To the happy couple in my engagement photo:

Would you still be smiling if you knew then what you know now? That this picture of you radiating happiness will someday make you sad and sometimes angry? That life isn’t going to go exactly as you planned? That there will be days, if not for this picture on your dresser, you won’t remember being this happy together? And days you’ll want to scream at the two of you for being so foolish to think you always would be? That these fresh, hopeful faces are going to age 10 years in five?

Would you still be cuddled so assuredly if you knew in the not-so-distant future you’ll only feel that spark in fleeting moments and on rare vacations? Most of the time you’ll both be too weighed down by life and littles to even remember what the heck you were so excited for in this picture.

Do you realize the intimacy that came so easily will eventually take work? That at times it won’t even feel worth it, and you two will almost never be on the same page in its regard? I can see it on your enamored faces—you wouldn’t believe it becomes a periodic source of contention.

Would you still look so hopeful and certain if you knew your path to starting a family will be much harder than you expected? You’ll have an easier time getting pregnant than staying pregnant. Is it still worth it to you if this brings you the greatest loss of your life and also the sweetest, most untimely surprise? Should I warn you now that you each react differently to these life-changing events?

I look at your picture daily. Some days I consider packing you away. It’s painful to see your palpable excitement knowing your second greatest loss is the innocence on your faces.

No one told you marriage would be easy, but would either of you have done anything differently if you knew it was going to be this hard?

Would you still choose each other if you knew the differences in opinion that would arise? You look so confident right now, almost smug, because you agree so wholeheartedly on the big things like money and division of labor. You’re good about compromising on the little things, too, but don’t even realize how resentment will inevitably creep in on both of you and threaten to tear you apart. The loud, exhaustion-fueled fights that will go unresolved into the night. Long stretches of time feeling unappreciated, unacknowledged, and unseen.

These are the days I want to shatter the glass to pieces, your happiness and optimism too much to bear. I feel like I’ve failed you both. Your expectant eyes imploring me to make it better while your genuine smiles try to convince me it’s going to be alright.

And it is. It always is. We always find a way to make it back to each other. But bear in mind it will take more work than you can imagine in your younger minds and more time, space, and compromise than you may be willing to give. Each storm you weather changes you just a little. But weathering them together strengthens you just the same.

Day after day, I leave you atop my dresser to greet me, knowing deep down that both of you are much wiser than I’m giving you credit for. I know neither of you expected this journey to be easy. And I firmly believe both of you had faith in yourselves that you chose precisely the right partner to stand beside you when things got hard.

I realize we knew then exactly what we know now. We’re hanging in for the better. The kind that can only emerge from worse.

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Christine Derengowski

A SAHM, Christine and her husband hope to instill their love of the outdoors in their two young sons by keeping busy outside. They can often be found walking their dogs, cheering on the Detroit Tigers, or enjoying play dates anywhere kids can expend large amounts of energy with minimal destruction of property. Christine has also been featured on Motherly, Scary Mommy, Love What Matters, Good Morning America and more.

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