The Story of Us

by Laura on September 23, 2011

We got married a dozen years ago when we had just barely turned legal to drink a glass of wine, and everyone said we were too young.  But we would just roll our eyes at each other behind their backs.

We picked out invitations and cake-flavors in the same month we studied to pass college exams. And older marrieds told us to “get ready for that first year,” because it’s going to be the “hardest year of your lives.” And, we would smile and say thank you, and then roll our eyes behind their backs, too.

Because we were young and madly-in-love, and we wouldn’t believe a word anybody said about marriage being a struggle.  All we saw was that we didn’t have to say goodnight to each other anymore and that we’d soon have license to decorate our own kitchen.

And when we heard the statistics during our engagement about how half of all marriages end in divorce, it wasn’t a reality that registered on our crazy-for-each-other radars. Because how could people grow apart? And how could marriages become a battlefield?  And how could affairs even happen? We rolled our eyes at the unbelievability of something so wonderful as a marriage, crumbling.

But, youth and early-years-love have a way of painting optimism in broader strokes than reality. And, I’m glad for that, really. Because who wants to start the race believing you’ll end up losing? Who wants to walk the aisle, assuming it’s going to get awful?

But 12 years in, I have learned that awful it will, indeed, sometimes, get. 

There are kids and bills and baggage that you didn’t know existed. There are losses and disappointments and turns you never signed up for, and there is always a dance of selfishness that plays out in a million different ways and with a trillion different hurts.

And you can’t get pregnant.  Or you do, and then you miscarry.

You leap for the job, and then it falls apart.

You have the kids and never realized that they would take such center stage.

And the pressures of grown-up living can push you into separate corners, and separate sides of the bed, before you even realize what’s happening.

12 years in, and I have learned that marriage can be hard, and intimacy takes work. It demands the front burner, and it is always, always costly. A marriage is not a relationship built for auto-pilot, not one to pay attention to after the kids are gone,

not something handed-to-you, but rather something fought-hard-for.

And I watch young people I adore begin to get married. I see the same optimism in them that I had a dozen years ago. But I don’t roll my eyes at them

not all all.

Because I know they’re about to start writing their history together. And a history, together, is a much more powerful thing than a white dress or a kitchen of their own, anyway. It takes longer to get, sure, but it’s an ocean-more of depth, too.

And that, that, is something worth a heavy-dose of optimism.

{Click here to view the video that prompted much of my marriage-thoughts this week: The Story of Us, Ending.}


This post is dedicated to some of our amazing young friends, Christian and Marlena, who just got married. They are the same age we were when we tied the knot. Matt and I are so proud of who they are and so incredibly hopeful for the ways their marriage will impact those around them.  Sorry we couldn’t be there to celebrate, guys. You were both beautiful!

Question for you:

What marriage advice would you give them?

  • Sharon O

    Be Patient.
    Try to understand each others families for when you get married you marry them too.
    Be Kind.
    Once a word comes out of your mouth it is spoken. Let it be gentle and kind.
    Be Loving.
    Nothing is more important than your love and comittment to each other.
    Be Honest.
    Lying and not telling the truth in some form or other builds walls.
    Be Prayerful.
    Your ‘love’ needs your prayers more than anything else or any one else.
    Be Forgiving.
    For the day will come one or the other of you will hurt your love and you must forgive
    and move forward to a new beginning together.
    Do Not.
    Talk bad about the other in front of anyone especially your parents. You might forget what you said ‘they most likely will not’.
    This is just a few words of wisdom from a 56 year old Christian who has been married almost 38 years.
    You marry for better and worse.
    It will come and when it comes make sure your foundation is STRONG.

    • Laura

      Sharon, what fantastic advice! Thanks for taking the time to give it. You have such wisdom that comes from nearly 40 YEARS of experience as a wife! So, so awesome!

  • Heather K

    Let go of your pride. Sometimes you will feel like you are right, your spouse is wrong. Period.

    And then you might find yourself praying for God to help your spouse “see” where he/she “needs to see things differently.”

    When I get to that point, I find that it usually works out best when I ask God to show ME how I need to see things differently. Sometimes it takes a while, but it always works :)

    • Laura

      Heather, Love that comment about pride and the natural tendency to ask God to fix him, and not me. Such an important way to get out of the separate corners.

      Love you, friend,

  • kendal

    number one? listen. really.
    number two? be willing to change. a lot.

    an older man handed me a dollar one night when i was at the mall picking up some of the wedding gifts people had left at the store for me. i asked what it was for. he said, “i’ll give you a dollar not to get married.” i was aghast. i scoffed at the statistics. i thought marraige would be easy for US. 19 years in? i adore this man. and am so glad to be married. but it has. not. been. easy. worth it? you bet! but easy, no way. and i wouldn’t change a thing.

    • Laura

      Kendal– congrats on 19 years! And, holy cow, I can’t believe that guy wanted to pay you not to get married! Talk about cynical! I loved your advice and I LOVE that you can say you still adore your husband.

  • Summer Sheldon

    I’m bummed. The link for the video is for your region only…at any rate it won’t play. Can you imbed it or send another link? Thanks!

    • Laura

      Summer, bummer girl. I tried to embed it in the post, but the embedding option was disabled on youtube. Sorry. :( It’s just the last scene of The Story of Us, with Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer. The couple is about to get divorced and then she gives this awesome powerful speech in the parking lot about how they’ve built a history together over the years and that’s not something to give up easily.

      The movie is one of my favorites about marriage– it’s got some adult stuff in it, but I think it paints this realistic picture of the struggles of it.

      Sorry the video didn’t work for you, though. Rats.

  • Tracey

    Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Oh man did I hate this one the first year, but it served us well to resolve issues before bed.

    • Laura

      Tracey, perfect. PEople told us this one, too, before we got married. Honestly, we didn’t struggle much with it the first few years, but the last few? Yup, we’ve had to resolve to put this into action, for sure.

  • Melody

    Right now it’s easy to roll off her lips what she loves about her man but I’d encourage her to remember the discipline of affirming her man years down the road when the new car smell has worn off. Write it in a note, call him at work, email it or better yet…..look him square in the eyes and say aloud what she loves about him. And if she wants major brownie points…say the same thing with other people around. I can’t take credit for that last bit of advice….thank you shaunti feldhaun via “For Women Only”….a book I would put in any newlywed’s hand.
    P.S. Met a missionary family from Thailand (he is Thai and she is Phillipino sp?) this week at our church and gave them your blog address and told them about what ya’ll are doing. Ed Webber is his name. I know that’s like you saying you have a friend named Sally in the South and to say Hi to her for you. But I still thought I’d tell you about it. :)

    • Laura

      Melody, thanks for the book recommend. I’ve heard that’s a good one.

      And I LOVED your thoughts about affirming your husband– esp. in front of others. Perhaps harder, and maybe even more important, as time goes on.

    • Laura

      Oh, and thanks for passing the blog link along . . .though, I don’t know an Ed Webber– but, hey, I’ll keep my eyes open for him!

      And for Sally in the South, too, of course! ha ha.

  • Tamara

    In no particular order:
    Leave and cleave. Leave your family; they’ve done a great job raising you up to do just this. Cleave to one another, it means “stick or hold together, resist separation” (weird, third in the list of definitions). If leaving means you must leave the country to get the space for you and your husband to become inseparable, do it. If it means saying no to your mother and him to his mother when they least expect it (and sometimes “no” to some really wonderful gifts), do it. Whatever it takes to make the leaving – the traditional meaning of cleaving, to split apart permanently – work SO THAT the cleaving (third definition) can happen.
    Get each others back. Always. When you don’t think he’s right. When you know you’re right. When he smells stinky or you feel superior or when your daughter thinks HE can do know wrong and rolls her eyes at you every moment of every day. When somebody gets fired or when your family member says something unkind about him or when you are just. too. tired. to tell him – or SHOW him (yes, you know what I mean) you’ve got his back.
    Pray together. We didn’t do this early on and know how much smoother LIFE would’ve been had we done this really simple ritual!
    I love the other comments and say DITTO!
    Hugs to you “newlyweds” from this set of 34-yr newlyweds!

    • Laura

      Oh, my goodness, this list is a treasure trove. I loved it all, and it was good encouragement for ME today to keep showing love, and I love the encouragement to pray together too . . . That’s one that Matt and I keep committing to and then quickly falling off the bandwagon on.

      • Laura

        I think another piece of good advice, especially for when the little people start to enter the scene, is to remember that you’ll be living with your spouse longer than you’ll be living with your kids, and so long-term it’s a relationship that can’t be ignored for the 18 years or so it takes to raise the kids.

        A hard one to practice when you have multiple little ones, but still good to remember. :)

        • Tamara

          SO TRUE that you can’t ignore your marriage while you raise your children! A wise friend long ago said: “Here’s the deal: if we do it right, they [the kids] will leave us.”
          You younguns are SO wise already! Keep it comin’!

  • Tamara

    sorry about the epic comment!

    • Laura

      Don’t ever, ever apologize for giving us youngers your wisdom . . .

      We are always better for it. :)

  • Becky Mac

    Marriage is prayerfully choosing to find your happiness in making your spouse happy.

    • Laura


      This is profound.
      And, oh, soooo hard.

      Hope you guys are doing well, friend. Glad to hear from you today. :)

  • Adina

    Don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought to think. (Pretty sure God said that somewhere in His book). I’m pretty sure, if I were to post problems in my marriage, MOST of them would be linked to me thinking I’m “all that”.

    • Laura

      This was a perfect way to say something that most of our problems could be boiled down to, too.

      Thanks, Adina– fun hearing from you!

  • Bethany Ann

    was sent a link to your blog by carly nichols at new tribes… love it!

    the advice i’ve most needed to hear throughout my married life? “don’t take yourself so darned seriously!”

    • Laura

      Bethany . . . so funny! Love it, and yup, I think I needed to hear that one, too! So glad to have connected with you! Are ya’ll living overseas?

  • grace

    we were married at 22 years old & celebrate 8 years together. It is hard. There have been moments we have wanted to give up. But we are best friends and home is not home without one another. The only advice I have is communicate. Have NO secrets. Ever.

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  • Lindsay Asbury Donaldson

    Hold your tongue, even if it’s just for a little longer. You’ll be glad you did later :)

    • Laura

      perfect! love this piece of wisdom– so true!

  • aira

    Oh yeah, patience, trust and understanding is the best way to make the marriage last. Love is always there but it won’t work out if it’s only love.

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