On June 2, 2019, Mrs. BAD Pod and I mark our 18th wedding anniversary. I get a little glassy-eyed thinking about the obstacles we’ve navigated to reach this point: depression, infertility, career changes, miscarriage, several moves to multiple states, job loss, addiction… and stuff… There have been reasons for either of us to bail. Neither one of us believe we’re still married to the same person we married 18 years ago.
But we’re still in it.
What has made our marriage work up until now?
What’s the reason? We got asked that by an acquaintance about a year ago. We were in a bar, sharing after-work appetizers (we don’t really do alcohol much–that’s the whole addiction thing). We noted it was going to be our 17th wedding anniversary. And, after noting that we looked way too young to have been married that long (can’t say I disagree), the acquaintance asked, “How do you make it work?”
Mrs. BAD Pod and I never had a conversation about marriage philosophy or what makes our relationship work. At least, we’ve not consciously held such a conversation. So we both shrugged and thought a moment. Then Gina (Mrs. BAD Pod) offered this: “We just decided to.”
She was, and is, totally right. At that moment in the bar, I was searching for ways we keep our love alive–mentally attempting to build a list of the methods we use to stay in love. You know, platitudes like “we never go to bed angry” (not true), “we still act like we’re dating” (not true), or “I always admit when she’s right” (not true either). But the real foundation for our love is that we have made a soulful decision to be in love. And sometimes that comes in spite of what we feel for each other.
Honestly, who can say they are the same person they were 18 years ago? Most people have gone through many serious changes over the course of that much time. And likely, what that means is our relationships go through changes in feelings, as well. So there have been points in our 18 years of marriage when we haven’t felt totally in love, but we still were committed to love each other.
We made decisions to love each other. We made vows to love each other. And we’re doing our best to build each other up in love. (It’s not always a pretty picture, but it’s an honest attempt.)
It’s a shared decision.
What’s made it stick is that we BOTH decided. Independently. There’s no coercion here. And likely, if one of us decided that he or she was not going to love the other any more, then our system would break down.
The decisions we’ve made to love one another reflect a commitment to keep working on our relationship, marriage, and family. Culture at large tends to paint a picture that there are points at which you can have a perfect marriage. It has become an expectation. And when we fail to meet that expectation, we wonder if we should give up.
Perhaps what Gina and I have discovered through our shared journey is that we have never reached the point of marital perfection, and likely never will. But we’ll keep trying to get a little closer.
I wish I could offer a dope listicle of 5 ways to keep your marriage in tip-top shape. Maybe, at some point, I’ll be able to offer 5 ways to remind yourself of your love, or something. Right now, all I can offer is some encouragement to decide. Decide of you’re willing to love… and if your partner is willing to love in return.