15 years. I have been with the same man for 15 years. If that's not an accomplishment to celebrate especially in this day and age where instant gratification seems to be the theme that drives all areas of our lives. I don't think I've shared our love story so here it goes. The crazy thing is that Jonathan and I met when I was 15 at a Christian Youth Camp that I was co-leading. I told the stupidest joke ever and he said that from there he fell in love with my teal colored hair and spunky personality. Jonathan has this energy about him. He lights up the room with his presence and when he's on fire for life, he blazes through anything he sets his heart to. We managed to maintain a friendship for a couple of years through our involvement with YFC, but lost touch towards my senior year in high school and early part of college.
When my husband asked me to be his girlfriend I remember replying back to him "Are you sure? I'm a lot to handle." I said this because at that time, I was just healing from heartbreaks and learning how to love myself again. I was just trying to understand my depression and how to cope with it and having another complex thing in my life such as a relationship was just not what I was looking for, but I was already ready for someone to love me.
Our relationship is not a fairytale. It's kinda like a roller coaster. It's filled up excitement, fear, laughter, screaming, and the occasional dips and flips that make your stomach go sideways. It's an experience to say the least and one that keeps you running back for more. We've been married for almost 9 years and have been together for 15 years, I think. We argue back and forth on this, mostly because we lost count.
Here's the funny thing about marriage that people don't really tell you, its full of ups and downs and you need a supportive community to help keep it alive.
As many of you guys know, my husband and I are professional wedding photographers, so we get to hear officiants speaking about love almost half the year. The common thing that we hear is when they tell the couple to look at the people around them and they say "these are the people who will support you."
The first time I spoke authentically about marriage problems was during a workshop that my husband and I were speaking at called Yeah Field Trip! We were on a panel with other couples who was in business with their significant others. Each couple would mention how hard it was and how challenging it was along with the benefits of working with your loved one. I went on the limb and said, "Working with your husband is hard. We even got to the point where we considered divorce because we just could not see eye to eye on life, marriage, parenting, and our business." The jaws dropped. No one expected those words to come out of anyone's mouth. The idea of divorce has probably come across our minds just under a dozen times. I mean we legit almost filled out the initial forms that you find online through the county.
I guess I'm sharing this today because my marriage has been through a lot. The one thing that has held us together was our honest and open communication. We're still learning what that looks like from time to time, but the more and more we practice opening up to one another about our fears, concerns, hopes, and dreams the easier it becomes. Sometimes I wonder if I had been more open about some of the issues I was facing with other friends who were married than maybe we could've saved ourselves a few nights of going to bed in separate rooms furiously angry at one another. Last year when my husband and I were going through some rough patches I was actually open about it to women and a few men around me. I can't tell you how much hearing from other people who would just say, "GIRL, we've been there too..." helped. It was as if the feeling of loneliness, shame, and lack of self worth had subsided. It's crazy how when you get married, you somehow feel like you're supposed to be some love expert, when the reality is you've just opened up a whole new chapter of messiness to sort through with your "till death do us part" partner.
Conflicts are a part of life. It exists in every relationship, and its not always a bad thing.
They are a critical component and can weaken or strengthen any relationship. It's about how the conflicts are resolved and not the amount of them that occur. Without them you cannot evolve in a relationship.
photos by Sean Flanigan