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The last time we were all together, my brother-in-law asked my husband and me for our best piece of marriage advice. I laughed out loud. It is truly comical to me that anyone would ask us for marriage advice. We have been married a little over nine years, many of them spent on opposite sides of the world.

Laughter aside, my answer was to keep showing up.

Perhaps between “in sickness and in heath, and in joy and in sorrow” we should say,“I promise to keep showing up. I’ll show up when I don’t really want to. I’ll show up when I’ve been up all night with a sick child. I’ll show up for your promotion ceremony. I’ll show up in the morning with hot coffee and breakfast. I’ll show up when we had a really long and hurtful fight. I’ll show up when I don’t really like you. I’ll keep showing up. Period.”

There were many days in my marriage when I kept showing up even when circumstances tried to divert me from the promises I made to my husband. Some days, I chanted it in my head like Dory in Finding Nemo: “Just keep showing up. Just keep showing up.” All those days of showing up have strung together the better part of a decade of marriage. And I do mean better. On the whole, my husband and I have a good marriage. Most days we do like each other and we enjoy each other’s company.

What makes the showing up better and worth it is the second piece of advice I would have offered had I not chuckled so much at the question: be teachable.

Being teachable makes the showing up worth it—even on the hard days.

I’m the oldest sibling, a type-A personality. I’ve been called bossy more times than I can count and I like things the way I like them. None of these traits bode well for a marriage that is a partnership. I like the coffee pot washed each night and set up to make a fresh pot at zero dark thirty. My husband can drink reheated, day-old coffee out of a “seasoned” pot with no problem. I like to wake up to a gentle, softly-ringing alarm. My husband needs an F-18 roaring next to his head to awaken. I could not care less if clean clothes sit in the laundry basket for days. He likes clothes folded as soon as they come out of the dryer. All of these little things have been teachable moments for us. We’ve learned what the other likes and try, for the betterment of the team, to bend on our preferences to show how we care for one another.

I’ve also learned that being teachable extends from a couple’s marriage to each partner’s family. Each partner was raised in a certain environment and those environments may not look one iota like the other. Teachable.

I went into marriage knowing only how my family did things—how we interacted with one another, how we showed up for one another, how we disagreed with one another. My husband’s family doesn’t do any of those things like my family does. It’s frustrating at times (see my above character traits, including “I like things the way I like them”) that my husband and I approach interacting with family differently. Teachable.

Being teachable allows us to define and refine what we want for our family—the family we create by showing up and learning from each other.

Keep showing up. Be teachable. And laugh at yourself, especially when asked for advice!

This post originally appeared on the author’s blog

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Jenny Lynne Stroup

Born and raised in Virginia, I am now a nomad by marriage as a proud Navy wife. I'm a teacher by trade and writer by choice. I thrive on building community wherever the Navy sends us.  

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