Yesterday, Huff the Hubs and I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary. Some days it feels like we just got hitched, other days it seems like we’ve been married for a lot longer than six years (ya feel me?).
Many people say that the first year of marriage is the hardest. I don’t agree. I feel like every year has its challenges. But, to be quite honest, the past two years have been the most difficult.
Now, before I begin, I want to preface by saying I spoke to Huff the Hubs about this and let him read this post beforehand so everything you’re reading has been Huff Approved. And also, this is not a husband-bashing, “woe-is-me” post either. I really want this to offer encouragement for those couples going through similar seasons in their lives.
When HtH started graduate school, I was so excited for him. I thought it was going to be an awesome time for him to feel a little more intellectually stimulated because work was starting to become monotonous. I knew it would mean a “new normal” for us… I just didn’t realize how overwhelming the new normal would be.
In the two years since he started grad school, we have added a new member to our family, bought our first house, and I quit working full-time. For about six months, every single job around the house fell on my shoulders. I’m talking cooking, cleaning, lawn work, taking out the trash, feeding the kids, getting them dressed, nursing the baby (in his defense HtH can’t do that), laundry–all on top of working full-time. (Don’t get me wrong, Huff the Hubs helped out, too. He hasn’t been some lazy slug that comes home, plops down, and did nothing. He has helped out when he can in between writing papers, going to classes, and studying for hours on end. But even he will agree that the majority of the housework and kid-raising has fallen on me.)
Huff the Babe didn’t start sleeping through the night until he was about 9 months old so I was doing everything around the house, while also waking 3-5 times a night to nurse a VERY cranky baby.
I was emotional, angry, resentful, and could be set off at the slightest thing.
I. Was. Miserable.
I’ve found that its during those times that The Enemy really sneaks in to hit you while you’re down, whispering lies into your ear.
“This will never end. It’s always going to be like this.”
“If he really loved you, he’d help out more. Sure, he’s been at work all day and he has a test tomorrow, but you haven’t showered in two days. Who’s the REAL victim here?”
“He didn’t say you looked nice today. He’s probably having an affair with someone at work.”
“You’re marriage is failing. You need to accept that now.”
“You two can’t recover from this.”
These were all thoughts I have had (on more than one occasion) during this season of life. (Now, if you know us, you know that we’re Bible-believing Christians and we believe this is it–we’re making our marriage work come hell or high water. And even though we clung to our faith, it was/is still difficult. Why? Because we’re human. And humans mess up. And humans sometimes let their emotions and circumstances rule their behavior and thoughts. Thank God–literally–for grace.)
It didn’t help that we were both so tired all the time and barely had energy to greet one another at the end of the day let alone do anything else. Couple our exhaustion with barely speaking after the kids went to bed (HtH would start homework AS SOON as the kids were in bed and he wouldn’t come to bed until I had already been asleep for a few hours) I was beginning to feel like we were roommates who just so happen to sleep in the same bed.
This went on for about a year. I knew we could do better. I knew it because we had been better in the past. I just didn’t know how to get to that point. Finally, after a big, blow-up fight (I can’t even remember what it was about. Probably something ridiculous because that’s what happens when you’re physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually exhausted–you cause an enormous fight over something as trivial as placing the mail on the counter instead of in the basket. Yes, that’s happened. Aren’t I a neurotic delight?!) we decided to go to counselling.
We’ve been before; we try to have a “relationship physical” every time there’s a new, big change in our lives. But we hadn’t been in over a year and SO MUCH had changed. After that session, I started to see improvements.
We began praying together at night, talking more honestly about how we were feeling, and making more time for one another. We began emailing/calling each other during the day just to see how the other was doing. We made a rule that before he greeted the kids when he first got home, his absolute first order of business was to greet me and give me “first kiss”. Why? Because these kids need to know that Momma and Daddy put their marriage first: before the kids, before the jobs, before everything except The Lord, our marriage got top billing. It may sound simple but these little gestures have really buoyed the health of our marriage and our attitudes.
We had to lay down our selfishness, lay down our need for constant affirmation, and really take a hard look at what the other person was experiencing. We had to (and still do) continuously remind each other, “We’re a team, let’s act like it.”
Is it back to the way it was two years ago? No. And I don’t know if it will be. But you know what? I’m okay with that. Why? Because we’re not who we were two years ago.
We are veterans of “grad school combat”. We’ve been in the trenches together during the most difficult days. The days that begin with a sense of dread and end with you crying into your pillow. The days that you feel you’re all alone and there’s never going to be a reprieve. The days that you think, “Is this it? Is this really all there is?!” Thankfully, with school ending in a little over two weeks, we are starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
We were talking the other day and I said, “You know in Band of Brothers when there’s a guy using the machine gun and then there’s his ‘helper’ that’s loading the bullets? I feel like you’re the shooter and I’m the bullet guy.”
“I don’t know, babe,” Huff the Hubs said. “You’ve been more than just a bullet loader.”
“Maybe then grad school has been our One Ring,” I offered. “You’re Frodo, because you’re carrying the weight of school. I can’t carry the ring, but I can carry you.”
“YES,” HtH replied. “That’s exactly it!”
Yes, the past two years have been excruciatingly difficult. But you know what? I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It has shown us what we’re made of. It’s shown us that we can survive some pretty dark days; those days you don’t want ANYONE to know about. Its shown us that seasons come and, even though you may not believe it, seasons end. Its shown us the worst of each other, and also the best. But most importantly, its shown us that despite all the bad that’s come, we’re still standing, still fighting for one another, still committed, and still here.