This year, my husband and I will have been married 10 years, together for 13, and the parents of two beautiful children. That's a long time to share a life with someone. My longest relationship prior to the one I'm currently enjoying was a mere four years, so I guess you could say we're still "going strong." In this time, we've definitely had our share of ups and downs, and I think we're still together largely because of all the ways my children saved our marriage. I also know it's not good to stay together for the children only, so hear me out.
When my husband and I first met, it was honestly one of those "sparks flying" kinda moments. We were young, kid-free, and into the whole late-night scene with little responsibilities. We happened to meet via mutual friends at an open mic we both performed (he, the drummer and I, the singer/guitarist) and it was a time in my life I'd just left a previous relationship and had little interest in pursuing another. But (there's always a but), we couldn't deny how magnetic our initial introduction was. It didn't take long before we were an official couple, making out in the car at midnight and planning things like dates and names for future children. I look back on those early days fondly, remembering the butterflies and that painful longing of needing to be near him. It's funny how we change as we grow both in and out of relationships, because now things are so, so different.
Now, while the butterflies aren't nearly what they used to be, and that longing has been replaced with a desire for "me" time, we've definitely grown up and evolved. I can't say everything was easy in the beginning, though. Actually it was, at times, pretty damn awful. We had communication issues from the start and he, an only child not accustomed to being in a relationship, didn't understand how to effectively share things (like time). He grew up with the world in his hands while I'd known mostly struggle. We've always been polar opposites but, again, it was undeniable that we were right for each other.
Once we had children, those things that made us so different from each other divided us all the more. While I fought through things, like severe postpartum depression (PPD) and body image, it was hard to see why we were ever together in the first place. I don't think parents should stay together for their children, unless there's a mutual love and respect to want the best for the kids and each other. My parents didn't have that (I grew up in a hostile living situations and my parents divorced early on) but I think my husband and I do. Which is why, despite any hardships, we've fought to make things work.
I want my kids to feel secure and loved. My wish for them is that they grow up in a house with parents who stuck it out, however hard, and with love. I can honestly say now, there have been times they were the sole reason we're still together and without them, we'd have parted long ago. I say this with a grain of salt because it's not their responsibility to become the proverbial glue that keeps their parent together, and yet they've unknowingly contributed to our success. Here are some of the things they've done that showed us how very worth it our relationship, and family, are.
They Interrupted An Argument
My husband and I don't actually argue that much (and we never have). What typically happens instead is, I rant and rave about something I'm mad about while he stares off into oblivion. It's a defense mechanism he learned by watching his own father survive the marriage to his mother. We've discussed this, at length and over the years but, still, he hasn't unlearned the behavior.
While communication still lacks (and this is a prime example) the moment one of our kids interrupts me nagging about something, we shift gears automatically. After helping my child with whatever was needed, I often forget what I was mad about in the first place. Then, well, we move on.
They Made Us Laugh
There's no one funnier than children. They're blatant, honest, and off-the-wall random. Sometimes when things are tense, my 5 year old will burst in to tell us something like "I'm calling you Carol today" or my daughter trips over her own feet (both things have actually happened) and we're thrown off completely.
Obviously, all arguments can't be fixed so easily, but laughter really does help smooth the rough spots and I'm so grateful for this.
They Simplified Things
Being an adult now, I often forget how simple life really is. My kids see things for what they are. My daughter once asked how much I love her dad and I had to step back and think about it. She interrupted to add "Will you love him until I'm in fifth grade, or forever?"
Though it really isn't that easy, I was in awe of how simplistic the question became in those words. Maybe we should all take a page from their book.
They Forced Us To Hear Each Other
Many times, my husband and I have argued over one another, never hearing what's been said at the core. Just as I have my kids face each other and take turns listening, they've done this to me. We don't always realize how little we're listening until one of those little nuggets reminds us.
They Asked If We Were Getting Divorced
This heartbreaking question has come up before, and usually at a time I hadn't even thought about it. It's clear my kids want reassurance their dad and I will stay together. So, when I hear that word — divorce — I take a huge step back to re-evaluate what's been said or done to make them think this. Then, my husband and I talk it over and tell the kids, together, it's not happening. I hate this ever has to take place, but if that's what eases their worrying hearts, that's what we'll do. Afterwards, we're so sad the kids had the thought we subconsciously work harder to be together.
They Reminded Me Of My Childhood
I don't like to remember a lot about my childhood but when my kids bring something up, or have a specific worry or question that's relevant to my marriage, it further reminds me how great my relationship with my husband actually is (even when it doesn't feel like it).
They Made Us Think Of The Big Picture
Being together so long means we often forget about why we're together: we love each other. Between daily nitpicking and chores and bills and kids, our lives together gets lost in translation. It's not on purpose and man do we try to fix it once we're on notice, but if it weren't for our children reminding us of the many, many great things we've made together, no doubt we wouldn't be here now.
In 10 years of marriage, I've learned a lot about love, life, and myself. No relationship is going to be easy but some — this one — is worth it. At least, that's what my kids say.