Friday, June 2

Stickin' It Out

I got married today. Well, not exactly today. It was Friday, June 2. But the year was 1989 - 17 years ago. "Amazing", people say. "Good for you", they comment. "You must have picked the right one", the add. Amazing? Yes. Good for me? I'll admit it. But it has nothing to do with picking the right one, really. It's not because I found the perfect boy, and it's certainly not because he found the perfect girl. It might sound a little unromantic, but there never really is a 'right one' floating around out there waiting in the cosmos for the other 'right one' to crash and connect. There may be 'better ones'; there may be 'more easily compatible' or something or other. But the real story is you start becoming the right one the moment you vow that "you do".

When I married, I had been 20 for a whole 33 days, we had just completed a 2-year long-distance realtionship and HE was five years older than me. You can't really set yourself up for less success, frankly, but I knew I was doing something serious. That was in part to being mature for my age as well as being raised in an environment with a faith that taught commitment with no turning back. Short of being in physical danger, once connected, you were pretty much stuck. I also had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and besides the romantic desire to live happily ever after, I had a sense of wanting to live my life the right way. I started the wedding day, thinking that I was making a choice, and that I'd be making that choice for the last time. What I didn't realize is that every day, for the rest of our lives, we'd both be making that choice over again.

It turned out that some days, the choice was a no-brainer. The butterflies were there, the adrenaline was pumping with activity associated with setting up house, having our own place, being our own new little club. But after a time, the choice was an act of discipline. One of us didn't treat the other with kindness or respect. One of us made a selfish comment or decision. One of us spent too much money. One of us wanted one thing, the other wanted something different. One of us broke a promise to the other one. On those days, the thought occurred "I shoulda-never-done-this!" On those days, life seemed relegated to an eternity of being taken advantage of, disapppointed with the other person, full of aggravation and frustration if we stuck it out. The butterflies were definitely outta there.

This is the point where more than 50% of married couples decide they made a mistake, they are no longer in love, the mate didn't keep their end of the bargain so a chapter of their life has closed. They feel like they've come down a path and reached a dead end. What they don't realize is THAT is exactly where life was supposed to lead them. It's not a dead end, but a "T", and their life journey depends on whether they turn right or left. What they don't realize is that is exactly where love, in its purest form, begins. It was at that point that I realized that love is simply doing what is right for another person, regardless of what you think, feel or want. It has nothing to do with a feeling. The feeling was just the chemistry that made you want the chance to love the person in the first place.

I take no credit for making the right decision...The first time the decision was hard for me, I had God with his thumb in my back, reminding me of my commitment, reminding me that I chose this life, that I couldn't just change my mind on a promise. That's what makes it a serious thing. You don't stop just because it's not working for you any more. I turned right at the T - I chose to persevere, as did HE, on several occasions, and as has pretty much anyone who has stayed married for a significant period of time. What we found beyond that curve in the road, just after the "T" was a shock--We had acted out of pure commitment, and rather than living a life of disappointment and frustration, feeling stuck someplace we didn't want to be, we found that life was happier around that corner, more secure, infinitely more fulfilling.

I began to see HIM in a new light--a guy that would love me with all my good qualities and put up with my bad. I saw a guy who would take care of me if I ever got sick or disabled. I saw a guy that would share the thrill with me that comes from creating a nucleus family of our own with little people who had sprung from us. I saw a guy who would happily sacrifice what he wants to give me what I want, and get joy out of doing it. I saw those things because I began to do those things myself, without any promise of HIM returning the favor. I discovered THAT was love.

To summarize, here's the scoop, for those of you who haven't started in marriage, or who are about to quit the one you're with in an effort to find 'the one'. I speak both from personal experience and from observation of those who have made different choices in their lives--and I'm pretty sure I'm right.

1) If you're getting married because you are in love, you won't always feel in love. The feeling is just chemistry. Making unselfish choices in favor of the other person is the love part and YOU are responsible for doing that, even if they don't. The bonus is that the feelings do come around quite a bit.
2) On the days you wish you weren't married, (which totally will happen) stick it out. Sticking it out eventually brings reassurance that you're glad you got married. You get to see and feel what real love is like.
3) When you do things out of sacrifice for the other person, you begin to be "the one" and that starts turning them into "the one".
4) Quitting a marriage pretty much seals the deal that when you find the next "the one", you won't be able to stick it out with them either. In marriage, practice does not make perfect. Only working it out makes perfect.
5) Once you have children, your obligation to sticking it out exponentially increases. You have handed over your rights to the little people you've brought into the world.
6) Sticking it out does not mean living a life of misery and frustration. It means figuring out a way to make it work well. That is why they call marriage hard work. And that's why its so rewarding when you succeed.
7) Sticking it out will not bring the life you always wanted. It usually gives you a life you didn't even know you wanted, and you'll be immeasurably happier than if life had followed your original plan. It's the formula of 1+1=10. You'll get out more than you put in after you make the choice to stick it out.
8) Just because your "the one" changes does not give you the right to stop sticking it out. Of course they changed. It was just not the changes you planned. It's nature, and it's called 'growth'. You've changed too, but you like your changes better than you like theirs.
9) Life is like a cycle - you'll have many opportunities to make the 'stick it out' choice with the same person. Sometimes the choice is a no-brainer, sometimes you get to practice true love while making it.
10) Every time you choose to stick it out, the choice becomes infinitely easier the next time you have to make it. And your life becomes richer, happier and more rewarding than it ever was before. Not because HE's perfect, but because He's the one for you.

Babe, thanks for being my "the one" and letting me be yours.

24 of Your THINKS:

Jana said...

Excellent, excellent post! My fourteenth anniversary is coming up this month, and I totally agree with you. Hubby and I agreed back before we got married that for us, there is no such thing as divorce. Not even an option. Of course, I love him more all the time, so it's never come up! Great post!

Anonymous said...

Jen, that was an incredible post and I love your honesty and openess. You say what so many of us feel in our hearts. I can't stand it when people say that they never argue with their mate and that they never having feelings of regret, etc. because I really have a hard time believing that. Steve and I get along better than a lot of couples that I know, but that doesn't mean that there are never days where we would rather not see each other for awhile, until we get over whatever we are feeling. Anyways, Happy Anniversary and you did an excellent job spelling it all out. Enjoy your anniversary celebration, whatever you all are doing.
-Charlene

Anonymous said...

Jennifer,Thank you for your honesty. For me, I did not get married till I was 31 years of age and my hubby was 37. We were both single for a very long time and I lived on my own for approx. 10 years. We’ve only been married 6 years coming up on 7th anniversary next month. I too am blessed with a husband who is so in love with me and I am so in love with him.

I still remember your wedding day and the song you choose for your Processional... the Love Theme from St.Elmo’s Fire – One Word - BEAUTIFUL! You were married 10 whole years before me and I attended many, many weddings between your wedding and mine. To me that was the most beautiful song and I chose that song for my Processional too.

- Debbie Stewart

Anonymous said...

I got all caught up in memories of your beautiful wedding that I forgot to wish you a "Happy Anniversary". Happy Anniversary to you and John and wish you many more years of married bliss.

- Debbie Stewart

Thad said...

You oughta write a book on marriage. Oh wait, you just did! Just kidding.....Happy Anniversary!

So, if you were 20 years old, and he is five years older than you and you got married seventeen years ago.......man, he's old!

Åñèè§å said...

happy anniversary :) nice to hear ur long distance relationship worked :)

Crystal Breeze said...

Nice blog today Jennifer....

mary ellen huff said...

I know you MEANT to say you owe it all to your wonderful friend Mary Ellen for introducing you to "the one" oh so many, many years ago - hee hee.

GREAT blog - all very well said. Isn't it amazing how so many people take the whole "the grass looks so much greener on the other side of the fence" thing and apply it to marriage? Only to find out the next person is human too and will also make mistakes and also dissapoint them because we are all human and we all make mistakes!

I heard on a tape about marriage a great thing I often think about..."if you were married to you, would you want to come home to you?" Simple but profound, be the kind of person you would want to be married to - makes alot of sense to me!

Happy Anniversary to a great couple!

Rach said...

Your words could not have been better put. You proved the point oh so well, and I may just have to link to this post in a week when my own wedding anniversary comes .. because I cannot explain this whole love and marriage thing better then you did.

Happy Anniversary! Here's to MANY more! :)

Marissa Kay said...

Jennifer-Not only did you say it so beautifully, but YOU LIVE IT. I know I don't live with you ( well, our camping trips might be close to counting as living together), but I do hear and see the way you are! Through four-wheeler puchase, many business trips, EMS calls, meetings at church, the truck he bought when it was your turn to replace your wheels and the unfinished basement- you are the wife! You are ever faithful!
I didn't know you when you got married, but I am so happy to have you and your family in my life and my families. Happy Anniversary, Friend!

evelyn said...

I remember that day...I remember the whispers in a mother's heart wondering if this was a "good thing" but I also remember your resolve. I remember you looking so young and so brave and so ready. I remember John being so excited and so tender to me ...the mother in law...with promises that he would take good care of you. And he has...just as you have taken good care of him...just as you have mothered those beautiful children of my heart with tenderness, kindness, and humor...just as you have loved me so well. Your words are right on...failure in marriage is a hard thing to grieve..the pain never goes away...just dulls. Thank God for second chances...mom

Cathy said...

Nice post- your words ring true. Congratulations on 17 years of marriage. My husband and I celebrated 15 years on June 1.

Wystful1 said...

How awesome....I love this post!!

I'm making the rounds for the Blogging Chicks Carnival and wanted to stop by and visit!

My little chickie is dancing away!! Come join me.

Shna said...

Reading my way throught the Blogging Chicks Carnival!

Excellent post, so very true. I've only been married for 3 years but we have stuck it out when we wanted to throw in the towel!

Kellie said...

What a great post! I love it when you talked about the "T". For so many, their problems lead to what they think is a dead end, and they need to instead treat it like a "T". I know so many people who need to read your post! Congratulations!

Paula said...

Happy Belated Anniversary! My birthday is June 2nd too! Great post, fantastic!!! So full of wisdom and truth. I especially like #3 on your list. Love's not a feeling, we've got to learn to get passed our emotions to the meaning of the word. Thanks for getting us passed our emotions!

Your Sis In Christ,

Ginger said...

Wonderful post - and perfect timing for me. Thank you for posting.. I'll refer back to this often. It gave me good tears :)

~Jennifer said...

GREAT post! You and I have walked similar paths and come to similar conclusions about marriage. I was 2 weeks shy of being 20 when I got married and in September it will be 19 years for us. Like yours, our relationship was a long distance one for 3 years. (He was in the Army)

Thanks for sharing your wisdom on the subject.

Malissa said...

a wonderful post.
Today is my anniversary! And you are right it's the sticking with it and being the way God wants me to be that makes it last!
Great post.
Malissa

Biker Betty said...

Happy Anniversary.

You are so right. When my husband proposed and I said yes, right then and there we committed to stick it out thru thick and thin. We celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary last month. Many people need to read your blog. Commitment just isn't what it used to be.

owlhaven said...

We celebrate 20 years this summer. Got married at the ripe old age of 19. Good advice in this post. Worked for us!

Mary, mom to many

eph2810 said...

What a wonderful post :) - We just celebrated 23 years of our commitment/marriage together. You are so right. There are ups and downs in the marriage. Not every day is a happy day. But it you have made the commitment you will find ways to make it work. And God is a great plus to. I pray for our marriage. And if you there are problems, I look at myself first to make sure that I am not the 'trouble maker'.
Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom on marriage.
Thank you for stopping by today.

Catez said...

A refreshingly honest post. I like how you describe where love begins. (I came over form the BC Carnival).

Queen Beth said...

FOund you throught BLogging Chicks....I really liked that. And that's completely how I feel about my husband. We'll be married for 12 years in August and it has not always been happy, but we keep it all in stride and live to make each other happy!