The turning point of my marriage rested on one make-or-break question

My husband had answered ‘yes’ to the question, now it was my turn. Was I finally ready?

For a very long time, I wasn’t committed to the man I married. I thought I was. I would have told you, without a doubt, I was. However, what I was committed to was the idea of what I thought our marriage was supposed to be. I recently read an article by Dave Willis, “The MOST Important decision in marriage,” where he asks this very question. Reading it sent me back in time to when I first chose to commit to my husband, years after we initially exchanged vows.

People often say that the newlywed years are supposed to be the best years. For us, they were the most difficult. The first year we were married, we moved to a new state where we didn’t know a soul. We bought a new house, had to get jobs, and we had our fist child on the way and had a second one a year after the first one. Having left our entire support system, we were now completely dependent on each other. Not long after my daughter was born, I left work full-time and was often on my own. My husband did his best, but he worked long hours to make ends meet. He was out of town a lot, and most nights he was so exhausted he fell asleep before I had a chance to sit down with him. I would go all day (sometimes many days) without an adult to speak to and here was this person who was supposed to be my best friend snoring on the couch.

“This is not what I signed up for,” I would think to myself while cleaning food off the floor after breakfast. “I did not give up what I had back home to be here alone and on my own.”

Commitment isn’t about equality, it’s about sacrifice. You give and take but not equally.

After two years, homesickness was a regular visitor at my dinner table while I often ate with my two daughters. I felt myself getting swallowed by a sea of despair. I struggled to stay above the negative tide, but some days it was just too heavy. There was no wind left in this sail, and the marriage boat was at a standstill with a slow leak. We were sinking. The months passed slowly, and the waters of our relationship ebbed and flowed, but my outlook stayed consistent: angry, unhappy, and resentful.

My husband just wanted me to be happy, and I wanted the life I had imagined, or, to go back to one I had before we moved. I wanted my old life back, with friends and support where I was happy, not lonely. That was my only solution in every argument—move back. My husband, knowing we could only move forward, got tired of hearing it. It drove a deep divide between us that would last nearly two years. Then, after months of arguments and one of the biggest fights we would ever have, I asked what he wanted to do. Did he want a divorce? Did I? He simply said to me, “I made a promise to God and you. I am committed to this.” Followed by, “If moving back will make you happy, we’ll go.”

I stood for a moment and processed what I had just heard. I had waited years to hear him say this. I dreamed of how happy I would be at the revelation that it was finally happening. Yet, as I stood there, I wasn’t excited. That certain rush of relief and surge of joy I knew I would feel when he finally agreed to move back wasn’t there. Instead, I felt flat. It wasn’t satisfying to hear him say those words and I knew in that moment, our geographical location was never the solution to our problem. Reasoning and logic had slapped me right across the face with reality and it was the first time in our marriage that I realized how impossibly difficult and selfish I had been. I wasn’t the only one sacrificing my time, my support system, and myself. My husband was clearly committed to our family by working to provide for us while sacrificing time with our children and me. So, the question was, was I committed? Up until now, I clearly hadn’t been.

The happiest marriages aren’t built on compatibility; they’re built on commitment.” — Dave Willis

We live in a society that puts unrealistic expectations on relationships. We romanticize marriage and commitment. We associate true love as something that’s supposed to be effortless, when, in fact, it isn’t easy. It takes two people willing to give their all for that other person, and willing carry them, even when they don’t want to. Commitment isn’t about equality, it’s about sacrifice. You give and take but not equally. Sometimes you give more than you take. Other times, you take more than you give. But, the hard work and sacrifice pay off in the long run. Steve Bollman, author of The Choice Wine, cites that 40 percent of all marriages will end in divorce. He argues that fighting for that relationship through commitment shows long-term rewards. For example:

  • 40.3 percent of married people are happier than people who have never been married (22.8%) or divorced (19.3%).
  • 34.7 percent of married people are healthier than people who have never married (30.2%) or divorced (27.3%).

Those first few years of our marriage paved a pathway into the marriage we have today—the one we are still working on and growing with. Some days it feels effortless. Other days, it feels impossible (because how can someone I’ve known for nearly 10 years not know how to put a fork in the dishwasher?). It’s been seven years since we started this journey together, and we have a very different relationship than we did in those early years. We have survived some tough times, but we keep getting stronger with every obstacle. We are the strongest we’ve ever been, and we both know we’ll continue to get even stronger as long as we stick together. We’ve learned how to communicate better, and how to work together—especially when it gets hard. Most importantly we’ve learned to let unimportant things go and we have learned to listen.

We never did move back home. I made the decision to commit to him that afternoon when he reminded me what “we” were supposed to be all about. Since then. I haven’t had any desire to move. If I could go back and talk to myself on those days when I thought, “I didn’t sign up for this,” I would tell that girl, “Yes, you did. This is marriage and it’s hard. Marriage isn’t just about what you want, or what he wants. It’s about working together to get what you both need.” My mom once told me that anything in life worth having is worth working for. I couldn’t believe that about anything more than commitment in marriage.

 

Christina Antus
Christina Antus

Christina lives in Denver with her husband, three kids, and two cats who still haven’t caught the red dot. When she’s not neglecting laundry, or avoiding the grocery store, she’s running, writing, and making mediocre meals for her family.

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