We met online in October of 2005, by way of a spam email ad I was THIS CLOSE to marking as trash.
Meet Single Christians!
My cheese alert siren sounded loudly, but for some reason, I unchecked the delete box and clicked through to the site.
We met face-to-face that Thanksgiving. As I awaited your arrival in my mother’s kitchen, my dad whispered to my little brother, “Hide your valuables. Stacy has some guy she met online coming for Thanksgiving dinner.”
We embraced for the first time in my parents’ driveway. I was wearing my black cashmere sweater with the tiny hole in the armpit. I’ve forgotten what you wore, but never the green of your eyes.
Things moved fast.
I flew down just before Christmas and met your family. They told you they loved me after the first night of playing board games and listening to my Spongebob Squarepants imitation.
We met up a month later in Chicago, both of us getting lost trying to find one another. We sipped vanilla chai tea, fixed a flat in the gas station parking lot, planned our next meeting before kissing goodbye.
When my long-term substitute teaching job ended in Michigan, I took one in Ohio so I could be closer to you. We shared dinners in your mother’s kitchen, leaned into each other in the stands at the Reds’ game, held hands at Newport on the Levee.
On Superbowl Sunday, you called my dad on the phone, asked his blessing on the marriage proposal you had planned during our hike that afternoon.
Five months later, at his wedding toast to us, he told you there was no instruction manual, and there were no refunds. And he meant it.
We honeymooned in Mexico at an all-inclusive resort that some would call a perfect vacation destination. We giggled as the electronically piped-in sounds of “nature” accompanied us along resort trails and decided over a game of 500 Rummy that we’d stick to freshwater lakes and mosquitoes. We returned to the US and settled into our first home in the Northwoods of Michigan.
That winter, we found out who we’d actually married.
I, the neat freak, germaphobic, private, independent woman did not exactly mesh with you, the relaxed, messy, forgetful boy whose mama cooked and laundered and cleaned up after him until the day we married.
Are you going to help me fold these towels?
You had been under the impression that a wife was a maid, and marriage a lifelong sex-fest.
I had been under the impression that a husband was someone who unclogged drains, and marriage meant someone else would help pay the bills for the clothes I wanted to buy and trips I wanted to take.
When do you think you might mow the lawn?
Before we had a chance to grow together, we grew apart.
We tried lighting a fire, but we had no kindling. Heck, we didn’t even have a spark.
I’m with teenagers all day long at work—I don’t want to come home to one. Turn off the video games and pick up your socks.
We were one year in, and already over each other.
I’m going for a walk. Alone.
Other voices grew louder.
Your people decided they didn’t care much for me after all. I was a nag. All I wanted to do was yank your chain.
My people decided they didn’t care for you either. You couldn’t be counted on. You took little initiative in relationships or life.
Somehow, despite the fact that no one really cared for anyone, the two of us managed to make a baby.
I crawled back into bed one morning, positive pregnancy test in my clammy hands and you asleep beside me, deliberating about how to tell you the news. I was relieved you were, or at least pretended you were, happy.
The next months were a whirlwind of nursery painting (yellow) and ultrasounds (surprise, please!) and hormones (pass the Oreos).
I read every baby book I could get my hands on and relayed the highlights to you at the end of the day. What I hoped would make me more prepared just made me terrified of things like listeria and Group B strep and umbilical cord prolapse.
How can you not be concerned about these things?
After my diligent preparation to naturally deliver our perfect child, I ended the day with a c-section, a giant baby with glucose issues, and family whispering about me in the waiting room because I wouldn’t let them in before visiting hours.
The next few months—no, the next few years—was when it all really happened.
We both screwed up. Lots.
I backed the Grand Prix into your Jeep, not realizing you had left for work on the motorcycle. You flooded the house by leaving a dirty burp cloth in the sink and a faucet running for three hours. I spent all our money while you spent all your energy people-pleasing. We confided in the wrong people, and rarely in each another.
We lived in three different places and held five different jobs in those years. We had two more giant babies and a couple of large, hairy dogs. We managed to be good parents, even if we weren’t the best partners. We poured ourselves into the kids while avoiding the truth of what we were—or weren’t.
Then we started losing things. We lost my income, and with it went comfort and security. We got creative. We communicated better. We learned to manage a household and survive on much less.
We lost people we loved—so many people. Nine family members and two dear friends. We grieved hard. We grieved together, and separately. We offered grace and space to one another and to ourselves.
In the process of losing those people, we realized we had to lose some more. We had to let go of the ones who would wreck us. So we did. We detached from the people who caused division and quieted the ones who wanted us to do it their way. And when we finally came together as husband and wife—when we traded all the noise for the one steady voice that mattered—we started losing the things we needed to lose. Pride. Selfishness. Entitlement. Control. The paralyzing quest for significance.
Could it be possible that the whole time, it wasn’t the other person I resented—it was myself? Could it be that I didn’t marry the wrong person, but I WAS the wrong person?
We got real with our ugliness and brokenness. We brought it out into the light and turned it over in our hands.
We dumped secrets we’d concealed for years.
We yelled and trembled and cried on our knees, asking “Are we going to make it? Are we choosing to do this?”
And then we chose it.
We choose it. Every damn day, we choose it.
Because when we finally surrendered, we realized that somehow, in the wreckage of that first decade, we had actually learned what it was to forgive. Forgiveness, we could do.
I’m not going to say it became easy. Relationships are never easy. But when we stopped seeing imperfections and started seeing good people who were trying—man, were we trying—we softened and opened to one another. When we stopped working against each other and established ourselves as a team, we realized the power and potential of our partnership.
There will probably still be moments where we stay because we believe in marriage. Because we believe in family. There are moments we’ll stay because we don’t want to do it alone.
But more often, we stay because we truly choose one another. Because somehow during these messy years, maybe when we weren’t even looking, we became best friends.
Part of marriage is simply going through the motions. Staring at each other across a dinner table of food the kids refuse to eat. Taking turns cleaning up vomit. Scheduling intimacy.
But there are also the rare and glorious moments when we truly come alive together—when we’re standing in the sunlight in a ripening garden of things we grew together. The steady river in our yard is a song to which we both know the words, and we’re discovering that along the way, we’ve even learned to dance.
We made it, Love. We’re here.
By the grace of God and the willingness to be broken and the exchange of a thousand I’m-sorrys, we made it.
Ten years. We did it.
We’re doing it.
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