4 Lessons in 4 Years of Marriage

Four years ago today I married my very best friend.  And I know that is a cliché that is easy to type up and sounds nice and cute, but I truly mean it.  Before we even started dating or got engaged or got married or had a beautiful baby boy, he was first just a good friend.  He was my favorite person to spend hours at coffee shops with. My favorite person to carpool with to church. I am so thankful that before any of the love began to form, that God was knitting a friendship between our hearts that was built on His perfect love.  This bond built on our shared love of good coffee, running, God, and poetry began in coffee shops as friends. It began with carpooling to church. It began with editing each other’s poems for Maclay’s class. 

Marriage is beautiful, but it also is a lot of hard work.  It takes intentionality, dedication, sacrifice, and humility.   And becoming parents only makes it harder. In a lot of ways, becoming parents has brought us closer than we ever have been, but I would be absolutely not telling the truth if I were to say it was all roses the entire first year with Hudson.  In those early days with Hudson, I was not myself. I cried, yelled, and fought. It wasn’t Lance I was mad at it, but he was the one that was right there to take it. The truth is when you both are living on very minimal sleep and most of your time is dedicated to nursing and worrying about your little one, your marriage will likely take a back seat.  I am thankful that pretty early on in Hudson’s life, we realized that we needed to be even more intentional about putting our marriage first in this particular season. That is where the phrase: I love you more than Hudson, less than God; was born. I am no marriage expert, but I would have to think that part of the reason certain marriages end after all the kids have moved out is because the loves got reordered.  Somewhere along the way the love for the child outweighed the love for the spouse. And through this reordering, love for God, also seemed to fall in ranking. As I type this, I am praying right now, that the loves in my heart can stay in order. I pray to first and foremost, love God the most. Then, Lance. And then, sweet Hudson Boy and any other future children we may have. 

Even though we are just a few years in, these past years have taught me a lot.  Again, our marriage is by no means perfect, but I am proud of who we are becoming and this team we have become.  I look forward to (God Willing) the many, many years ahead and the lessons that will come with it. I would love to be still writing this blog in 46 years and be able to share a “50 lessons in 50 Years of Marriage” post, but for now we are at 4.  So here are my four major lessons I have learned in our first four years of marriage:

 

1. Prioritize Time Together

It was our three year anniversary that we began a new Friday tradition of sharing our rose, bud, and thorn of the week.  While it has not always been on Friday, we have been very consistent with carving out this weekly time and for us, it has been incredibly helpful.  As life continues to get more full and busy, it is essential to have a time every week where we can hit pause and stop and talk about the good, the hopeful, and the hard.  I feel so thankful that we started this weekly rhythm because while it’s sad to admit, I think if we didn’t start this, I would have missed out on knowing the heart of my husband.  I would have missed out on knowing how the small things that happened that week, like a day at the beach, was the rose of his entire week. I would have missed out on knowing why he came home so tired and the true reason we seemed to keep fighting.  I would have missed out on knowing his dreams, ambitions and hopes. While I am sure some of this stuff would have come up over dinners or outings, I don’t think it would have been as clear. It would have been paired with Hudson throwing food everywhere or with other people and noises and distractions. If you don’t intentionally set a weekly and monthly time for just the two of you, it is likely not going to happen.  Just like all good things, it takes planning and prioritizing.

2. Be Clear with Expectations 

It was just a few months after our first anniversary that we had one of our major fights that revolved around cheap wine.  My parents had given Lance and I a pizza cooking lesson. I was really excited for this date and had all these expectations of how the evening would go in my head.  In this cooking lesson you were able to bring your own bottle of wine to sip on as you flipped pizzas in the air and knotted garlic knots. I asked Lance to pick up a bottle of wine for us at Trader Joe’s for us to bring.  I didn’t tell him about any of the expectations I had. I didn’t tell him type or price tag or that I was expecting something a little bit nicer than normal. I just said wine and like the good husband Lance is, he did just that. He bought wine: 2 buck chuck.  Absolutely nothing wrong with 2 buck chuck, but it was not in line with my expectations for that night. To me, that pizza lesson was a special night for us and I wanted something a bit more special. I also was much more immature back then and cared about how people would perceive us if we brought cheap wine to a fancy cooking lesson.  It’s sad, but this wine fiasco made me cry and fight with him basically the entire day leading up to the lesson. I can still remember showing up to the kitchen with red rings around my eyes from crying all day. Thinking back, this feels so small and stupid, but I think if a lot of us our honest, the bulk of our fights are over the small and stupid.  If I had just clearly told Lance, my expectations I had for the wine he bought, none of the 2 buck chuck drama would have occurred. Sometimes all it takes is being incredibly clear. Can you please pick up a bottle of wine that is in-between the 15-30 dollar mark, preferably a Cabernet and if it has a cute label that made you think of me, that would also be a nice touch.  Be clear.  He can’t read your mind. 

3. Cheer Each Other On

One of the many reasons I love the sport of cross-country is because it is such a team sport.  I love how the 5th runner is just as important as the first. I also love that you can set goals for the whole team, but you also have your own individual goals of place and time.  I think in a lot of ways, a good marriage functions like a cross-country team. As a team, Lance and I have a lot of major, shared goals: kids, travel, home, running. Individually, we also have our own goals.  We have our own passions and career goals. This is so important and healthy! When Lance started his first company, I wish I could say I was the most supportive wife, but unfortunately I was not. I was resentful that he got to pursue his passion, while I was left dealing with the stressful job of teaching and was knee deep in essays to grade and behavior issues.  I did not do a very good job at cheering him on. And I regret this. Part of the reason I struggled to fully cheer on my husband was because I was fully consumed with work and was not pursuing any of my own passions. Currently, our marriage feels super healthy and I think that is largely to do with the fact that we both are pursuing our passions outside of work. Not only do we each have our own side projects we are working on, we also just wrapped up training for a marathon together.  This shared goal of completing our first marathon and qualifying for Boston definitely brought us closer together. As I mentioned in my last post on the marathon, it was an amazing feeling to literally be cheering each other on as we passed each other on the bridge.

4. Pray Together (Even When You Don’t Feel Like It) 

They say you shouldn’t go to sleep mad at each other.  I can see the benefit in this, but to be fully honest, sometimes sleep is what is needed for us to resolve an argument the next morning.  We have found that when we do try to resolve something before bed, it often just becomes worse. For us, the phrase that makes more sense is don’t go to sleep without praying together.  Lance prays aloud for us every single night. We have done this from the very beginning of our marriage. The key here is to do this regardless of how you are feeling. If it was up to me and my heart, there would have been many nights where praying together would not have happened due to my own pride and selfishness.  When I am mad, my gut reaction is to turn my back and disengage. When I am mad, praying together is the last thing I want to do. The Lord knew what He was doing when he gave me Lance as a husband. Lance has this amazing ability to do the right thing even when his emotions tell him otherwise. Even on the nights when I turn my back and give him the silent treatment, he flips me over, takes my hand out of my firm angry, arm cross and prays for us.  How thankful I am for a husband that ignores my stubbornness and still is persistent in prayer.  

Happy 4 years, LMC! I am so thankful for our marriage and this beautiful life we are building together.  

When You Bring Your Baby to a Wedding…

This mama needs to let go.  I need to let go of quite a lot.  Control, schedules, and perfection are just a few of the many examples.  I firmly believe that the Lord reveals the status of our heart through change and challenges.  Before becoming a mom to Hudson, I had no idea how deep and enslaving my sins of approval and control were.  Before, I thought of myself as a relatively relaxed, easy-going type of person, but as a new mom, I have been nothing but anxious, controlling and paranoid.  I used to care less about schedules and if plans changed, I could easily bounce back, but now when Hudson does not follow the schedule I have in my head, the wheels slowly start to fall off.  Control is just one part of the mess, the other ruling force is my deep need of human approval.  This I have always known has been festering in my heart, but motherhood just brought it out in even greater force.  I never thought I could care so much about how a complete stranger views me as a mother.  It is insanity.  All of this was made especially clear this weekend when Lance and I took Hudson to his first wedding.  Let me explain.

It started with a long run and the rain.  The wedding was in Palm Springs and Lance and I knew we would have Hudson, so we thought it would make more sense to skip a hotel and just drive home so he could sleep in his own crib.  The plan was to first get our long run done and then drive to Palm Springs and head home around 7 pm just un time for Hudson’s bedtime.  Saturday morning came and it was raining.  Instead of running with the jogger, we dropped Hudson off at his Grammy’s and we went to get our miles in.  In theory, this was a great idea and it was nice to squeeze in a run before the madness, but this probably did not help my mood and patience later in the day.  So tip #1 when bringing a baby to a wedding: skip the long, strenuous exercise beforehand.  It is best to not go into the day with baby already in a place of depletion and dehydration.  This was the first mistake.  Then, came the drive.  If you are bringing your baby with you to a wedding, hopefully you don’t have too long of a drive.  For us, we had about 2 hours.  Heading into this drive, I had the perfect plan.  He had a really short nap during our run so I figured by the time we were driving, he would be tired and ready for a nice, long nap.  In my head, the whole day rested on this part of the plan.  Hudson would sleep basically the entire drive, I would nurse him when we got there, he would be the most perfect baby during the ceremony because he would be rested and full, and then he would continue this perfect behavior into the reception.  I had the perfect plan.  And the fact of the matter is that most of it did not happen.  And that would have been perfectly okay, but my own attitude and need for control, did not allow for flexibility or adaption, so by the drive home I was miserable, cranky and annoyed.  That leads to tip #2: go into the event unattached to your plans.  There is nothing wrong with having a specific plan and schedule, but I would recommend creating a few options because the likelihood that the first one will happen with all the excitement of a big event is slim.  Since I was so set on the fact that he would sleep the entire drive there, I did not plan for an alternative.  I did not pack his favorite Mickey Mouse CD that almost always calms and soothes him.  Therefore, about an hour in, we had a screaming baby in the back of our car.  This is what started my own internal meltdown.  I ever so slowly began to crumble apart as I felt my carefully thought out plan slipping away from my fingers.  I was losing control.  So by the time we got to the church, Hudson was already exhausted since he only slept for about 30 minutes and had been awake and crying since 12pm, which was already about 2 hours ago.  I tried to be super flexible and told myself it is what it is, but when I went to nurse him and he refused, I lost it.  I could handle him not napping, but him also refusing to nurse threw me into panic mode.  This was all minutes before the ceremony began.  I wish I could tell you, I just let it all go and fully was present and enjoyed the ceremony, but then I became obsessed with every little peep Hudson made.  I basically convinced myself that everyone within the church, including the priest, thought I was a terrible mom.  I know this sounds crazy typed up, but this was all very real in my head.  Hudson did not even cry during the whole ceremony, but all his cute, little cooing noises sounded like loud sirens in that quiet and formal church.  This is where we can find tip #3.  While tip #2 was all about letting go of plans, tip #3 is to have a plan.  While I had planned out the napping and sleep schedules and the pajamas were packed, Lance and I never voiced a plan for the ceremony if Hudson did not fully sit silent (which I don’t think many babies can do for a straight hour).  A lot of my issues of control and approval are linked to Lance.  I am so used to solely taking care of Hudson during the day that when my overly eager and helpful and amazing husband steps in, I don’t always handle it gracefully.  Lance could sense I was not in the best place after the plans in my head were slowly starting to crumble so he kept taking Hudson during the ceremony to relieve me.  I should of been thankful.  I should have been relieved.  But instead this created even greater anxiety within me as I felt control further taken away from me.  I looked over at the other mom with the baby and she seemed to be cool as a cucumber and handling everything so well on her own.  I, on the other hand, was a sweaty and anxious mess.  I was on the edge of my seat.  I was so panicky that Lance was taking more of the responsibilities that I as Hudson’s mother should be taking.  While Lance taking Hudson and bringing him out of the church should have been helpful, it only created more anxiety and frustration within me.  So the point here is that if you are going to be with your spouse, it is important to talk about a plan before the ceremony.  Decide how you are going to share responsibility.  Create a game plan.  This would have saved a lot of unneeded emotion.

While there were a few little bumps in the road, we survived the ceremony and even though my head told me otherwise, Hudson overall did so well.  After the ceremony, there was an hour of time before the cocktail hour.  Right when we put Hudson in his carseat, he immediately fell asleep.  He was exhausted.  This was the one, unplanned part of the whole day and it was actually the one part that worked out perfectly.  Hudson ended up taking a good nap and Lance and I were able to do one of our favorite things: drive around, look at houses and dream about our future.  As we did this, all the nerves and anxiety finally began to leave me.  Things were good.  We even got the chance to stop at a park we spent time at a few months ago when on vacation.  The park was perfect and peaceful.  There were a few dogs running about.  The light giggles of children on the playground floated around us.  Hudson woke up right when we got to the park.  We got to stretch our legs, walk around, and Hudson finally was ready for milky.  The lesson here is that when you go to a wedding with a baby, you need to be okay with having a slight detour from the rest of the party guests.  I am assuming most of the guests went right to the hotel where the reception was being held.  For us, that was not what made the most sense.  For us, what the three of us needed most was nap time, a quiet drive, and the park.  And that is okay.  We eventually got to the hotel, slightly later, but we got there with happier parents and a happy, full, and rested baby.  So tip #4 when you bring your baby to a wedding is don’t compare.  The experience you have at a wedding with a baby is very different than without one.  Know this ahead of time and be okay with spending your time differently.  Be okay with taking your baby to the park in-between ceremony and reception.  Be okay with leaving right after dinner and speeches because it is bedtime.  Be okay with drinking Shirley Temples instead of wine because of nursing.  Be okay with having a colder dinner because you have a baby on your lap that needs entertaining.  Be okay with lugging around your big diaper bag and not your cute, Kate Spade purse.  The truth is, we had a great time and I am pretty sure Hudson did too.  He was taking everything in.  But, it was a very different time than if we did not have a baby.  So, when deciding if you should take your little one to a wedding, you need to decide what type of experience you are looking for.  Do you want to not worry and just enjoy your time?  Well, then I would probably not bring your baby.  But, if you are willing to have a different type of wedding experience and embrace the fact that this is just how life with a baby is, then you should (if it is okay with the bride and groom, of course!).  Our life is so very different now than a year ago.  We are more tired.  Toys are strewn all over our living room floor.  Our schedules revolve around naps and feeding times.  But, our hearts have never been more full.  This is our life.  It is messy and hard at times and chaotic and not nearly as controlled as I would like it, but it is ours and it is beautiful and I am so thankful.  Sometimes you get the opportunity to press pause and go to a wedding and forget for a few hours all the new responsibilities you have, but sometimes you don’t get that opportunity.  Sometimes you have to bring your new life into these situations and simply adjust.

Let me end with this: bringing a baby to a wedding, is not the most glamourous.  It is not always the most fun.  But, I am pretty sure I am going to remember it in ways that I would not remember it if Hudson was not with us.  That curious little boy with his vest and red bow tie will forever be engraved in my heart.  I will always remember watching the groom dance with his glowing mother as I held on to Hudson and dreamed about one day dancing with him on his wedding day.  I will always have that photo booth picture with our other friends at our table and our silly, goofy, wide-eyed boy by our side.  So the truth is, when you bring your baby to wedding…you fall just a bit more in love.