Marriage. It’s something most dream of, want and desire. Starts off with the fairy tale love story, the gorgeous ring that eats up months of your salary, the wedding that costs most people their life savings, or puts you in massive credit card debt. The moment in your life that is incredibly detailed, with pictures to capture what is claimed to be one of the most important days of your life. The start to a perfect life.
Then, life happens.
Work. Bills. Pregnancy. Work. Bills. Sleepless nights. Morning breath. Stress. Bad hair. Babies. Bills. Fights. Bills. Decisions. Parenting. Fights. Pornography. No dates. Fights. Illness. Bills. Anger. Your fault. Slammed doors. No time. Secrets. My money.
Until one day, you wake up to a stranger.
Marriage has become one of the easiest contracts to get out of.
It has become one thing. A business. A way to make money. Weddings are a $300 billion dollar global industry. Over 500,000 businesses are centered on weddings and employs 750,000. Yet the average marriage lasts only 8.8 years. Today’s percentage is 50 % of all marriages will end in divorce. Divorce is a $50 billion per year in the USA industry alone. No wonder the media has a hay day with tabloids on the dirt on marriage. The more divorces, the more weddings, equals more money. Yet the percent of staying together is declining.
Marriage is mocked, made fun of, twisted and tortured into a whole new meaning. Marriage has become a feeling. Feelings change. This new culture has turned it into something that comes and goes, like it’s carried on the wind. When the wind changes, so does your feelings. When I researched the statics on marriage, numbers don’t lie. They are what they are. It greatly saddened me, what I found and it led me to wonder, what happened to marriage?
Who is killing marriage?
How did the numbers grow to this point?
It comes down to this, if we keep going at the rate we are, the numbers are going to keep growing in the decades to come. Your children and grandchildren will ever experience the real beauty of marriage. And that is what saddens me the most. Real love will be lost. The real question is, are we entering the era of the death of marriage?
Ponder this thought for a moment, future generations will never grow old together, with a best friend.
Things will not change, unless we change. Change means doing and going where most won’t. It means once again, blazing a trail. Becoming a pioneer. In order to see change, our culture needs people to lead by being the example. Believe me, I would much rather keep my personal life just that. Personal. However, in order to turn around these statics, we need the truth exposed. Not great marketing and headlines that reel people in by drama filled valueless stories.
In today’s day and age, we focus on a word called prevention. Prevention from health issues, drug abuse, physical abuse, the list goes on and on. But what about the prevention of divorce? Since when did divorce become the norm, an expectation.
If you are reading this and are divorced, don’t stop reading this yet. This is not to rip on you. Not at all. I’m most certainly no expert in marriage. I personally have made a ton of mistakes and unfortunately I will make many more. At the same time, I know what it’s like to be poor, I had broken relationships, was a single parent, and came from a divorced family. I get it. I lived through just about it all.
So how is it then, that I am celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary with my best friend, soul mate and partner in life? I have been with the same person for 23 years. Even more amazing, I’m honestly happier, more in love and excited for all the adventures the next 20 years will bring.
How did I crack the code when I didn’t have the best role models nor did I start out my life on the right foot being a single parent? What’s my secret?
Most think I’m lucky. It has nothing to do with luck. That word doesn’t exist to me.
The secret is this, there is no secret. I don’t have the answers, but here’s what I do know. Marriage is dirty, messy and plain ole hard work that can eventually lead to a fairy tale story, if you stay the course and give it time.
The real dirt on marriage isn’t cool. It will be completely against the currents of the world, and very controversial. It will go against everything you read, hear, and see on TV and social media. But I’m willing to be a pioneer. It’s who I am. I want to prevent the declining numbers. So here’s a real life example of the real dirt on marriage, what it has taken us to make our marriage beautiful.
My top 10 reasons, of why I’m still happily married.
#1. Get over it, it’s not about YOU or your feelings. This was the hardest part I had to endure, let go, and white knuckle grasp 20 years ago. Marriage isn’t about how I feel. If I based my marriage on how I feel, our marriage would have ended a long time ago. Morning breath, no makeup and hair looking like I have been electrocuted when I wake every morning, I’m quite confident would have ended any physical attraction to each other 19.9 years ago. You don’t wake up in the morning with full makeup and rose smelling breath. It’s a lie. My marriage would have been an up and down roller coaster of emotion every single day, if I based it on how I feel. I don’t put that pressure on myself. If I tried to figure this out on my own, I would have failed a long time ago.
Instead, we chose to base our marriage on a greater purpose. I simply follow God’s rules. Yes, that’s right, I said the “G” word. I’m not going to slam religion down your throat. It’s not my job. But in life, common sense goes a long way. If our founding forefathers founded the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA “under God” and based our entire existence and culture around GOD, maybe we need to take a second look at basing our marriage around Him too. I look at it this way, since HE is my creator, miracle maker, and the Savior of the universe, why on earth would I follow my emotions and earthly set of rules, that other emotional people have created?
Other people didn’t create me, so why would I follow their lead?
Instead, my husband and I are a cord of three. God is at the center of our marriage and intertwined between the two of us. It’s not about us. It’s about Him. That brings the big “C” word into the picture. Commitment. Through sickness and health, good times and bad, till death do us part, kind of commitment. Commitment means you do something when you don’t FEEL LIKE DOING IT.
#2. “Never let the honey moon be over.” This was advice given to me at my bridal shower by Derek’s aunt, 3 months later she lost her battle to cancer at the age of 42. I pondered on these words for a long time. What does this mean? Here’s my definition.
Never. Stop. Dating.
Schedule dates nights every month. Dress up. Dress down. Do something adventurous or just be simple. Two ships passing in the night will lose sight of one another. Otherwise you can become an ‘holic’. From a workaholic, to an alcoholic and everything in between, if you don’t stop and take some time out, the reality is you will become lost. It took us about 7 years to figure this one out. A pattern had started. We fought more the less we saw each other. Till one day we realized, the value of spending alone time with each other.
We value great health, so taking care of ourselves, eating healthy, supplementing, and exercising allows us to feel and look our best.
Breathe. Be healthy together. Touch. Hold hands. Sit on a park bench and just people watch.
The point is be BETTER TOGETHER.
For your children, it will be the greatest example that marriage and health will forever take work. You never stop dating and taking care of yourself. This will allow the “honeymoon to never be over.”
Thank you Aunt Sally. Wise words I clung onto.
#3. No Secrets. Secrets hide, leading to dark caves in your life. Darkness haunts. Even little secrets, like buying something and not telling your spouse, is a haunting. Over time it leads to frustration, distrust, and dishonesty. Marriage is about two people becoming one. Two hearts intertwined beating as one. That leaves no room for secrets. The hauntings from your past, need the light turned on. Tell them to your soul mate. Derek knows my passwords to anything technology related. He can openly and freely read my texts, private Facebook messages, and go into my computer at any time. I have nothing to hide. Hiding hurts. A secret free zone creates an unbreakable trust. Pornography is now rated the #1 secret in marriage. Due to its easy internet accessibility. Sorry, but there is no honor in watching it. NONE. It’s a form of cheating. Only have eyes for your spouse.
Marriage has no room for any kind of lies, just tell the truth.
#4 OUR Money. It’s not his money or my money, it’s our money. We make all financial and purchasing decisions together. We both have an equal say. If we can’t agree on something, we let it rest for a few days, think it over. It stops us from making a purchasing decision based on feelings. Yep, there’s that word again. It’s not about your feelings. To purchase something without the other half knowing, is just plain disrespectful.
#5. Laughter. It is an action or a sound. Act on laughter. It heals the soul, brings down stress levels and sometimes a good gut wrenching laugh can solve the darkest problems. Because in the end, it doesn’t matter. Hemorrhoids to hysterectomy, parenting to counseling, through sweat and tears, morning breath to breast milk stained t-shirts in the middle of the night, run over by pigs and horses, are marriage has been through the ringer. We focused on finding the humor in every situation. Not always at first, but hindsight, instead of remember the hard, we remember through laughter. Wrinkles from laughing are much more attractive than frowning wrinkles. Smile, its way more attractive.
A house filled with the sound of laughter is a house filled with love.
#6. Dream. Never stop dreaming. Ever. Life is short. Don’t settle. Many times we fell into a rut, trying to live like everyone else. The ‘cattle herded’ society where you have to do what everyone else does to fit in. Fitting in is way overrated. The only one I want to fit in with is Derek. That’s when we put the dream hats on and went to town on an idea. Some dreams worked, some we learned. But we learned that ‘team work makes the dream work.’ Derek and I can’t go for a walk, and come away without talking about a vision of the future. It’s part of our thinking now. We will forever try new things and experiences. Our dreams took us around the world. From Africa, Europe, purchasing a small abandoned farm, to sleeping in castles, starting our own businesses, becoming an author, parasailing, snorkeling in exotic places, volunteering, and giving back, are just a few of the adventures we have had. Most of our dreams we didn’t have a clue what we were doing, we simply learned to jump, ALL IN – TOGETHER.
#7. Mustang theory. Derek loves mustang cars. Primarily old cars. His first car was a 68 mustang coupe. I could care less about cars. Know nothing about them, don’t care to either. However, a mustang car, is like liquid fuel to revive Derek. It’s his passion. After 20 years, I still know nothing underneath a hood of a mustang. But here’s what I do know. I can describe every detail in perfection, what his face looks like when we go to car shows, or his body language of pure joy when he drives his mustang. Because it was his passion, we had a mustang wedding, he drove me around town in my wedding dress in a 68 mustang. For him it was his love language to me, to parade his prize possession-me, in something that he worked hard for and took great pride in, his mustang. For me the look on his face said it all. We did whatever we could over the years to hang onto his first car he bought and rebuilt himself, for it was what he birthed as his first baby. I learned to love what he loved. Might not be an expert on it, but I am on my husband’s joy. We learned to compromise. Appreciate each other’s interest. Derek, is and will always be my biggest fan and supporter of my writing. Public speaking is the last thing he ever wants to do. But he will always sit in a front row seat and listen to me. He was willing to sell everything so I could write. Even his mustang. This is my mustang theory of compromise. Learn to love what makes the other half of your heart happy, even if you know nothing about what’s under the hood. The look on their face is all that matters.
#8. Ouch, this one will hurt. I call it the ‘Mirror Image’. When we fought, and yes at times it was even ugly, is when the mirror got pulled out. This one is brutally painful. I had to learn to say, “I’m in the wrong. I’m sorry.” And mean it. Because I’m not always right. Playing the victim all the time doesn’t get you anywhere. Get rid of the blame game. Take ownership to YOU, not the other person. Neither Derek nor I are perfect. We both make wrong assumptions, mistakes, and instead of being bull headed, which many times we both were, we learned to walk away, cool down and then look at ourselves first instead of blaming the other one. In time, this became our motto. The mirror shows the real reflection which sometimes, is downright ugly. Own your mistakes. Learn from them. Blaming everything else around you, will never get you ahead. In the end, forgiveness will set you free.
#9. Rugrats. Our beautiful children, didn’t come with instruction manuals. But we were entrusted by God to be there their parents. They are our responsibility, at home and at school, not the teachers or principal’s job. Parenting is a huge part of marriage and the lack of parenting can destroy a marriage. It will only work successfully if the team works together. “What did your Mom say?” or “What did your Dad say” rule is always enforced 24/7. If our kids tried to play one of us, we always had each other’s back. Kids can’t play you if you work together. Our no secret policy is also enforced for our kids. If the Taliban, terrorists or pedophiles can hack into my kid’s technology, then we as parents can at any given time, even with a senior in high school, look at any and all of your social media and technology. We are all about sports, music, hobbies, and dreams. We are products of all those things. But as parenting, we put more value into teaching our kids ethics of kindness, humbleness, ‘doing unto others as you would do unto yourself’. This means that we valued our time with our kids. We didn’t follow the rat race of putting our kids in an obsessive amount of activities. We had them chose their favorites, try lots of new things, be outside, let the creative juices flow and learned when to have a season of silence. Kids need time to be KIDS. Discipline is a must. If they are being mean to someone, ignoring or disrespectful to anyone, they will own it, apologize, and get to know the other person. Having lots of friends from many circles of life is what we encourage. Not just one group. We have an open door policy, all kids are welcomed as long as they respect our rules, and we aren’t afraid as a team, to address hard issues and pull back the reins on our kids when need be. Because we are better parents together.
#10. Cardboard box. Through good times and bad. This topic is on the bad, hard, ugly times. When things are going great, it’s easy to be happy. But what happens when your agenda of life doesn’t go your way? An illness attacks you, or finances went down the toilet, or a death, and you lose it all. Here’s the million dollar question. Could you still find joy? When the agenda of life you planned takes a sudden shift, and you must sacrifice? This is where most people quit. Sacrifice. That’s another ugly word for people. Because it’s HARD! The question is, if you were to lose it all, would be willing to make sacrifices? God forbid, give up sports, hunting, a mustang, your house, your happy agenda, could you live out of a cardboard box? Can you be happy without the big diamond ring and house?
We didn’t base the happiness of marriage on fame, money, and perfect agendas. Would have been a setup up for failure.
We have had financial success, to droughts in our lives of illness and medical bills draining our life savings. But there is one thing that can’t ever be taken from us. FAITH. This is the ONLY thing that will sustain you during the darkest times, and quench your thirst in the times of droughts. Blind Faith. Believing in a greater plan. In HIS plan, not yours.
Money or no money. Faith allowed us to choose happiness. Even in the darkest of times.
Here we are, 20 years later.
We have wrinkles and are bodies aren’t what they once were. We have experienced 7,300 days of morning breath, no makeup, and frizzy hair. And yet, my husband is the hottest man I have ever seen when I wake up every morning.
Hollywood doesn’t get it. The best sex is after making up and making it through something called MARRIAGE not meaningless one night stands.
This is a real love story.
If we don’t start a movement in prevention for marriages, this story, like so many other beautiful stories will eventually become an ancient myth.
It’s never too late to work on your marriage. If you are like me, and given a second chance, don’t waste your opportunity at a life filled with love and worthiness.
Derek was my second chance at life, and without me working on myself, and changing, nothing was going to change.
The real dirt of marriage is this. If you pray like it depends on GOD, then work like it depends on you, you will stand a 100% fighting chance at a successful marriage. Without God, it will be impossible. The problem is the world has taken GOD out of everything.
The youth of today cannot change if the parents of today don’t change first. If you are ready to, sacrifice, be humble, honor, cherish, commit, laugh your head off till you pee your pants, not be the cool parent because you actually discipline your children, be a team player, be healthy, compromise, dream, tell the truth, make decisions together, forgive, and never stop dating, you will have a beautiful raw, authentic, never ending, love story that will put any Hollywood pornographic drama filled, meaningless stories to shame.
My new commitment is to pioneer into the next 20 years and lead by being an example. For my children, grandchildren and future generations. I vision a future with a decline of divorce rates and mass shootings, values installed in our children, parents working together at raising the next generation, and to show the world what real love is.
Together. Will always be Better.