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

You may also like:

Marriage is Worth the Hard Parts

Dear Husband, Even When Our Marriage Feels Hard, I Am With You

The Work of Marriage Matters

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

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.  

My Husband Doesn’t Change Dirty Diapers

In: Marriage
Father holding baby

My husband doesn’t change dirty diapers. He hates it. The mere thought of a dirty diaper makes him gag. He will drive almost any bargain to get out of changing a diaper filled with anything stinky. In fact, there are a few things my husband doesn’t do that fall solely on me. If I sat down (okay, sort of like I am right now), I could compile an entire list of things my husband doesn’t do for our family. I could write about everything I do better than him and everything I know more about. But that wouldn’t be fair....

Keep Reading

You Came between Us

In: Marriage, Motherhood
Toddler between mom and dad under sheet

Right in the middle of our deepest love, you came—just between us. A silent, unseen surprise. A mysterious miracle of incarnated love and joy. From that sacred moment that we couldn’t imagine being any sweeter, came you. Sometime in the middle of all the daily goodbye hugs, my stomach began to grow and you came between us. This beautiful bundle of life blossoming right inside of me. And we were in awe of every single tiny formation of you. In awe of who you were, excited by who you’d be, in awe that you were ours. You came between us...

Keep Reading

To My Wife: I See Your Sacrifice

In: Marriage, Motherhood
Family of 3 sitting on floor together at home

Selfless. No other word more clearly depicts your commitment to your family. Motherhood is drastically different than you dreamed of your whole life—the dreams of what sort of mama you would be, of how much you would enjoy being a mother even on the tough days. Since day one of our relationship, you’ve been selfless. Since day one of being a mama, you’ve been selfless. Your love for your family shines through on the brightest and darkest days. But on the dark days, it shines the brightest. I can’t count the hours of sleep sacrificed, the tears cried, the time...

Keep Reading

If You’re Fighting for Your Marriage Right Now, Keep Going

In: Marriage
Couple embracing with worried look on woman's face

My husband and I just celebrated 20 years of marriage last week. For the first five years of our marriage, we had no kids. We now have six. We have been through multiple moves, job changes, pregnancies, miscarriage, child loss, the death of loved ones, grief, three adoptions, mental illness etc. I see marriage totally differently than I did 20 years ago.  I believe, above everything, it takes two people willing to sacrifice and work hard (maybe one more than the other during different seasons) in order for the marriage to stay afloat. Marriage, if done right, does not puff one up...

Keep Reading

She Left Him on Valentine’s Day

In: Faith, Marriage
Husband kissing wife on cheek, color photo

“Can you believe that?” Those were the dreaded knife-cutting whispers I heard from across the table. I sunk deeper into my chair. My hopes fell as everyone would forever remember that I had left my fiancée on Valentine’s Day. Maybe one day it would just dissipate like the dream wedding I had planned or the canceled plane tickets for the Hawaiian honeymoon. Some bridesmaids and guests had already booked plane tickets. It was my own nightmare that kept replaying in my head over and over again. I had messed up. Big time. To be honest, if it made any difference,...

Keep Reading

“I Can’t Do This Anymore,” He Said—Then Everything Changed

In: Living, Marriage
Woman with head in hands

The questions are very much valid. Did I know when I married him? Did I know when we struggled with infertility and trying to become parents? Did I know when we unexpectedly became pregnant with our second child? When did you know your husband was an alcoholic? The answer is simple yet so complex, I pretty much knew from the first year, yet I was in complete denial. When I met him, he was just my type—a bad boy with a bad reputation, yet so cute! On our third date or so, I saw how much he could drink and how...

Keep Reading

I Want More than Mediocre Love

In: Marriage
Man and woman holding hands facing away from each other, silhouette

It felt like an out-of-body experience as I watched my fingers type into the Google search bar, “Local divorce lawyers near me.” I just want to know my options. Yet, my heart pounded as realized I was halfway serious in considering a divorce. There was no betrayal, no abuse, no lying, or cheating. My husband was and is a good man. The truth was he did not do anything wrong, I was just convinced he was doing nothing right. We were in the thick of life with a new baby, and I was certain that the man I loved was...

Keep Reading

My Husband’s in Love with a Different Woman Now

In: Living, Marriage, Motherhood
Couple standing by Christmas decorations

He’s in love with a different woman now . . . I met my husband seven years ago. We got married and went on adventures. Went to some weddings and had a bunch of kids. Every Christmas party season, we would celebrate by going out to dinner . . . except this year that one dress didn’t fit. I had my husband try to zip it, and then my mom . . . there was no budging. I had been tiny, I had been heavy—sick and healthy. My weight had been a roller coaster always. But, this special dress had always...

Keep Reading

Did I Deserve My Husband’s Affair?

In: Marriage
Woman looking out window

When my husband left and ran off with a lady from his office, all of my friends and family bombarded me with one massive conclusion: Divorce him! You deserve better! Back then, I agreed. “Yes! I deserve way better than this!” And like a fast-moving train locked in place, my deserving something better became the fuel to cut him off. Then, as time wore on, I began to wonder, what exactly did I “deserve”? In the dictionary, “deserve” means “to have earned or to be given something because of the way you have behaved or the qualities you have.” Am I...

Keep Reading

I’ve Changed My Mind about Everything but You

In: Marriage
Husband and wife selfie in field of wildflowers, color photo

I’ve changed my mind about almost everything but you. When I was a little girl, I couldn’t pick my favorite Spice Girl. I loved Baby Spice, but was also a big fan of sports. So what about Sporty Spice? And all their outfits were so cool, I couldn’t make up my mind about which one I hoped to become one day. When I was in middle school, I’d eagerly await my bi-weekly orthodontist appointments just so I could pick a new band color for my braces. And within a day or two, I’d have already decided I hated them, and...

Keep Reading