It’s pretty hard to believe that in just a couple of days Paul and I are celebrating 3 years of marriage. Did you know that 20% of marriages that will end in divorce will do so before the 5th anniversary? That’s a shocking statistic. Plus, the statistic skyrockets if you get married in your early 20’s (which we did.) We have had all odds fighting against us. And, to be honest, Paul’s and my first few years of marriage were the classic stories of “newlyweds” you so often hear about. I wish I could say we were one of those couples that never fought and the honeymoon phase never phased out… but our honeymoon phase went away week 1 back from the honeymoon. I have literally thrown a remote at Paul, locked him out of the bedroom, and wailed in the bathtub multiple times because there was nowhere else in the apartment to cry at. (Living in a loft our first 6 months of marriage was… testing. God is hilarious.) 😉 In our first three years, we have had the same two or three fights on cycle and it can feel hopeless at times. Will we ever come to healing or a healthy resolution over _______?
(I am writing a whole piece on some of this for those of you who asked me to re-cap the XO Conference!)
Looking back at the last three years, if we didn’t have wise counsel and Jesus at our core, we could have very well been part of that divorce statistic. Just being real- I can see how it could be easy to walk away. I am not saying I ever would, I am just saying I can see why it’s such a high number. It’s hard work marrying someone, and when things get frustrating or you’re having the same fight for the 10th time that week… it’d be so much easier to say you’re out. But that’s when reminding yourself that love is a choice is so imperative. No marriage runs on emotion forever- not one. We all have to daily wake up and say, “I choose you still.”
Anyways, time flies and it sort of scares me, yet I am hopeful and excited about what is to come. Sometimes I do wish we could go back to when I was barely 19 years old and had just met Paul. I was mesmerized by him in a way I had never known before, and I still get butterflies thinking about those first few interactions we ever had with one another. We get asked “our story” a lot, so I thought in the spirit of Valentines Day and wedding anniversary, I would share the quick(ish) version of it and give some nuggets of encouragement.
First off, something fun to know about my own story that points back to Jesus and how real God is:
I literally asked God at a young age to make me sick with every boy I dated who wasn’t my husband until I met the person God wanted me to marry. (I was a very strange child.) And, in true God fashion, he answered my prayer very literally (even when I fought it!). Paul is the only boy I didn’t get sick to my stomach from, and he was my first actual relationship. Up until Paul, I had never been able to hold a relationship for more than a few weeks at a time, because I never liked being tied down and I literally got nauseous and anxious every time “girl friend” was given to me. Yet, I “dated” the same few guys off on all throughout high school. I liked being liked. I am serious… it was very complicated and hurtful. Number one piece of advice I have for people dating: Don’t ever force yourself to date people, no matter how great they are! You’re both going to get hurt in it.
In a culture that says “if you’re not dating, something is wrong with you”, it’s easy to convince yourself that maybe it’ll start to mesh together after a while. But, truth is, if you are having to force yourself at all, then it’s likely not it for you. I often tell myself I hope I run into those few people so I can apologize one day for how terrible I was to them.
All that to say, it was a Sunday night at the 7 PM service and I made my way with my friend Ryan to our usual spot before service. As we walked up to our seats, there was a long line of boys to which Ryan began to freak out at as he ran up to hug them all. He knew this long line of good looking men who were all roommates (score), and I particularly got a good look at the blonde with the hoodie on over his head who seemed the least interested in meeting me on the end of the row. After service we hadn’t even made it out the door before I started asking Ryan about the Paul guy with the hoodie.
Through a series of events, Paul’s roommates told Ryan that Paul wouldn’t stop talking about me to which Ry spilled the beans I couldn’t stop asking about Paul. This was the start a few week long chase. Every week I went to church knowing I would get to see Paul the hoodie boy, and I would get to say hello to he and his friends. Finally, Paul -sort of- got my number for a Halloween party that didn’t actually happen because I couldn’t even make it. (This is a funny story, too, but I won’t tell it because it is too long.) I asked Paul a month later to go with me to my sorority formal to which he said yes and then TOOK BACK. Yeah, Paul denied going to my formal with me.
We hung out in groups for a couple of months, getting dinner and coffee and hanging out after church as often as possible. We finally went out for coffee in early December to share our stories with one another, and I knew quickly this guy was going to be my husband. I came home and told my roommates I was going to marry Paul. (We weren’t even officially dating!) Finally, in January, Paul asked me to be his girlfriend. I said yes and didn’t drive home trying to think of ways to break up with him. So, I knew this had to be at least something special.
We broke up at one point, and got back together a couple months later after accidentally attending the same birthday dinner for a mutual friend. (Oops) I ended up being put in the chair next to Paul at dinner (another oops) and heard him talk all about things he was learning from being a counselor at a camp that summer. He basically said word for word every single thing I had prayed for him to grow in after we broke up.
I knew we were supposed to talk about that, and I knew this was still my husband. It had to be.
We met up one night at his house, played Mario Carts and built a couch fort, and I left knowing this was the real deal.
A few months later Paul proposed to me. My life with Paul has been a whirlwind. Far from perfect, but definitely the best experience I could imagine. There are certainly nights the both of us have laid in bed thinking, “My gosh, what did we get ourselves into?” But, there is always the moment we decide to kiss and make up. That’s love. It is never going to be easy, and it will always be a battle, but I believe in marriage very whole heartedly. The last three years I have grown more as a person than ever before, and all done with my hubby by my side. Not necessarily because I was married, but because I had a best friend cheering me on and challenging me. I suppose where I am getting at is the fact so many of us fear marriage anymore, because it could strip our independence, or take away our “freedom”, or maybe we will be that 20% who get divorced before 5 years…. blah blah blah. “I don’t want to marry him until I am established in my career.” Listen, I don’t mean to get harsh or super opinionated, but as someone who got married at 21 with nothing but everything in life to figure out, I can say very confidently that marriage doesn’t strip you of who you are- it pulls out more of you. Just like a best friend can do, it’s the same idea. We don’t put best friends on hold until we have a, b, and c figured out… so why put marriage in that box?
So what’s my advice in picking a spouse? What matters is finding someone who brings out MORE of the truest you. It’s that simple.
Marry someone who cheers you on in everything you’re doing. Someone who says they believe in you, drives with you to take OOTD pics (!!!), who notices your cute outfits but tells you you’re pretty the most when you have on a sweatshirt and no makeup. Someone who will take you to Braums at 9 PM because you desperately need it, and who will grab you lady products, wine, and chocolate without batting an eye. Someone who gives advice and leads you well while also giving you space. A man who sees your strength and grace as a woman who he has the joy of walking through life with (and visa versa). Someone who sees your business idea and says, “Let’s make it happen.” Someone who doesn’t fear your success, and WANTS you to succeed. Marriage doesn’t suck your independence out or lock you into “settled down” jail… a healthy marriage just encourages you more than ever before to flourish into all you’ve dreamed of being.
You don’t have to be married to flourish. Don’t read that wrong. I am saying that if marriage is on your mind, if you’re in a serious relationship but are scared to take that dive… don’t be. If you are with someone who loves you and believes in you, that doesn’t change once the marriage license is signed.
I love y’all BIG. My inbox is always open for questions. If you want to know how we did it, married so young, or what we fight the most about, or how we seek counsel… whatever you want to know, I want to answer to the best of my ability.
All photos by Cottonwood Road Photography for The Cake by Hannah
Dress is from Skylar Belle Boutique