At a marriage seminar not long ago, my husband and I were asked to list and rank the ten biggest transitions and challenges we’ve been through together over the last ten years. It didn’t take long to come up with ten items. Since we met about six years ago, we’ve marked major relationship changes every few years: from platonic friends to dating long-distance, a rocky engagement, marriage, and a new baby.
Along the way, we’ve learned some hard lessons about flexibility thanks to the people who lived with us after we got married; we’ve struggled financially and weathered a long series of car problems; we’ve encountered the frightening uncertainty of changing job situations and the prospect of dipping into savings to pay some of the bills.
“Wow,” I said, as we compared our lists. “Those actually were some really hard times.”
The realization took me by surprise because I tend to think of our past together as a uniformly happy time. I remember being surprised at how easy our first year of marriage seemed, after friends warned me how difficult it could be. But as I look back, I realize that it was hard in a lot of ways.
I struggled to get along with a family member who shared our house for the full first year, and tension sometimes devolved into outright conflict. We were new to our neighborhood and our church and making friends slowly, which sometimes made me so lonely I cried. We had many of the ordinary misunderstandings and arguments that young couples have.
But during that year, every time I stopped to evaluate, my prevailing feelings were happy ones. We loved each other; we were healthy and rich in almost every conceivable way. There always seemed to be a measure of grace to get through the rough stuff.
The same is true for the seasons in which we were dating and engaged. I would feel a subtle prompt to evaluate my situation, and I would realize, on balance, that it was a happy time. We had the things that mattered and the frustrations and uncertainties of each season would soon become just footnotes in a much bigger story.
I don’t actually have a profound relationship secret that will lead to happiness at every stage, in every situation. But I know I will be forever grateful for those moments throughout the last half-dozen years that I’ve felt the need to stop and acknowledge that, yes, life right now is sweet, and we have everything we need.
When I recall our time together, my mind goes straight to those moments of self-evaluation, instead of lingering on the hardships that I’ll probably forget altogether in another ten years. I’m so glad about that.
So, next time you find yourself with a moment of quiet, I encourage you to take stock of your own situation–regardless of what season you find yourself in. If the weather’s nice, go outside — things always seem better on a beautiful day with hope in your heart. Remind yourself of the good things and the gifts. You may find that life is better than you realized.