I was 22 when I got married. I stood before family and friends and made this outrageous promise to love a man through thick and thin, sickness and health, good times and bad, for richer or poorer. I didn’t realize then, the gravity of what I was saying. I couldn’t have. Now, almost a decade in, I sometimes wish I could redo that day. Partially because, Pinterest, hello! But more so because I’ve begun to understand the significance of what I was promising.
You can read the details of our story here. But we’ve walked along the mountaintops and also spent a chunk of time in the deepest of valleys. Infertility rocks you to your core. It reaches places that you just can’t understand until you’ve walked it. I know that not every marriage experiences infertility but I have yet to find a marriage that hasn’t been affected by hardship or tragedy.
The divorce rate in the US hovers around 50% – that means you have a 50/50 shot at making it. One study showed that couples who experience a season of infertility are 3x more likely to call it quits. Yikes, those odds aren’t in your favor.
Before we go any further. I have to give credit where credit is due. That decade of marriage, It’s not because Jimmy and I did it all right. Because if we’re being honest we were probably more wrong than we were right. But’s God’s grace has flowed freely and I’m ever so thankful.
We meet more and more couples opening up about the toll infertility has taken on their marriage. We’ve been able to spend some time reflecting back on some of our challenging seasons and have come up with some tips we hope can be helpful to others who are still in the trenches.
Talk About It & Don’t Talk About It
No that isn’t a typo. You’ve all heard communication is key. You won’t hear me argue with that. You need to talk about everything, your dreams, your hopes, your fears, and yes even those deep dark ugly feelings. You can’t assume that the other person knows those feelings because they don’t.
But then make time to not talk about it, whatever that “it” may be. Go to dinner, take a walk, but talk about everything else. For us, that “it” was infertility and it became all-consuming. Take time to breathe and remember who you two are as a couple.
Resist The Urge
I’m not going to lie, this one is hard. Crisis brings out the ugliest in us. Resist it. Resist the urge to blame, to shout, to wound. Resist the urge to stay angry or have the last word. Instead, dare to be different. Choose to build up instead of breakdown. Choose to walk as partners instead of adversaries.
Overuse I Love You
Seriously. Say it all the time. Say it when you don’t want to. Say it morning, noon, and night. Nobody gets sick of hearing those three words.
Search For Joy
There’s a theory that you can only feel one emotion at a time. Replace feelings of fear, anxiety, anger, despair with joy. Joy is a decision, a brave decision about how you are going to respond to life. Live beyond the “what if’s,” find joy in what is. Choosing joy is being able to see God’s goodness even when life is hard and messy.
Take the trip. Eat cake for breakfast. Take off work and catch a matinee. Surprise each other. Book a local hotel. Try a new food. Break up the ordinary. “Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow.” – Vincent Van Gogh
Don’t Lose Hope
There’s not much left after hope. I know because I’ve spent some time here. It’s a dark place you don’t want to go. I’m not talking about the kind of hope you see in the movies. But real hope is forged. It’s fought for. It’s believing that He can and that He will. It’s risky and radical. It defies logic. To hope beyond what you can see.
“Too often we try to avoid that scary place where we love so deep, so much our hearts could break. But without the bitterness, we could never appreciate the sweetness. Real hope opens us to see Jesus as He really is. Wild. Uncomely. And radiant.” – Sara Hagerty
This one is listed last, but it’s really the most important. Remember those promises I made at 22? What I didn’t know then, is that I actually can’t love someone in the way I promised, not alone anyway. So I pray. I pray for my marriage, I pray for my husband, and I pray for myself. I wasn’t always this way, and so I’m hoping you can learn from my mistakes. Pray when it’s good, when it’s bad, and when it’s really ugly. “Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath.” – Psalm 116:2
“Your marriage vows are the most important when they are the hardest to keep.” (Dave Willis). Stay the course friends.
I couldn’t end this post without saying: Jimmy you had my heart a long long time ago, it was yours then, you still have it, and you’ll always have it. I’m forever yours.
Photo Credit: Gina Felice Photography