July is the least favorite month of the year for my husband and me – the double whammy of it being an extra busy time of year for both of us at work, combined with balancing kids on Summer break means we rarely see each other during daylight hours, and sometimes don’t have conversations that go deeper than “Can you pick up milk on your way home?” In a “normal” year, the month of July is stressful and exhausting. This year – with the added chaos of refinancing our house, a visit to family in NJ, and having our son at work with me because panic disorder and day camp aren’t things that co-exist peacefully – and the stress levels have been astronomical all month. It’s been rough.
In the midst of this rough month, there have been a handful of incidents that made me stop and think about how other people perceive our marriage. At different points in this month, my husband and I both had people essentially ask how our marriage was handling the stress of our son’s current struggles. We both answered, without hesitation, that we are doing just fine, thank you very much.
Do we argue sometimes. Of course. Is there added stress on our marriage? No doubt.Is it easy? Nope. Is it fun? Not always. Is this what we dreamed of for our family. Heck no. But it is our reality, and we work with what we’re given. We work with what we’re given, and we have love and faith and stubborn streaks that win out when the days get hard.
We have love and faith and stubborn streaks that win out when the days get hard. We also have a relationship that predates kids by 13 years and is coming up on 24 years in duration. We’ve been together longer than we haven’t, and even in this this rough season of life there is no doubt we are meant to be walking through life together.
Part of the beauty of such a long, shared history are a handful of long, shared friendships. One such friend, somebody who has known us from the very beginning, was at our home recently. At some point in the evening, my husband and I disagreed about something. Our daughter told us to “stop fighting” and our friend replied, “But that’s what they do. That’s what they’ve always done.”
“That’s what they’ve always done.” There is absolute truth in that statement, but it isn’t as ominous as it sounds. There is probably more in life we disagree about, than we agree about. And we aren’t afraid to let each other know when we think the other is wrong. We generally agree to disagree on the small stuff – and it’s mostly small stuff – but we always find a way to come together on the big stuff. It’s worked for over two decades, and it works now as we navigate this latest chapter of our story.
And what a story it has been so far.
We met and fell in love as college freshmen. We came into the relationship with distinctly different world views and not much more in common than a mutual love of music and innate sarcasm. Add in the fact that our relationship was a long distance one, and the odds weren’t in our favor to survive the first month, let alone last through college. But we did.
And then we were 20-somethings trying to find our way in our prospective careers, and navigating what a not-long-distance relationship looked like for the first time. By this point we had grown into who we thought we were as a couple, and that didn’t exactly line up with who we needed to become as a couple to make it through the transition into the real world. It was bumpy and ugly, and sometimes frightening. But the one constant was our shared belief that we were worth fighting for.
So we fought for us, and just about the time that common lore would have you believe we “should have” outgrown each other, we were married. Our early married years were easy, compared to the seven years that preceded them. We found our groove in our respective careers, continued to grow together, and settled into a generally happy little life.
Then came the years of struggling with infertility. That could have been enough to tear us apart, but it just made us stronger. And the day we found out I was finally pregnant, was also the day my husband found out he’d been accepted into his first choice of graduate school programs. He started business school 6 weeks before our son was born and by the time he graduated 3 years later, our family had grown from 3 to 4 with the surprise addition of our daughter – a surprise that kept me on bed rest for much of the second half of the pregnancy, with a toddler and a husband traveling for business while also completing grad school. Those years redefined “hard” for us and redefined us once again as a couple. Once again, it was bumpy and ugly and sometimes frightening (and this time also exhausting). But the constant remained our unwavering belief that we were worth fighting for.
So once again, we fought for us. And eventually we settled into a new rhythm and a generally happy little life. We bumped along together. Figured out how to be parents together. We adjusted, and adjusted, and adjusted again as the kids grew up and their needs changed. We worked with what we were given, and when that suddenly included a son struggling under the weight of anxiety and depression, we used all of our energy to fight for him. We fight together to get him the care and support he needs. We fight together to make sure he feels safe and loved always. We fight together to help him find his way in this world. We fight together for our son, and for our daughter, and for ourselves. We fight, it’s what we’ve always done.
So if you were to ask us how we are doing, we will likely tell you we are doing just fine, thank you very much. This is our reality, and all of the difficult times that preceded this truly hard season of life built us up to the people, and the couple, and the parents we need to be to meet this challenge. This is our reality, and while I wish for an “easy” day once in a while and for more quality time with my husband, I wouldn’t trade away one second of this life we’ve built together.