The Hubby and I are coming up on our eighth wedding anniversary. We’re one of those couples who’ve been together forever. We grew up as childhood friends, started dating in high school and got engaged after college. We have been navigating the journey of marriage and parenthood together as only two best friends can — clumsily with lots of tears and laughter.
When we were young, and in that euphoric newly wed fog of life, we definitely had our share of challenges. As all couples do, we brought expectations and insecurities into our marriage. We were lucky enough to have a lot of great resources and Godly advice to help us along the way. Now, as parents of toddlers, I look back on some of those challenges almost longingly. I wish I could reach back in time, take those two kids by the shoulders, shake em and yell “YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW GOOD YOU HAVE IT!”
Our first big fight as almost-parents happened during my first pregnancy. I was having some kind of emotional, hormonal meltdown about who-knows-what and I remember yelling through the tears at Justin that if only he would read the pregnancy books, he’d understand what I was going through. God bless him, he read all those books, like the very next day.
But the change that was about to happen to our marriage couldn’t have been explained in any book, or from any well-meaning older couple who tried to warn us. Like most things in our marriage, we fumbled into it unaware of the struggles and tension to come. Babies can be big time home wreckers!
In many ways, having children has brought Justin and I closer together. Some days it really feels like us against them. These kids are always testing us, seeing who will crack first, which has really banded us together as a couple. I remember hearing great advice at a marriage conference once that said you should fight the issue, not each other. And let’s be honest, sometimes toddlers can be the issue, but we tend to turn on each other out of frustration, exhaustion and pure crankiness.
I encourage couples I know who are going through hard times, whether it’s kid-related or not, to fight for their marriage. Justin and I have spent the past eight years fighting for our marriage. We fight against the daily distractions and temptations that are all around us. We fight against the demands of our jobs, house and even family, to make time for each other. For me especially, that’s meant putting aside my selfish desires — as justified as they may be — in order to spend time with my husband.
I try to really listen to him, with all my attention, even when my mind is flooded with unfinished to-do list items. I know it’s important to make him a priority in my life, which is challenging with small children. We need to have grace with each other when we aren’t always able to make each other a priority. Those first couple months with a newborn, attached to you 24 hours a day, is a great time to extend grace to each other.
We even have to fight for the basic necessities of marriage, like actually scheduling intimate time together. They sure don’t tell you that at your bridal shower. Sometimes it’s mentioned at the baby shower but at that point, it’s too late. And let’s face it; if it’s not on Mom’s schedule, it just isn’t going to happen. Am I right?
The lyrics from a Switchfoot song come to mind, “love alone is worth the fight.”
Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 3-year-old James and 1-year-old Luke.