I met my husband in college. We were friends, then three years later, ended up falling in love and getting married. After our first year of marriage, we looked at each other and wondered why it hadn’t been harder. We had been told by everyone that marriage is work, that your first year is the hardest, and that love is a choice, not a feeling. We worried that we had somehow delayed that first year struggle and would face it later; that we had somehow managed to extend our “honeymoon period” for an entire year. At this point he had never even heard me fart. Surely that counted as a honeymoon period? We worried that it—the struggle of marriage—would catch up with us. 

Years passed. He heard me fart. We made very little money. We had a baby (and an adorable but naughty dog). We dealt with difficult life events: a divorce in the family, the serious illness of his father, a major surgery, job changes, and a few others. Our life is not perfect nor is it easy. We walked with friends through very difficult seasons in their marriages. We lost a friend to a heart attack at 30. We lost his grandfather and my uncle.

Despite everything happening around us, our marriage remained easy. Each trial seemed to bring us closer and taught us how to rely on each other more. 

Each anniversary we wondered if this would be the year that it all hit the fan and we’d experience what we’d been warned against our whole lives. People consistently commented to me how perfect we were for each other. Single friends would tell me that they hoped to find someone as good as Nathan. Our life was difficult but everyone could see that our love was fairytale. 

So after years of wondering what it is that makes our marriage so easy, I think I’ve finally figured it out. There are many practical things that I could credit here:  phenomenal premarital counseling, independently choosing to remain abstinent until marriage, our fierce faith in God and looking to His model for what a marriage should be. And I do believe that each of these things, along with others, played a major role in our lives and “success” at marriage. But the one thing I believe that is the major cause of our “easy” marriage: my husband is selfless.

Not “selfless” in that he unloads the dishwasher occasionally and saves me the last piece of cake (he does). Selfless in that he donated his kidney to an almost-stranger with absolutely no thought to how painful it would be for himself. Selfless in that he needs to own a truck for the sole reason of being able to help people move. Selfless in that he will do the hardest job at work without complaint every single time. 

His selflessness translates beautifully to our marriage. He does unload the dishwasher and washes 90 percent of the dishes, but he does it purely out of love for me and not at all hoping for credit or anything in return. He works a full-time and a part-time job in order to allow me to stay home with our daughter (and in between jobs, he plays with, feeds, and bathes her). He rubs my back alllll the time—to wake me up in the morning, when he comes home from work, when we’re relaxing before bed, and then to help me fall asleep—because he knows how much I love it. He lets me win every single petty argument that I start with him and ends it with a kiss on the forehead and a “I’m sorry honey” even though I’m sure that most of them are my fault anyway. He regularly brings home my favorite flowers—stargazer lilies—just to brighten our home. 

I’m not writing this to brag about our marriage but to share our secret. Our marriage is easy because he puts me first. Every. Single. Time. And I’m trying, too. I’m trying to be as selfless as he is. I’m trying to put him first and to love him the way he loves me. I’m trying, but I’m not there yet, so I can definitively say that it only takes one selfless person to make an easy marriage. 

So do you want a marriage as easy as mine is? Be selfless. 

You may also like: 

To My Husband—I Don’t Say It Enough: Thank You For Being Our Everything

Marriage Will Never Make You Happy

Marriage is Worth the Hard Parts

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Claire Brown

Claire Brown is a former preschool teacher turned Professor of Early Childhood Education. She also serves as an advocate for physically and emotionally healthy spaces in which children can learn and thrive. Claire is married to an amazing man and together they are privileged to be raising a lovely daughter. Claire’s academic interests include attachment theory, parenting strategies, and finding the perfect crab rangoon.