Silver anniversaries and a tale of two fighters

Last week, my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. We were married on May 23rd, 1987 and the picture above left was taken on our honeymoon in Ixtapa, Mexico. My husband had just graduated from law school and I was one semester shy of graduating from the University of Texas (ahem, the 5 year plan). Never could we have imagined on that day how much life we would pack into the 25 years to follow. We were just a couple of kids. And trust me when I say, we didn’t have a clue about how to make a marriage work. Not. A. Clue. Oh sure, we read a few Christian books on marriage during our engagement and even attended a weekend marriage retreat, but nothing could prepare us for the real deal.

It would be easy for me to toss up a picture on my blog celebrating 25 years of marriage and leave you with the same false impression I myself had as a young honeymooner in the picture above: This marriage stuff is a piece of cake. As long as you love Jesus and each other, you’re good to go for the long haul. Yeah, right! While there may be some truth in that simplistic bit of wisdom, it doesn’t tell the behind-the-scenes story most married couples discover the hard way after saying “I do:” Marriage is stinkin’ HARD, even if you love Jesus and each other. And it gets even harder when children arrive on the scene. Which for us, just so happened to be exactly 13 months after my husband and I exchanged our vows in 1987. We spent our one year anniversary at Lamaze class. Our next two children followed close behind. I don’t have to tell you what happened next. The marriage took a back burner in order to tend to the immediate and exhausting demands of parenting. It’s wasn’t a conscious decision. It just happened.

By our eight year anniversary, we found ourselves sitting in a counselor’s office with our marriage on life support. Aside from loving Jesus, you cannot imagine two more opposite people. Keith’s a planner. I fly by the seat of my pants. Keith is a science and math guy (engineering undergrad). I hyperventilate at the mere sight of mathematical equations and Excel charts. Keith is a problem solver. I’m a creative artist. Keith is a realist. I am a dreamer. Keith is an implementer. I’m a visionary. Keith likes structure and order. I prefer organized chaos. Keith prepares in advance. I wait until the last possible minute. Keith makes lists for everything. The one time I made a list, I lost it. Our personalities, spending habits, family backgrounds — you fill in the blank, we had very little in common when we met.

As difficult as it was to sort through our differences at the eight year mark (a thank-you shout out to Dr. David Ferguson), I cannot imagine where we’d be today had we not made a conscious decision to fight for our marriage. We gained valuable tools that helped us understand each other better. We learned how to express our frustrations and feelings, rather than suppress them and allow bitterness to take root. Essentially, we learned how to fight fair. Even with the tools, we still drifted apart from time to time, over the years. The longer I’m married, the more I understand how marriage resembles the covenant God made with us when He sent His son to die for us. We drift. In spite of our lukewarm devotion, He keeps on loving us. Reminded of God’s unfailing love, we step up our devotion and give it another go. And so the pattern continues. In the process, we learn about commitment. True commitment. The kind of commitment we are supposed to have in our marriages. Which is why it takes two fighters to make a marriage work.

Keith and I celebrated our 25th anniversary in Jamaica last week and it could not have come at a better time. Our anniversary trip arrived on the heels of marrying off our two older children, becoming grandparents for the first time, and launching our youngest child out of the nest and into college. This is where many couples find themselves suddenly faced with the stone cold reality that they have no idea how to be a couple apart from being parents. With the kids gone, many marriages dissolve at this mile marker in the road. Yet others, stick it out in unhappy marriages with spouses that have become more like roommates than lovers. Which is why the fight continues. I want to have a marriage that not only survives, but thrives.

While having dinner on our last night in Jamaica, my husband and I found ourselves reflecting back on our honeymoon 25 years prior and laughing about the naivety of the young couple in the picture above who thought loving Jesus was enough to make a marriage work. We spoke candidly about some of the hurdles we had faced early on in our marriage and then began to talk about the state of our marriage today. No doubt, we have been in an adjustment period as we’ve transitioned into the empty nest years. I confessed over dinner (through a few tears) that I’ve been a much better mother than a wife. Keith, not surprisingly, reassured me that wasn’t the case. But, it’s true. There is no doubt that juggling marriage, motherhood and ministry has often resulted in my husband getting the short end of the stick. Had it not been for my husband taking the initiative over the years to implement a weekly date night and schedule weekend get-aways and vacations, I fear we could have arrived at the 25 year mark as virtual strangers. In doing so, he was fighting for the future of our marriage, even from the back-burner.

We stand at a precipice of sorts in our marriage. With the kids grown and raised, we have more time to devote to each other. More time to discover common interests. More time to devote to serving in ministry together, if God so leads. And more time to fall in love all over again. I cannot imagine my life today had I not said “I do” to my very best friend on May 23, 1987. As different as we are, we recognize that we need each other. Keith’s strengths make up for my weaknesses. My strengths make up for Keith’s weaknesses. God knew exactly what He was doing when He put us together. Keith often refers to our marriage as “the great adventure.” I wouldn’t change a single detail of this adventure, including the bumps in the road. We are who we are today, because of the detours and bumps along the way. I’ll gladly fight for another 25 years with this man. The great adventure continues…

 

Comments

  1. Thanks so much for sharing this. We’re about to celebrate our 20th anniversary with 3 kids 12 and under. I often worry about what happens when they are gone and we look at each other. It’s so encouraging to hear you struggled with the same thing and that God gives us the grace and strength to fight for our future.

  2. Keith sounds like his dad!!!

  3. Congratulations on still being together.

    We celebrate 20 years this August and are in the extremely busy teenage parenting years. We too have fought like banshees for our marriage, yet the ebb and flow still happens. Thanks for the honesty :-)

  4. Thank you for keeping it real. I too feel that I was a better mother than wife, but now that we’re empty nesters, I feel I can be more open with my husband and it’s wonderful! God knew who I needed and I am thankful! Please keep writing and sharing your life.

  5. Love this. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Nicole says:

    Sounds exactly like my life!!!! Just a bit behind….just celebrated 20 years. Second kid going to University in Sept. Two more still at home (we squeezed in one more than you and ours are all boys) but will be on your same schedule by the time we hit 25years. Must say the last few years have been the very best and I am so looking forward for more of “the great adventure”. Thanx for a glimpse of the future and the encouragement to put the time into our marriage and the reality that it is so worth the fight!!!My husband LOVES lists!!!haha

  7. Congratulations. We celebrate our 25th in a few weeks.

  8. Rogena says:

    Happy & blessed 25 anniversary to both of you! Wow! What a lifetime adventure it has been! Thanks for your transparency as you share the ups and downs of your marriage. My husband and I will be celebrating our 20th this year and like you we look forward to falling in love all over again!! Blessings to both of you!

  9. Barbara says:

    No words, Vick. Just awesome, vulnerable writing. You know you just wrote the intro for your next book. Do it.

  10. Smithlingmom says:

    Thank you for such an honest and tender post. Marriage is sooo worth fighting for. My husband and I got married very young (20, yikes!). We were blessed with 4 kids over the years and it got harder, but deeper and sweeter, too. It was a struggle and we, too, were clueless starting out. We celebrated our 20th in January and he lost his battle with cancer about 1 month later. I hope your post will inspire others to stick it out, even when it’s excruciating (as you know it can be). What a precious gift :)

  11. Vicki, this is so transparent, honest, encouraging, empathetic, and of course hilarious. You are so funny. Congratulations on 25 years.

  12. admin says:

    Smithlingmom, I am so very sorry for your loss. I’m sure you are a living testimony to marriage becoming, as you beautifully say, “deeper and sweeter,” even in the midst of tremendous suffering. Thank you for your encouraging words. :)

  13. homeschoolmomof4 says:

    My husband and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary in August. We made it to year 15 before things got really hard. We are still working on making marriage wonderful again. Right now, it’s pretty good but we’re working (with a counselor and on our own) to make it even better. We decided, like you, that we didn’t want to just survive marriage. We wanted a wonderful marriage that would bring glory to God and we’re willing to do whatever it takes to get back to that place.

  14. Congratulations on this impressive milestone!! Personally, I think love looks good on both of you and you are more stunning than you were a quarter century ago! I love the phrase you used, “I want our marriage to THRIVE not just survive. Amen, sister.

  15. Congratulations Vicki and Keith! Awesome post. May I just say that Oh. My. Goodness….your son Hayden totally looks like your hubby in that honeymoon picture!!

  16. Congratulations on your heartfelt desire to see your marriage thru 25 years of for better or worse,in sickness and in health, for rich or for poor, and forever and ever.

  17. Thank you for posting. Congratulations on 25 years. My husband and I will celebrate our 15th this year. The first 10 years being selfish years of personal goals and ambitions, our 2 girls born. Year 10 was the worst year ever and by the grace and mercy of God we were humbled and our lives and marriage changed. All the glory to God—for without Him we would certainly be a sad divorce statistic. Marriage is HARD. Parenting is HARD. But with God leading us, this wild ride of life we are taking together is worth it–To God be the Glory!

  18. Mewaw & Poppy says:

    How very thankful we are that God brought you two together! He truly knew what He was doing and we are so thankful you were responsive and obedient to His guidance!! Your statement: “Keith’s strengths make up for my weaknesses. My strengths make up for Keith’s weaknesses. God knew exactly what He was doing when He put us together.” is what we believe that God does when He brings people together. As you know, we are two completely different personalities and with the Lord’s help, we’ve made it 52 years!! We love you two so much and learn a lot from you!

  19. Debbie says:

    Thank you for the humility which allows the grace of God to be so evident in your story. I am beginning the sending off season as my eldest will be a high school senior in the fall. You are about 6 years ahead of me in season of life. My three girls came soon and close together like your and Keith’s family. So many times your posts have pulled on my heartstrings, but this one trumps them all. I’m so thankful for the “big sister” role you have played for me beginning with mother-daughter seminars when my girls were Tweens, virtue alerts where someone spoke my heart, and resources which have encouraged many women in our church.

  20. Many sweet wishes to you both! What a wonderful life!

    My hubby and I are coming up behind you. The 80′s were some good years, eh?

    I wanted to ask you about the hoopla over Fifty Shades of Grey. The media is pushing these books to women and I’m shocked to see CHRISTIAN gals blabbing all over Facebook about reading them.
    I love what Dannah Gresh wrote on her blog regarding the topic but I’m wondering what your take is on this. How is it that so many are wallowing in this kind of garbage?
    I even had a friend from high school try to get in a FB spar with me over them JUST BEING LITERATURE!!! Grrr!

    Is there a real wonder as to why young girls are so sexual and wobbly with their faith?

    I hate even typing the name of those darn books! Sorry!