In the summer of 2005, Matt and I traveled from Seattle to Portland for a Killen family reunion of sorts. As part of the festivities, we attended a barbecue at my cousin Scott’s house. Matt and I were newly engaged and planning to move in together shortly. As we were standing around Scott’s backyard, my aunt Marlie, Scott’s mom, approached us, beer in hand, and offered the following advice, “Marriage is fucking hard.” This is the best advice I have ever received.
There’s no doubt aunt Marlie knew what she was talking about. She raised three boys, each just two years apart, while both she and my uncle John worked. Over the years, they moved houses, cities, and states, mostly for my uncle’s job in journalism, which I can only imagine was not always the most family-friendly in terms of hours and assignments.
Still they’ve been married, I would guess, nearly 40 years now, maybe more. Their boys are all in their 30s. They all live nearby. Two are married and Marlie and John have their first grandbaby.
In comparison, Matt and I are on the opposite end of the marriage spectrum. We will have been married just 10 years this August, and we have three children three and under. Still, we have been through a lot together already.
There has been law school and business school, bar exams and CFA exams, moves across three different states, and a multitude of different jobs. Oh, and did I mention the three kids under three?
There have been day-to-day annoyances and little things turned too big. There have been secrets kept and secrets told. There has been betrayal and forgiveness and conversations that hurt more than any physical pain I have ever experienced.
Marriage IS fucking hard. Especially when you add small children into the mix. But it is the best kind of hard, the kind of hard work that feels especially good when you know you are doing it right–when you are truly striving to be the best partner you can be.
Over time, you learn to let the little things go, but to fight to get the big things right, no matter how scary and vulnerable that fighting might make you feel. You touch each other when you pass in the kitchen and crawl into bed at night, you kiss each other hello and goodbye, you say I love you and you mean it, Every Single Time. You may not like each other on a given day, due to stressful jobs or unevenly distributed housework or just some little habit that drives you HUGELY crazy, but there is always love. And there is always trying to love better.
My marriage keeps me awake at night and gets me through the day. With Matt, I am at my best but also my most vulnerable. I am an amazing wife and I also screw up ALL THE TIME. Marriage is hard. But it is also the best time I’ve ever had. Thanks babe. And thanks aunt Marlie for the advice.