When I made my wedding speech 13 years ago, I made sure to thank my parents for being wonderful role models for a loving marriage. I had a proper template of how a husband and wife should treat each other due to the example they demonstrated on a daily basis. The night of my wedding, I knew how I wanted my marriage to look.
Thanks to my parents, I had an idea of what was a loving and healthy marriage.
What I may not have known at the time is that I had even more to learn and even more to strive for in marriage, and how much work it would be to have a loving and healthy marriage. A marriage that I hope can be an inspiration and template for my children.
I learned pretty quickly that marriage and love is hard work, but when you put in the work that it is the most rewarding thing in the world. A good and loving marriage energizes, inspires, enriches, nourishes, strengthens and renews.
Sometimes I get it right and sometimes I fail horribly. But what I know now, is you just keep putting in the effort and you work through all the kinks and challenges that come with the most important relationship in the world.
You need to have love. But what is love?
As I get older, I have realized that one of the constants in life is to always be learning. You can always be better and more knowledgeable about the things that matter. The thing that matters most in my life is having love in my marriage. So, I have learned a few more things about love and marriage even in my thirteenth year of marriage.
These are some of my discoveries and in the fourteenth year, I will be actually following them and in a year, you can find out from my wife Emily how well I've acted upon these new lessons.
The biggest lesson was the hardest and most painful, and the one that I've been the most stubborn. I learned that asking for help and being vulnerable are major parts of showing love. As a man that has often wrestled with insecurity and inadequacy, I had convinced myself that keeping things bottled in, working out my issues on my own and trying to accomplish everything by myself was a strength.
It was a weakness.
The strongest and most loving thing that I could show to Emily is reveal my brokenness, confess my pain and ask for her help. For so long, I kept ignoring that she was right there just waiting for the chance to express her wisdom, kindness, generosity and love. These aren't thing that we should rob from people, especially our spouse or partner.
I always knew we were partners, but it was after 13 years that I figured out how important it was to really believe that we were a team. Opening up and showing my weakness, and giving her the chance to assist or help will be a magical key for a more intimate and rewarding relationship. I need to give my full self and allow her to share all her wonderful strengths.
I have always known that for Emily that time well-spent was a major love language. The brick of truth has bounced off my head to force me to realize that this also includes her being able to invest time in being there when I need help or support. Allowing her to be a central part in all the major parts of life, which is not only the victories and joys but also the challenges and obstacles that arrive in my career and emotional health.
I hope many aren't as snail-like to get this lesson as I have been, but I suspect those that can relate to this challenge may also be of the male variety of human.
As I've shared on this site many times over the years and quite often this past year, I wrestle with anxiety and depression and crippling self-doubt. I have not ever detailed how bad and dark my depression has been. The sad truth is that it has burrowed deep enough into my soul that there has been times that I've been sapped of all energy and even picking up the phone has been overwhelming.
My love for Emily has never waned. My creativity and imagination haven't taken vacations. My desire has always been to treat her special and blow her away with romance and love. While I've often had ideas, the sad reality is sometimes I've been overwhelmed with the concept of actually implementing them.
Those nasty dark voices of negativity and self-doubt start nipping away and telling me that my plans won't succeed. I will just disappoint her. It won't be good enough. It won't be what I envision. Why should I ever even bother because she won't like it.
I've learned now that those voices don't know Emily very well and they are idiots.
Effort means a lot to her. Sure, she likes a well-executed plan. She likes romance. She likes things to be great. But I've learned that the gesture and the attempt and effort means more than the actual act. Maybe I'll fail to measure up to what I wanted to achieve, but that part matters less then striving to achieve it.
The thing about being vulnerable is being willing to take chances. The willingness to take a risk and put myself out there. My marriage and showing my love are worth the biggest chances and risks.
I may not measure up but if I keep making big gestures and throwing my heart into things, then I'll succeed more than I'll fall. We all will. We'll likely do far more good than harm by putting our heart and soul into something important, and pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone for the chance of big rewards. In my case, Emily will at least know she is worth it and that I love her deeply.
I don't know if these things are a revelation or have any value to anyone else. Maybe I lost my marriage manual in the wash and was slower in understanding the obvious. There may have been a lot of 'duh' blurted out while you were reading this. But with my attempt to be more honest and vulnerable, I need to confess that these are things that I'm just really figuring out now.
I want to be an incredible and loving husband, and I now know that is someone who asks for help and dares to be vulnerable, and that vulnerability is being willing to take risks and chances.
A marriage involves two people, unless you live in Utah or are a whiptail lizard. I do want to acknowledge that Emily has learned things too, and I want to appreciate some of things that I've noticed recently.
A few years ago, I wrote about how Emily rarely says the words, 'I love you.' I can probably count on one hand how often she says it in a year. Any words of affection tend to come out like a frozen Heinz ketchup bottle rather than a soy sauce bottle where I lost the cap. She isn't really physically affectionate either. She isn't what you would call a peddler of the warm fuzzies or someone that throws out compliments like it is a candy at a parade. That isn't her style. I've had to adjust because there are so many other things that she is amazing at doing every day.
She absolutely is loving. She is kind. She is compassionate. She is an incredible person. But she shows her love by the all the selfless acts she demonstrates throughout the house. She shows her love with her willingness to listen. She shows her love by pushing me to be a better and stronger person. She shows her love with how she spends her time with me and the kids.
But I've noticed some small changes over the last few months. I've noticed positive acknowledgements for work I've done around the house. I've noticed a person who is the farthest thing from a morning person actually uttering out 'Good Morning' when I am sure it doesn't feel like it before she gets her coffee. I've noticed that a Type A person who is good at almost everything has trusted me with being in charge with things because she verbally announces that I may be better at it. I've noticed she has valued my advice and input, even if she may already have an answer. I've notice that when I've hugged her that she leans in a little more, so I can get more affection. I've noticed her giving out bits of encouragement and appreciation to give value to my day. I've noticed that she will talk movies with me because that is something I care about.
This is another thing that I've learned. Choosing to see how your spouse works hard to bring love to the relationship is crucial. Appreciating every small effort and act of love that they demonstrate. Being grateful that you're in a relationship where two people want to adapt and grow, so that it can be stronger and better.
I feel loved by Emily even if it may not have been the way I had hoped or expected 13 years ago. I do know my love is strong for her and that I continue to want to learn and push myself to be better. I am so thankful for what the past 13 years have done in changing and improving both of us.
I love you Emily with all my heart. I am thankful for the house that you have helped nurture and grow. I am thankful for the two children, Everett and Danika that you have helped raise. I am thankful for our two dogs and cat that you show so much love towards. I am thankful for this wonderful life. I am thankful you push me every day to be more than I think capable and for me to reach for my dreams. I am thankful for the now and I am thankful for how much better things will be as we learn and grow together for many more decades.
Here is to many more years, and here is to love that is always growing and improving.
Happy 13th anniversary, my love.