what i’ve learned after a decade of loving him.

Where my heart resides-2

Brett and I have officially been together for ten years.

!!!

To write about this decade seems trite, because I know I cannot do justice with words what my heart would say about all the things I’ve learned, all the mistakes I’ve made, all the ways I continue to be surprised by Brett and the fact that he wakes up every morning and chooses to love me before pouring a bowl of cereal and turning on ESPN.

It’s amazing, really, to love and be loved by someone for ten whole years. 

I’ve witnessed our love grow from infatuation to the kind of love where you see someone for who they really are—faults and all—and still love them in spite of those flaws. I can remember a time where I thought Brett had no faults at all, and he probably thought the same of me (maybe not, mine are more obvious). It was short-lived of course, in those few months and maybe even years leading up to our wedding where we basically thought the other person was perfect in every way and aren’t we so lucky to have found each other?

I think we had been married for exactly two weeks when I realized just how imperfect Brett was. He probably started noticing my faults on day two of marriage because let’s be honest: I was real selfish back then.

Our first year of marriage was hard. We argued a lot, bickered a lot, gave each other the silent treatment a lot. I slammed a few doors and cried somewhat regularly. I’m sure some people would say that maybe we weren’t ready to get married at the ripe ages of 21 and 25 but to them I say, who is ever really ready to get married? What human is ever truly prepared to dive headfirst into selflessness and sacrifice?

We survived the first year. The second year was better. We adjusted to living together and created a routine that mostly revolved around frozen yogurt and reality TV shows and conversations about expectations. I learned to give him space when he came home from work and he learned to listen without giving advice. He accepted the fact that I never replace the toilet paper roll and I got used to the way he always gets water in the toothpaste cap. I vacuumed, he took out the trash, we each folded our own laundry. He helped me make this blog. I baked him chocolate chip cookies.

The hard thing about getting married young is that you’re not only promising to love someone for the rest of your life; you’re promising to love the person they will become for the rest of your life. 

I’m sure this goes without saying, but my 18 year-old self and my 28 year-old self are quite, quite different. Brett’s 22 year-old self and 32 year-old self might as well be completely different people. Together we have morphed into new, grownup versions of ourselves: chasing dreams, succeeding and failing, experiencing identity crises every other year. We’ve lived out our entire twenties together, and how strange and wonderful it has been to do that as a team.

Together we have bought and sold a house, made two babies, and set up life insurance like a couple of responsible adults. We’ve traveled to Greece and New York and Las Vegas and Hawaii and learned how to share space in the same suitcase. We’ve experienced life and death and everything in between and learned how to love each other through the peaks of our greatest moments and through the trenches of devastating grief. Our marriage has survived every arrow thrown between us, thanks to God’s grace and living room therapy (and real therapy once or twice).

We’ve witnessed miracles together, watched two pink lines appear on two pregnancy tests together, and cried together as our first son entered the world. We’ve watched each other become parents—an experience that at times, feels otherworldly.

We’ve seen our brightest mountains and darkest valleys in this decade, but when I think of the past ten years as a whole, I see mostly love and hard work. Because despite what you see outside this house, behind closed doors it is hard work to love someone every single day for ten years. It is hard work to put on a smile and ignore that crusty plate over there and apologize and forgive and stay up until 2am talking about your relationship when your relationship needs to be talked about. It is hard work to offer grace again and again, and again, and then again.

We are learning as we go, and it’s safe to say that over the course of a decade, we’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned that sometimes you need to go to bed angry, despite what everyone told me before I got married. I call BS on that advice and offer the following instead: sometimes you need eight hours of sleep and the perspective of a pink sunrise in the morning to realize just how ridiculous that fight was. I’ve learned that our fights are rarely ever, ever about the dishes, they are always about Something Bigger than dishes. I’ve learned that appreciation—verbal and otherwise—go a long, long way in marriage. You cannot say “thank you” enough. You cannot say “I love you” enough. You cannot show your partner how grateful you are for their existence, their help, their support, their unconditional love, enough. The act of expressing appreciation is limitless, and yet there is always a shortage.

I’ve learned that marriage exposes you, brings sin to the surface, and forces you to confront all the things about yourself you’d rather keep locked away in a sock drawer for all of eternity. I never realized how hard I was to love until I married someone who loved all the rotten, selfish, stubborn parts of me.

I can think of a lot of things I’ve done right in this marriage, but I can think of more things that I’ve done wrong. Maybe Brett can say the same (you’ll have to ask him).

But despite those wrongdoings and mistakes, despite the arguments and slammed doors, despite the harsh words we have said in times of anger and desperation, at the very core of our relationship, there is still love. There is friendship. There is hope and affection and honesty. I hate to oversimplify it, but sometimes simple is best.

Ten years later, in its simplest form: we still love each other. We’re still standing in the kitchen with our hands intertwined, our toddler in the high chair and another baby kicking in my belly. We’re still laughing at each other and laughing at ourselves and dreaming big dreams for this family of ours.

And as I look around the room before he leaves for work, with crumbs littered on the floor and a stack of unopened mail sitting on the counter and all of the exhausting adultness of our lives so very prevalent, I cannot help but smile and be grateful for all it.

Here’s to another ten years, Brett. Thank you for choosing to love me every day. Thank you for leaving me the last of the milk, for putting gas in my car every Tuesday morning, for fixing my blog every time it needs to be fixed, for picking up Chipotle when I cannot fathom cooking, and for the million other tiny things you do for me. I love you today, tomorrow, forever.

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32 Responses to what i’ve learned after a decade of loving him.

  1. Saskia says:

    … and I love how your post touched my heart. Again. 🙂

  2. Christine says:

    Happy anniversary! We’ve had very different life tracks and relationship paths, but I just wanted to say that I’m so inspired by the life that you’ve created with Brett. I hope that I’ll be able to one day enter marriage with the same sort of grace and deep commitment to the wholeness of the other person that you and Brett have. Looking forward to seeing you both in Sacramento xo
    Christine´s last blog post ..Five things to love about Portus House

  3. Heather says:

    I rarely comment because I’m usually reading in Feedly but just had to tell you that this was dead on. And your line about committing to love the person they become is so true. I didn’t realize this till after we’d been married a while. I didn’t realize how much we’d both change and look completely different than we did 7 years ago.

    Kuddos to you for baring it all.

  4. Kim Amack says:

    This gave me chills! I love this perspective and I agree, you don’t know what marriage is all about until you’re knee-deep at 2am 😉 Love is a choice, selflessness is a choice, loving God and putting Him first is a choice.

    Beautifully-written words, Ashlee!!

  5. Stephanie says:

    This is great:)

    ….and dang, what I would do for Chipotle right now!!!!

  6. Jean says:

    Love this! So refreshing to read this, thanks for keeping speaking so tenderly.

  7. kayla says:

    happy anniversary! i just love this. i’m a relatively new reader via elise cripe but i’m hooked 😉 every one has their own story and their own journey, but wow, your post really reminds me how universal some experiences are. i’ve only been married for less than 2 years but so much of this is true and so much of this gives me hope for all the good that is still to come! no kids yet. just one feisty golden retriever. thanks for your words 🙂

  8. Sarabell says:

    As always, WONDERFUL! Congrats on your decade. =]

  9. Alli Moore says:

    I think this is one of my favorite posts yet! I really love this part: “I’ve learned that appreciation—verbal and otherwise—go a long, long way in marriage. You cannot say “thank you” enough. You cannot say “I love you” enough. You cannot show your partner how grateful you are for their existence, their help, their support, their unconditional love, enough.”

    At the end of the day I think everyone just wants to feel valued and appreciated. It’s hard being a good wife and a working mom, same for Levi being a working dad and husband. I can see how we both light up with the simplest of words “I love you” “thank you”

    This morning, before going to work, Levi made me a delicious egg sandwich. I made sure he received both statements with a big smile on my face and a kiss. Instantly our day was off to a great start.

    Congrats to you and Brett on 10 years!

  10. This. This is perfectly unperfect. And as I get closer to my wedding date, this was just what I needed to read. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Jessica H says:

    This is such a great post. Brought tears to my eyes thinking about what God’s plan is for me and my husband. We will be married for 1 year next month, and we’ve already endured a lot of the struggles that mentioned in just 1 short year. From slamming doors and tears to crusty plates and going to bed angry. Which I COMPLETELY agree with you is not BS! I firmly believe that it’s ok to go to bed angry. I do because most of the time our fights are a result of me being overly tired and exhausted and sometimes you just need a little sleep. And in the morning, you usually realize how insignificant the thing that caused the argument really was. I can’t want to see what is in store for me and my hubby and I can’t wait until we’ve been together for 10 years. Although some days are tough, I know that with Christ at the center of our marriage we will get through every storm and every struggle. Congratulations!

  12. San says:

    This was beautiful, Ashlee. I can relate to a lot (!) of what you wrote about. J and I are going on 13 years together and boy, how many moments there were when I simply wanted to give up, but didn’t.
    Relationships are work, marriage is work, BUT good work. More rewarding than hardly anything else in your life.

  13. michelle says:

    What a sweet heartfelt post, I love this, and I hope he does too. 🙂

  14. Toffy says:

    Congratulations, Ashlee, on this wonderful event. Love is such a blessing, such a gift for people, and it must be treated like you both do. It is great you face rises and falls and embrace it with all your strength and feeling. Please do appreciate it further and take a great care of this great feeling.

    Toffy

  15. Susan M says:

    congrats to you both
    Susan M´s last blog post ..Portuguese Style Chili

  16. Joy says:

    I dont think many people appreciate love like this anymore, When you have a forever, you have to work to keep it that way.
    Continue working and loving 🙂

  17. Amy says:

    Ugh, you just made me cry at work. Well played, and congrats. 🙂

  18. Ana says:

    This is so sweet. I love how you mention little things like “leaving the last of the milk” and “picking up Chipotle” in the end. Little things like are really the BIG things.
    Ana´s last blog post ..World Cup things.

  19. Meghann says:

    What a beautiful, beautiful post. Wishing you many more years of happiness and life together!

  20. kristina says:

    Simply put. You’re a beautiful writer.

  21. Valerie says:

    This is so inspiring. Thank you for sharing this with us. I have been with my boyfriend for nearly 5 years and cannot wait to see what the future holds for us. We’ve definitely both learned a lot so far and I hope that we get to be as happy as you and your husband are in 5 more years time! xx
    Valerie´s last blog post ..Summer Evening Walks

  22. Gina says:

    This is so beautiful. Thank you for writing and sharing!
    Gina´s last blog post ..{Currently} July

  23. Kelly says:

    I love this post. You are so right that being married means waking up and choosing to love that person every single day.
    Kelly´s last blog post ..Max is 6 Months Old!

  24. Kelly says:

    Hi, I am not a blogger myself but I love reading other peoples blogs for inspiration and knowledge. I am 32 weeks pregnant, just bought my first house and in my first year of marriage, and let me tell you it has been tough. This post really, really enlightened me because everything you said reminded me of what I am going through and am terrified of. Look forward to reading more of your posts in the future and in Coffee + Crumbs 🙂

  25. Pingback: Monday Mix Vol. 28 » Kylene Lynn Photography

  26. Katie says:

    Gosh. This is beautiful, Ashlee.

  27. You expressed this so brilliantly and beautifully, I have to both compliment you and say thank you! Congratulations on ten wonderful years, and may God bless you with many, many more x

  28. Jo says:

    Thank you for writing this. I needed to be reminded that marriage takes work (hard work). I think I have been blinded by the perfect view social media portrays of relationships. It’s sometimes good to know that what we see of other peoples lives is just a snippet and life isn’t always easy.
    Your post came at just the right time for me xx

  29. Jo says:

    I absolutely love this post. It’s so true that marriage reveals the many many mistakes in each other. I think it took about a month in for us to realize that the other one wasn’t perfect. Ha! 🙂

  30. Elle says:

    I feel awkward. I ran across your article on the Post, and fell in love. Your Blog is so touching and very relatable as I am a 25 year old wife and mother of a 2 year old. My husband and I will be together 8 years tomorrow and it has been a journey to say the least. But I want to start Blogging, you have inspired me. Thank you and keep up the amazing work. Best wishes to you and your “growing” family.

  31. Jlyn says:

    I just found your blog. And I’ve soaked up every word for the last 2 hours, savoring the quiet of nursing my 5 month old in her dark room while our 2 year old sleeps. THANK YOU for creating a platform to share real motherhood–the mess, the mayhem, the milestones, & the ministry. I’ve struggled with the “just do it” attitude my own mothers generation had & SO APPRECIATE the real life shining through your writing. And don’t EVEN get me started on Coffee and Crumbs. So great!!
    Jlyn´s last blog post ..A Letter to New Mama’s

  32. Katie says:

    I just ran across your blog AND this post. I’m so appreciative of this. I’m a 22 year old getting married to a 25 year old and this advice is the best I’ve heard so far. Thank you for sharing this.
    Katie´s last blog post ..March Link-up: The story behind my blog

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