Most women begin dreaming of and planning for their wedding from the time they are young girls. They dream of a fairy-tale day with their prince charming. This couldn’t have been a more accurate statement for me. I knew I wanted an outdoor beach/nautical themed wedding with coral and navy-blue accents. I knew what style dress me and my girls would wear and what songs I wanted incorporated. I knew that I wanted it to be in the evening and that I wanted ice cream incorporated in some way. Essentially, I had everything besides the groom!
My fairy-tale came true, and on April 2, 2016, I married my husband in a gorgeous botanical garden in Bradenton, FL just miles from the beautiful gulf beaches. It rained all morning (and when I say rain, I mean monsooned!); but, the Lord in His goodness, dried up the skies just in time for our pictures and ceremony. My dad gave me away and turned over the “key to my heart” that he had held and protected for over a decade to my new husband in an unforgettable ceremony, we said our vows, exchanged rings, shared communion, tied a three -stranded cord to symbolize the strength of a relationship between God, Trent and myself and then sealed it with a kiss! Within just a few moments we were now husband and wife!
As we headed across the ocean to St. Thomas for our honeymoon, we were quite frankly clueless about the journey that we were about to embark on. We loved each other, that much was certain; but, we didn’t realize the sacrifice and adjustment that was about to ensue. The same can be said for most couples. The majority of the time, like Trent and I, two people are raised in two different worlds with two separate ideas of how to accomplish the same end goal—happily ever after!
As I left that magical day as a brand-new wife, I was unaware just how much my world was about to change. The expectations that I had conjured up over the years were borderline unrealistic and unfair to my new husband.
The first year of our journey together looked different than most. I carry the burden of chronic illness and although my husband was aware of that prior to our engagement and marriage, neither one of us were prepared for the way that it would affect us. He promised to walk with me and hold my hand through the worst of it, and he was provided plenty of opportunities to make good on his vows. Hospital stays, surgery, inpatient rehab, disability, meds and consistent pain quickly became our normal. Because of this, it was easy to fall into the trap that this marriage was for me because I was the one constantly “in need”.
You see, I care for my husband, I love my husband, I want him to feel respected and valued just as much as I want that for myself; however, I found it difficult to live out when I was stuck in my ways and didn’t always feel like my needs were being met in the way I planned. This brings me back to my unrealistic expectations.
I am a few years older than my husband and I honestly believed that I had most of the “tools in the toolbox” to make a good marriage. I didn’t claim to be perfect or have all of the ideas, but I had witnessed enduring love lived out between my parents. The fairy-tale of newlywed life slowly began to wear off and we began having difficulties in our communication and in the exploration to find common ground; but, at the same time, we both desperately wanted our marriage to not only survive but to thrive!
We reached out to a few mentors and we were encouraged to seek professional help. So, that’s what we did!
**Let me throw this out there. Counseling often gets a bad rap. It carries with it the stigma that it’s only a measure you take if you’re in deep water and are holding on by a thread. Many times, people who go are in that place; however, counseling can be used as preventative measures as well. If you feel like your marriage could benefit with an outside party’s input, don’t wait until it’s too late!**
Okay, now that I got that out of the way, let me continue.
Not only did we see the counselor together, but I chose to see her on my own. It was in that first appointment that I came to the startling realization that marriage was not for me!
No, I’m not divorcing my husband and vowing to stay single for the rest of my life. Rather, I am divorcing myself and the ideas I had of marriage in order to never be single again!
Let me explain. Marriage is not 50-50. It is both of you giving 100% of yourself to the other person regardless of what you receive in return. You do not look to your spouse to complete you, but rather to compliment you—to bring out your best and lovingly support you through your worst. Marriage is sacrifice, flexibility, unconditional love and patience.
My husband is amazing. He loves me unconditionally and will never give up on me; but, because my expectations were unrealistic, I was afraid that I wouldn’t get what I truly believed I needed in return. When I left that appointment that day, I decided I would be the one to step off the hamster wheel we were stuck on—regardless of how he responded. And, just as my counselor predicted, when I took the first step and relinquished control, everything else fell into place.
We are not perfect. We have a long way to go—which is normal! But we are taking the necessary precautions and steps towards where we desire to be in 50 years. Old, wrinkly, happy, and so much in love!
So, marriage is not for me; but, I will still be married to my best friend until one of us meets our Lord. And until that day, I will give all I have to him expecting nothing in return— that way, whatever I do receive will be a blessing and not a disappointment!