Nine years ago today, I got married. Wait. NINE YEARS AGO TODAY I got married. What?!

How in the HELL have I been married for 9 years??

Sometimes I talk to my friends who are in their 20s — wait, I still have friends who are in their 20s? *sigh* — or just friends who are just now getting married, and they are flabbergasted that I’ve been married for 9 years (or that I’ve been with my husband for a total of 14). They either don’t think I’m old enough (I’m 34), or they can’t wrap their minds around reaching that stage in their own lives where they have been able to be with someone for that long, or they just don’t know what it takes to have a relationship with anyone for that long.

engagement photo

(Look at that photo — we’re like two!)

I’m no expert on marriage, so I’m not sure I have the answers for that last part. I mean, if you asked me on a good day, I’d say that we’re a happy couple. My hesitation stems from the same source of all my hesitation when it comes to making declarations of happiness or satisfaction in life. I mean, yeeaahh? I’m not a total cynic, just a realist.

I’m not even sure what it is that people think a “good” or “happy” marriage is supposed to look like. Whenever my husband tries to tell me that such-and-such couple never fights and tries to hold up their marriage as a model, I think, “You are so naive. Of COURSE they fight!” Everyone fights. I don’t care what they tell you. I don’t care what you see. EVERYONE. FIGHTS. If they don’t, then there is something far, far more wrong about their marriage.

Here’s the reason that they fight — that we all fight: Because we care. Because the person we are married to is the person with whom we have the most invested. They are the source of our passion, our love, our hope, our excitement, and so much more. When they annoy us, it isn’t a passing irritation. It’s THE THING WE HAVE TO LIVE WITH FOREVER. When they disappoint us, it’s not something we can shrug off easily. It’s THE THING THAT WILL CONTINUE TO DISAPPOINT US FOREVER. When they hurt our feelings, we can’t just let it go because we love them so deeply and because it’s THE THING THAT WE WILL REMEMBER FOREVER. OK, maybe not that last part.

You get my meaning. We feel everything more intensely with our partners, and we react more intensely.

I don’t think the key to success in marriage is to try to make those fights go away. It would be akin to making your feelings go away. For me, the key is just to learn how to channel those feelings in a more constructive way. (“I, too, thirst.”) Communication is important, and it’s something that we continue to struggle with and improve on.

Other than that, the big secret, I think, is this: You just agree to not leave. Divorce is such an easy option. We’re all led to believe that if we’re not happy, if we don’t feel totally in love with our partner, or if we think we’re not living up to our full potential in life, we should just leave. Start over. But what’s the point of that? You’re just setting yourself up to have the same problems with the next person, maybe just for different reasons. If you want to have a successful relationship, you just have to decide that you aren’t going to leave. Period. You are going to stick and out and haul your asses to therapy or do whatever else it’s going to take to get over that hump and back into the valley of wedded bliss (or acceptance, whatever the case may be).

Don’t get me wrong: We’re not perfect. We’ve been to couples’ therapy. We’ve said that we wanted to get a divorce more times than I can remember. Once, I even moved out for a few months. But when things were pushed to the absolute breaking point, I had to make some hard decisions, and I realized that I didn’t want to just quit. I didn’t want to have spent years of my life building this life with someone only to abandon it. I didn’t want to cheapen what we had created by throwing it away and declaring that it hadn’t been worth it after all.

Plus, if we had given up, we wouldn’t have this:

newborn Quinn

Or this:

house

Or any of the many other amazing and beautiful and fun times that we’ve shared together. We may have fought a lot, but we also love a lot. We laugh a lot. Neither one of us do things half way. Even when we’re mired in the doldrums of routine and responsibility, we are giving it our all, and we are working toward exactly what we want to do, creating exactly the kind of life we want to have. We are living out loud.

Here’s to 9 more years (yikes!) and more….

Duke gardens

Duke gardens

Duke gardens

Duke gardens

Duke gardens

Duke gardens

Duke gardens

Duke gardens

Duke gardens

Duke gardens

Duke gardens

Duke gardens

Duke gardens

Vegas

Vegas