Marriage Isn't Always Easy {And It Isn't Supposed to Be}

Last week we had professional family photos taken. The pictures show a loving family- two parents with four sweet kids eagerly anticipating the arrival of a fifth child any day. There are photos of a husband’s arms wrapped around his wife and their growing baby. There are images of children laughing and playing together.
 
What is not as obvious in these photos is that we are a family who has lived through some very tough times. We are a family who has SURVIVED and who is learning how to thrive.  Six months ago I didn’t know if our marriage would last another week, not to mention if we would all be together in family photos ever again.
 
By the end of our second date, my husband and I both knew that we’d found “the one”. We had so much fun together, we shared the same sense of humor and we were very attracted to each other. Young professionals both hoping to start a family someday, we loved our jobs but we also cherished our non-work time. Only a year after we started dating we were married. We knew it was right.
 
In the almost seven years since we’ve been married we have endured two international moves, job changes, the birth of two children, the complicated international adoptions of two additional children and numerous other challenges. It certainly hasn’t been dull around here.
 
We rarely fought or argued but, when we did, it wasn’t over money or philosophical differences or infidelity. It was over the same one issue, the Achilles heel of our marriage, every time. Somehow that ugly issue seemed to drive a wedge between us. And with several young children at home, it was easy to put our marriage on the back burner. Our time was spent caring for the kids and fulfilling work, church, social and other obligations while sacrificing our time together and neglecting to schedule dates to laugh and reconnect.  Anything that is not given the proper care will slowly wither and die. The beauty is lost and only the hard and ugly remains.
 
Six months ago we reached a crucial turning point in our marriage. Newly pregnant, extremely nauseated, working more hours than I should have been and with four young children at home, I tried to maintain some semblance of normalcy while my husband and I struggled to determine what we both wanted and needed and if our future would be spent together. Though I have always been fiercely independent and stubborn, I decided that I didn’t want to give up on our marriage and that I would do anything in my power to make it work. However, I knew that the outcome was not solely up to me and that my husband would have to want and be willing to work toward the same goal. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink just as you can try your hardest but you can’t make someone else stay in a marriage. That was both a terrifying and a slightly liberating realization.
 
Not one to openly share much about my marriage or deep personal life, during those difficult days and weeks I reached out to and confided in more people than I normally would have. We were struggling and we needed the support of those who loved us most. The children, my husband and I were enveloped in love by those who cherish our family and those dark days showed us who our true friends and family really are- those who care about all of us unconditionally even when things get ugly and even when our imperfections become so obvious. Friends sent messages to both of us offering support and telling us how they had been through similar situations in their marriages. My parents provided love and encouragement to all of us. Those days also showed us who wasn’t supportive of our marriage and who didn’t value the time, love and commitment that we’d spent building our family. Some things become crystal clear when everything else is murky and uncertain.
 
One of the people I confided in was my dear friend Amy. She and I delivered our first babies at around the same time and we were in Uganda together bringing home our fourth and her third child. Her father is a well-known and highly respected minister and marriage counselor. She asked if we’d consider talking to her dad and we quickly agreed. Through our conversations with her father and the pastoral staff at our church, both my husband and I realized how much our marriage meant to both of us and we made firm commitments to make it work, not just for the sake of our children but also because of the love that we still had for each other.
 
Though this road has not been an easy one, we know that we were brought together as husband and wife for a reason. We have rekindled our love and we are making a point to laugh, play and have fun. While we will always meet the needs of our children, we must first meet the needs of each other since kids need a happy, stable home. We will not allow anyone or anything to come between us.
 
This is a hard story to share because it makes me feel so very vulnerable. However, we wanted to share it because no one should be ashamed to admit that their marriage is struggling or to ask for help. Sometimes the going gets tough even in the best of marriages and that’s okay. We were never promised that this would be easy. Not all marriages (and not all spouses!) are worth fighting for but I can assure you that a good one is!
 
As we prepare to welcome new life into our family, we are reminded of our struggles but also how far we have come. I look at our family photos and I see an imperfectly perfect family. Those wrinkles on my forehead- those are my battle scars for staying up too late studying, worrying about our children, lots of overnight shifts in the ER, fighting to save our marriage (and not being 18 anymore!). Those arms wrapped around my belly? Those are arms of a man who has had to make some very hard decisions but who has ultimately chosen life here with us and who is an incredible dad to these kids and my best friend. Those four precious children? We have fought to conceive them, we’ve struggled to bring them home from faraway lands, we’ve seen the grief and loss associated with adoption and we’ve watched them heal and flourish. We’ve watched little girls become sisters and boys born a world apart become best buddies. And that baby growing inside me? Well, he is named after the eldest son of one of the people who helped save our marriage. We loved the name and it just seemed fitting- a good reminder that love and marriage take constant effort and careful attention.
 
We are farmers caring for the most precious of crops.
 

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