken girl he fell in love with.

I married a man-child. I didn’t know it on our wedding day, but in a lot of ways, he was still just an immature boy. He relied on his parents far too often – left dirty dishes in the living room – stayed up late playing video games while I went to bed alone.

It didn’t take long to realize that marriages, and people, aren’t always beautiful.

Then Came Baby

Two years into the marriage, I thought we were making plans for babies but when I became pregnant, he wasn’t ready. I began to change, my body changed, and as I prepared for our daughter’s arrival, he became distant. Most of my pregnancy was spent feeling unloved and unsupported. I became resentful towards him. He wasn’t who I hoped he would be during that time.

But when she was born, it was an amazing transformation to witness. My husband went from not being ready, to driving a colicky newborn around at 2am so that I could rest. He was selfless and worked hard to provide for his small family. He still played videos games, but he learned how to do it with our newborn resting in his arms, and he would stop to comfort her when she cried. He even changed her diapers without gagging. The distant gap that I felt during my pregnancy began to close and I fell in love with this new version of my husband.

As he grew in the role of Daddy, he matured as a man.

Three years later, we found out we were pregnant with baby #2,  and that was a completely different story! He jumped with joy! We celebrated. He was present and happy. Everything was perfect.

Bonding Over Hardship

Our second baby had health issues. It seemed like the first two years of her life we were in some doctor’s office or hospital while she was getting tested or prodded. Through it, we prayed together and supported each other. Those were tough times but nothing could prepare us for what came next!

After ten years of marriage, when I was five months pregnant with our third baby, my husband lost his job. He was out of work for six months when we lost our house too. As a result, we moved back to my home state to live with family.

We started all over and he became our rock. The growth and maturity I witnessed, gave me a whole new level of respect and admiration for him. He became the strongest man I had ever seen him be!

Learning from the Struggles

The most beautiful marriages come with flaws, hardships, struggles, and tears.

Those moments help create the most incredible, deepest, fullest love. Hardships should lead to deep conversations and open communication. Disagreements should lead to humility and forgiveness. Struggles should lead to respect and admiration.

At 38 years old, he’s not the 20 year old college athlete that I first fell in love with. I am not the sorority girl that he met 18 years ago. I fell in love with a boy, a man, a father, a coach, and many versions of the same man in between.

Grow together through the changes. Remind each other daily of your love for one another. Learn to love each new version of your spouse, even when it’s not as pretty as you hoped it would be. Understand, that he too, is learning to love all these versions of you!

After the “I do’s” be prepared to love each other in all moments- the hard and the easy, the beautiful and the ugly. ❤