I recently remembered an unpleasant experience I had when I was a young wife. My husband and I were attending a conference. As was usual for us, we were acting very much like newlyweds. Another wife, ten to fifteen years older than I was, asked, "How long have you been married?" When she found out that we'd only been married for seven months, she assumed a superior air and said, "Well, you may feel that way now, but just wait until you've been married for seven years." Her tone and facial expression made it clear that she didn't expect the joy and tenderness to last.
I was shocked and offended. I don't remember how I responded to her, but given my distaste for confrontation, I'm sure it had nothing to do with expressing what was going through my mind, which was something like, How can you say such a terrible thing–and with your husband standing right next to you too? Shame on you! Marriage is a wonderful gift from God. Maybe yours went south after seven years, but ours won't. I'll thank you to keep your negative thoughts on the subject to yourself!
At the time, I knew that it would take hard work and self-sacrifice to build a good marriage, but I felt ready for the challenge. However, though I believed with all my heart that our marriage would always be a place of love and beauty, I had no proof of what our future held, so I felt I had no response to give this older woman with her supposed wisdom. Time alone would prove if I was correct.
Years have passed since then, and this December my husband and I will celebrate ten years of marriage. If I saw that woman again today, I could confidently tell her that she was wrong. After seven years, we were more in love than we had been at seven months, and each year of our marriage has been better than the previous. Though there is a prevalent idea that romantic relationships are only blissful during the dating phase, and they start to go downhill after the wedding, our experience has been the opposite, and we know enough couples like us to believe that our marriage is not the exception that proves the rule. We're so certain of this, that when we're doing premarital counseling, we often reassure couples who are struggling with the awkward aspects of being engaged that it gets better after marriage.
Not long ago, my husband and I and the kids went to a week-long conference. There was excellent child care, and we made good use of it. I remember one morning during the coffee break, we took advantage of the fact that other people were watching our kids in order to have an impromptu date. We scurried to the coffee shop, got a special treat to share, then looked for a comfortable, secluded spot to enjoy it. We couldn't find anywhere that was both confortable and secluded, so we settled for one large armchair that was sitting in a public area. We squeezed into it and thoroughly enjoyed each other's company (and our coffee shop treat). There was a constant stream of people walking past our perch, but they didn't bother us. We were giddy with happiness over doing something special together. As we snuggled, I couldn't help thinking that we would make a great advertisement for marriage. Here we were, three children and almost ten years into the thick of things, and we were acting even more like newlyweds than when that woman made her discouraging remark so many years earlier.
My point in sharing these two stories is not to flaunt our happiness. Rather, I want to be a positive voice for marriage in the midst of the modern cacophony of negative and misguided views on the subject. While this is not a marriage blog, I think this topic is vital and relevant. We married mothers need to focus on cultivating our relationship with our husbands at least as much as we focus on caring for our children. And lest you start to feel selfish about always looking for ways to spend time alone with your husband, remember that a healthy marriage is good for everyone in the family, especially your kids!
Despite the modern idea that marriages are generally unhappy, it turns out that there are still many women who consider themselves happily married. Could we be a silent majority? Fawn at The Happy Wives Club is trying to find out. Check out her marriage-friendly site and join the club!
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Photo (of my husband and me at 7 months) courtesy of Tom Price