The Secret to Happily Ever After is Not What You Think

My husband, Ryan, and I have been married for almost 6 years. I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say it’s always been sunshine & rainbows. I’ve wanted to kill him. Several times. That being said, I have no doubt God knew exactly what He was doing when He put the two of us together. I’ve never met a more devoted, selfless, caring, funny person. He makes me laugh and keeps my serious side in check, while always striving to be a better provider for our family. Needless-to-say, I’m proud to call him my husband.

But, what do I love about him most? He pushes me to be better. In everything.

No matter how well two people may be meant for one another, the fact of the matter is relationships are hard. You’re not always going to agree and you can bet you’re going to have some serious come to Jesus meetings.

Enter counseling.

Ryan & I at the Tough Mudder finish line.

Ryan & I at the Tough Mudder finish line.

Being Catholic, naturally I wanted to be married in the Catholic church. To do so, we were required to attend a minimum of 6 months of marriage preparation (a.k.a. marriage counseling) where we talked about all kinds of issues married couples fight about – money, kids, sex, death, etc. It was an eye opening experience, to say the least. Surprisingly though, we both enjoyed it.

The biggest takeaway for us was communication.

If you want to make it marriage – or any relationship – you better learn to communicate, & do so effectively. Sometimes, it’s knowing how to say something – be it using the right words or tone. And sometimes, it means learning when to shut up and when to apologize. (I might still be working on those.)

Bottom line: learn how to talk to those you love.

I’ve often joked that if Ryan and I were able to survive our first year of marriage, we have this whole marriage thing in the bag. (Except I’m really not joking.) Our first year of marriage wasn’t the typical honeymoon phase. I made it no secret that I wanted to divorce him everyday. (It was rough.) We managed to fit most of the hard things married couples fight about into our first year – like buying a house and having a baby. Throw getting used to “wedded bliss” and shared bank accounts out the window. Let’s do all the hard stuff. Now. And let’s not forget about the fact that I already had a 3 year old.

The good news is, we survived!

Ryan & I jumping the fire at Warrior Dash with our toys in tow. We carried these the entire race.

Ryan & I jumping the fire at Warrior Dash with our toys in tow. We carried these the entire race.

Fast forward a few years. We began communicating again, but on an entirely different level. We started running and doing obstacle races together – local 5Ks, Spartan Races, Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash – you name it. And that’s when the magic happened. There is something humbling – yet magical – about needing someone. Really, truly needing them. This was a foreign concept to me as I had always proudly proclaimed myself to be the confident, self-reliant woman my parents raised me to be – man optional. You see, I saw need as a weakness. And I’m not weak.

Except then I realized I did need my husband. I do need him. In more ways than I realize.

During many trying times along the race courses, we learned to rely on one another. To tell each other what we needed. To communicate openly. When I was struggling, he encouraged me. When he was doing well, I cheered him on. Isn’t that how all relationships should be? At the very core of a person you’ll find the need for acceptance. For love. For trust. These are a fraction of the qualities you hope to find in a spouse, a marriage, or a best friend. And I found them in a mud pit of all places. When I was looking my worst.

Ryan and I have long since started referring to obstacle course racing as our personal brand of torturous marriage counseling. And oh how we love it. Though we still have our fights & we occasionally want to strangle each other (hey, we’re both human), I find myself amazed at how much we continue to learn about one another and how much better we have become at communicating. We’re not perfect, but we’re getting better everyday.

Ryan & I right after finishing a Spartan Super in May. We ran back-to-back races that weekend!

Ryan & I right after finishing a Spartan Super in May. We ran back-to-back races that weekend!

Mostly, I’ve learned that it’s okay to need someone. And, I’m so thankful to have someone like Ryan who really is everything I need. He has always been my cheerleader (only don’t tell him I called him that), supporting me in everything I do and pushing me to be better at each role I play – be it wife, mom, daughter, sister or friend. And, I like to think I do the same for him.

Running and obstacle course racing may not be your thing, but I encourage all couples – married or not – to find something you can enjoy together. Use that to learn more about one another, to find patience, offer encouragement, communicate better. And maybe you’ll find the secret to happily ever after is not what you think & “counseling” isn’t so bad after all.

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