The #1 Reason My Marriage Thrives
Updated: Jan 16, 2020
"...that's what life is all about; showing up for the people you love, again and again, until you can't show up anymore." - Rebecca Walker
I have never considered myself an expert on marriage or relationships. I was a product of parents who hardly interacted with one another unless they were arguing and ultimately ended their marriage in a destructive divorce when I was 12. Growing up, my mother tirelessly worked her way up the corporate ladder while my father was often away from home as he traveled frequently for work and committed himself to a long list of community activities. I didn’t have a concept of what a healthy relationship looked like, but over time I began to develop an overbearing work ethic and an unrelenting desire to succeed.
My husband and I became friends during my freshman year of high school and started dating as I was beginning my freshman year of college. We were engaged when I was just 20 years old and married when I was 21. I was literally growing up and trying to figure out who I was alongside him. I had no idea how to be a wife, but I knew how to thrive in other areas of my life, so I focused on what I excelled at.
It is important to note that my husband and I had vastly different upbringings. My husband’s parents have been happily married for 40 years and I feel very confident that my husband has been solid in who he is as a person since he was a kid. He was always the most respectful boy I had ever been around in high school and he knew what he wanted to do with his life by the time he was 16 years old. Once he graduated high school, he was already working toward building his own business. Myself, on the other hand… I was constantly chasing my tail trying to find the next thing that might make me more successful, because, to me, success equaled happiness.
As a full-time college student, I was also working a full-time job, coaching a dance team for 25-30 hours a week on average for about six months out of the year and 10-15 hours a week during the "slow" part of the year, and volunteering for miscellaneous community events and non-profits. In my “spare time,” which was extremely limited, I slept. My career and the dance team that I coached grew rapidly because of my unwavering determination for success and approval. As that success was rolling in consistently, so were the promises that I was breaking to my husband.
During this time, my husband took on the brunt of the responsibilities at home because my commitments left no time to clean the house, do laundry, or even eat a meal with him. When I wasn’t at work or dance, I was attending extracurricular meetings or working on homework or sitting up at 4:00am working on dance scheduling/choreography/events/etc. I would often promise my husband that I would be home or in bed hours before I actually was, or I would promise him a date that I would inevitably cancel last minute. My other commitments had to take precedence over my personal life, because, in my mind, my husband would always be there… but if I faltered at any one of my obligations, everyone who was relying on me would be let down and I would be a failure.
My husband and I had our fair share of arguments throughout all of this time, but you know what? No matter what, he always showed up. When the dance team had evening performances and weekend competitions, my husband could always be found in the gym bleachers, often by himself. Every state championship the dance team earned, even if our only interaction was a quick hug after awards, he was there. At work events and charity events, I could be found running around like a lunatic while my husband calmly helped with whatever was needed to keep me sane and keep the event running smoothly. When I received my first big professional award at 23, he was there as I accepted it. When I was inducted into the Hall of Fame for dance at 26, he surprised me by traveling two hours to be there for a mere two minutes that he knew would mean the world to me. When I made the transition from coaching dance to judging dance and was pregnant with our daughter, if I was having a hard time leaving for the weekend to judge a distant contest, my husband would volunteer to travel with me – which meant leaving on a Friday evening to drive 2+ hours to wherever I was going that weekend, staying overnight in a hotel, having to find something to entertain himself for 8 hours the next day while I worked a contest, and driving the 2+ hours home on a Saturday evening. After we had our daughter and it became increasingly difficult for me to be away from both of them for contests, he showed up by suggesting that the three of us strap in for the weekend road trip. For every successful and significant moment of my adult life, my husband showed up.
You know when else he showed up? He showed up the first time I lost a grandparent and couldn’t get out of bed for a week. He showed up to pick me up from the school at 9:00pm and drive around aimlessly for HOURS while I cried after the first time the dance team took second place at the state championship finals… because I didn’t want to go home… and because we were supposed to win… and because I had let everyone down. He showed up every week during our pregnancy for breastfeeding, birthing, and childcare classes, and he showed up for every one of our newborn baby's diaper changes during our extended hospital stay while I was recovering from a complicated delivery. He showed up every single day with quick-witted humor and my favorite wine when my life was falling apart after our daughter was born and we had a falling out with our best friends and my aunt and grandfather passed, all within a few months’ time.
The point is… HE. SHOWED. UP. Always. And never because I asked or because he felt obligated. For all of the times in my life that didn’t make it on to my Facebook page, and when it seemed like everyone else was walking out, he showed up.
You may wonder why my husband would continue to show up for me time and time again throughout all the years that he was seemingly not at the top of my list of priorities. I have found myself wondering the same thing in the past, and I have worked diligently to become a better partner for him. I have learned over the years that my husband is not perfect. There is an immense amount of pressure and very little room for failure for a man who has always been as solid and self-assured as my husband. He has always put our family first and finds it difficult to take time to do things for himself. He often struggles with vulnerability for fear of letting us down if he shows any of his weaknesses or character flaws. I show up for him by sitting with him and loving him through his imperfections, and not in spite of them. I show up by encouraging him often to take time to golf, hunt, or spend time with his friends. I show up by helping him with his laundry and having dinner ready when he gets home from work so that he can make time for himself and our daughter. I show up by consistently making him a top priority. I show up for him every day through the good and the bad by being the kind of person he has always been for me.
I have been through countless seasons of life throughout my 11-year relationship with my husband and I am blessed to have learned about marriage and love from him. I may not have had a clue about life in my young adulthood, but I knew and have known who my husband was long before I said my vows at 21. I have never had to question whether or not he would show up for me through any and all circumstances for the rest of my life, and I hope that he can say the same about me today. Our relationship continues to thrive not because it’s perfect or because we don’t argue and disagree about things, but because we show up for each other. We are two imperfect people that will never stop showing up.