DISCLAIMER: Before you read one word of what I am about to say, please understand this. This is DEscriptive—not PREscriptive—meaning this is how WE survived, but this isn’t everyone’s story or me saying this is what you should do in your life (for more on this… see #4.) Chase and I are in a loving relationship free from abuse and infidelity, and we share spiritual convictions. I am NOT writing this to say that all divorce is wrong.
Nine years ago today, I wore fake eyelashes and a poof that was probably too large on top of my head. I wore flip flops because I wanted to dance at my reception, and “no one will see them anyway, Mom!” I wore a black sash around my waist, which I loved then but I now think just looked super weird. And nine years ago today, his hair was an odd color because some random lady tried to cover up his grey hair, swearing it wouldn’t actually color his hair, but alas, it did. He wore a white vest, a decision I let him make but wasn’t super excited about. I just believed at that time that marriage was all about compromise, and at that moment, I was killing it.
Nine years ago today, I walked down the candlelit aisle alongside my dad to “I Will Not Take My Love Away,” which was a surprise for Chase. For a split second, Chase panicked thinking Keith had messed up the music—worried my perfect day would be ruined. I had been a little on edge in the days leading up to this one (surely not!), and Chase wanted everything perfect even more than I did because he wanted his new wife to have everything and more.
But on the day of my wedding, I was really only worried about two things—I wanted him to think I was the most beautiful woman in the world, and I wanted our guests to have the time of their lives at our reception. I didn’t for a second worry about the marriage part. Chase was perfect for me, and life with him would be just as perfect as the moment he mouthed, “I love you,” with tears in his eyes as I met him at the altar.
Then came our first year of marriage. (Cue “disaster music”—duh, duh, DUH!)
It was awful. Awful. Awful. Awful.
We are still here nine years later, so it obviously got better. But I have to be honest and say that marriage for Chase and I has been a constant wave of bliss and distress with each new season. We have two beautiful children, two jobs we are infinitely passionate about, and family that loves us, and some people look at us and think we have it all together. But oh, if you only knew the whole story.
So as I’m reflecting today on how big of a deal it is to do life with someone for NINE years and counting (and how old it makes me feel), I thought I would share what has kept us together all these years.
The Four Reasons We’ve Lasted Nine:
1. The Understanding that Divorce Is Not An Option
In today’s world, we have so many choices. Nothing seems permanent anymore. Think about it. Before, if you got a tattoo, it was there forever. You had that name on your body for the rest of your life, so it better be something or someone you wanted to see for the rest of your life. But now, after a few sessions with a laser, the split second decision you made when you and your friends were out in downtown Nashville back when you were 19 is erased forever. No harm done.
Today in America, almost HALF of all marriages end in divorce, and sadly this statistic is actually used as a source of comfort for many engaged couples. “Well, since so many people already get a divorce, it won’t be weird for me to get one if this ends up not working out,” we rationalize in our minds as we plan our wedding to someone we aren’t 100% sure we can tolerate our entire lives. To be honest, I was one of those people, too. Marriage was a huge risk for me, but knowing I could run if I needed to made it a little easier to sign that marriage license. My husband, on the other hand, was not one of those people.
From the moment we said “I do,” Chase has made it very clear that divorce is not an option for us. And in those few times that I have mentioned it during our lowest moments as a couple, he has reminded me of the promise we made to ourselves and each other and our children that we would be together forever. So, when I have hated being in the same room with him, I remembered that divorce was not an option, and this has forced us to reconcile our differences in a different way—a way that will result in us being okay with each other again. A way that will allow us to stay married and not just tolerate one another but enjoy one another.
Fun Fact: Here are the lyrics to the song I walked down the aisle to: “I will not take my love away when praises cease and seasons change. If the whole world turns the other way, I will not take my love away.” As another surprise, I had “I will not take my love away…” engraved on the inside of Chase’s wedding ring, too. We are serious about this no divorce thing.
2. A Commitment to Prayer
So, yay, we decided to stay together. But we soon realized that just because you are together doesn’t mean you are happy with one another. And that’s where prayer comes in.
Philippians 4:13 has been on my lips the past nine years more times than I can count. As he chews with his mouth open at the dinner table—“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” resonates in my soul and calms the cringe that claws at me. As he looks down at his phone while I’m telling him a story about my day— “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” As he picks at his toenails in the bed— “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Believe me, if I had not been praying all these years, I would have definitely ran. Or my head would have exploded.
In all seriousness–the Bible says we can ask and it will be given to us. God tells us that if we ask anything that is in His will for our lives—and His will is that my marriage with Chase reflect his unrelenting love for His church—then it will be given to us. So, many times my prayer has been, “Lord, save my marriage” or “Lord, don’t let him leave” or “Lord, keep me from choking him tonight” and every time, the Lord has rescued us. God loves marriage, and so He has answered every prayer I’ve sent up asking for His grace on our relationship.
I love my husband. I have the utmost respect for him, his talents, his compassion, and his drive. (And I really love his big arms too!) But I’m here to tell you that without the Lord, I would have ran a long time ago. That is if he hadn’t already run from me first because trust me—life with Lauren is no picnic.
3. Making Time to Be Alone
Another promise Chase and I have made to each other is to love each other more than we love anyone else—including our kids. This sounds insane to a lot of people, but we are confident that one of the best things we can do for our children is to love each other fiercely and faithfully.
Now, I don’t always do this perfectly. I’m crazy obsessed with our two little boys—crazy obsessed, and I have to pray for God to keep my heart in check constantly. But Chase and I work really hard to love and serve each other first and foremost, and this means carving out alone time with one another. We value the time our boys can spend with family members because it gives us time to go out and actually talk to one another (I mean, let’s be honest—we really don’t get to have normal conversations when two wild little boys are crawling all over us). Chase and I go on overnight trips without the boys sometimes, too, and although I beat myself up over being a terrible mother, deep down I know that this is what’s best for all of us. Our boys need time with family, and I need time with my husband. And sometimes, our boys just need a break from their mom and dad!
4. Coming to the Realization that Life Is Not a Rom Com
As much as physical pornography can ruin intimacy in a relationship, I firmly believe that emotional pornography can do just as much damage if you let it. Emotional pornography is the romantic comedy or Hallmark movie storyline that makes you resent your husband a little after you watch it because he just doesn’t measure up. To be perfectly transparent—I’ve significantly struggled with this one. It is difficult for me to watch The Office without wondering why Chase can’t love me a little more like Jim loves Pam. Or why he can’t be as passionate as Noah was about Allie in The Notebook.
Women love a beautiful love story, one where the man pursues the woman against all odds, makes a fool of himself to get her attention, and looks at her with eyes that say, “I can’t live without you in my life.” The problem is that when a woman comes back to reality and home to her husband after the movie, he may only have eyes for the pizza she brought home for dinner. That’s when resentment sets in. “My husband is the worst. He is never romantic like Jim.” And then comes the doubt. “Did I marry the wrong man? Did I settle? Is my Noah still out there?” Just like pornography with airbrushed bodies and creative camera angles can give a man an inaccurate expectation of what life should be like in the bedroom, knight-in-shining-armor romance films, books, and shows can give women unfair expectations of what love really looks like.
The past nine years, I have realized that love doesn’t always mean sappy letters and candlelight. Sometimes Chase expresses his love for me by cleaning out the refrigerator or putting the boys to bed by himself so that I can get a few minutes to relax. Sometimes he expresses love to me by calling me out when I’m being negative or making me get out of bed when I don’t want to so that I’m not late for work.
I love a good romance story just like the rest of you, and I’m NOT saying we should stop watching them. (Trust me, I’m not giving up The Office.) But as women, we do need to constantly check out hearts and realize when unfair expectations are hindering our relationships with our husbands. Listen—my husband has written his fair share of sappy love letters, but that is not what life is like for us on a daily basis. I’ve learned to love our story by avoiding the desire to live someone else’s story—that includes real relationships and those that are scripted on television.
Marriage is not a one-size-fits-all design, and comparison is truly the thief of joy. I had to spend more time strengthening my marriage than I did cutting it down with comparison, and learning that lesson has made all the difference for us.
Again, we are far from perfect, and in order for us to survive nine more years and nine more years after that, we have to continue putting in a lot of work and committing to even more prayer. But I am so thankful we have made it this far… Happy anniversary, babe.