Today is our 5 year anniversary. I’ve started a small tradition of documenting my thoughts on our marriage each year (the last 2 years have been documented on this blog here and here). Five years seems like a big milestone – something worth reflecting on so the tradition continues. Here are my reflections on 5 years of marriage:
A few months ago, Blake and I completed our first obstacle race – The Savage Race in Charlotte, NC. The race included 27 obstacles over 5 miles. There was barely time to catch our breath before the next obstacle stood in front of us. Looking back, the race seems like a pretty accurate parallel to the first five years of our marriage. There have been a lot of obstacles; it’s fair to say we’ve barely had time to catch our breath before the next obstacle presented itself.
I know all marriages face a variety of obstacles. It wasn’t until recently when a friend mentioned that our marriage had been “a gauntlet” that I considered the thought that maybe Blake and I have faced more than a “normal” or “average” amount of challenge.
Much like the race, the obstacles we’ve faced have varied in difficulty, fun-factor (not all obstacles are bad), and our ability to conquer them.
Throughout the five years, financial obstacles and stress that come from starting and running a self-owned, local business have undoubtedly caused the most disagreement.
The death of my mom in 2013 and my brother in 2016 created distance at times as we navigated through the emotional struggle differently. Dealing with the death of a loved one is difficult, but maybe even more difficult is attempting to help a spouse cope with the loss.
An early miscarriage in 2013 followed by the birth of a healthy and happy daughter in 2014 gave both perspective and excitement as we dove headfirst into the challenge of parenting – a challenge Blake excelled at immediately. Twenty-one months later, in 2016, we had another healthy, happy daughter. Growing our family has been the most challenging, fun, and rewarding obstacle yet.
In between the big, significant obstacles were smaller challenges (kind of like the low crawl or fire jump in the Savage race)…slightly easier but still a distraction requiring focus and time – second jobs, buying a new home, career advancements and setbacks, the death of Blake’s beloved pup, the addition of a rambunctious and (sometimes) destructive new pup, long working hours, financial decisions, struggles with family members (illnesses and addiction), child-care situations, etc.
When we were completing The Savage Race, we were focused on surviving – completing the obstacles successfully and quickly. Tackle one obstacle and then on to the next. We weren’t focusing on how well we were communicating – we just communicated – sometimes encouragement, sometimes tough-love, sometimes we said what the other needed to hear and sometimes not. We weren’t savoring the moment or attempting to “grow closer” – we were just racing. The one thing we decided beforehand was that we were completing the race together… stay together, finish together… no man left behind.
If you read (almost) any marriage advice article, communication and making time for each other in order to grow closer are among the top priorities for a strong marriage. At times over the past five years, I’ve been discouraged because I was certain we were not checking the boxes of a “good, strong marriage.” We haven’t prioritized date-nights. We haven’t made a real effort to “work on us.” Our communication has been inconsistent – sometimes great, sometimes awful. But in comparing our marriage to the advice articles, I wasn’t taking into account the obstacles. Blake and I were on an obstacle course. And we were surviving. We were staying together… no man left behind.
Generally speaking, I like obstacles and challenges – in no way am I complaining about the hurdles we’ve faced. There are some over the past five years I wish never existed but there are also some I am incredibly thankful for. Because of the obstacles, we haven’t been intentional in growing our relationship, but as a result of the obstacles our relationship has grown. When you get through a gauntlet together, it kind of makes you think you can get through anything.
Going into the next five years and beyond, I expect more challenges and more obstacles. It would be great if there was a little more space between the obstacles… a little more time to catch our breath, to spend time on us; but even if “the gauntlet” continues, I know we will survive. We will stay together. We will finish together. No man left behind.
Here’s to many more years of whatever life throws our way! *(cue clinking beer bottles)*