Today's guest post comes from Khali Whatley — the Australian "mum" behind the popular Little Lovely blog. She became a mother at 28 — which was definitely "early" in her circle, seeing that the average first-time mom was 35. According to Khali, "I felt like I was navigating uncharted territory while my peers were juggling high-powered careers, brunches and boyfriends." She's also navigated through a low point in her young marriage, and she's sharing her insight with us today:
My husband and I had a whirlwind romance. Our first date was a Friday night and we spent the entire weekend together.
When Mike dropped me home that Sunday night, I wrote him a card that said I knew he’d be the man I’d marry. I planned to give it to him if I was ever lucky enough for him to propose. I’d never felt so sure about anything as I did about how I felt about him.
Several months into our relationship, we discovered we were pregnant. It was unexpected, but we were both delighted. Our relationship continued at lightening speed and within three years of meeting we were married with two children. (As an aside, we joke to our friends that we measure our relationship in dog years because we’ve crammed so much into such a small amount of time.)
Many people said our marriage wouldn’t last and in retrospect I can understand why. We’d barely known ourselves as a couple before we were a family of three and then four. Several of my friends had been through ‘starter marriages’ and when ours began to struggle I though we’d be the same; casualties of poor timing.
Looking back, I’ve tried to pinpoint the moment when things started to go wrong, to take the situation apart like a puzzle and find the piece that didn’t fit. However, the truth is unhappiness had crept in quietly through the back door and we were too busy to notice.
For a long time, we tried to explain the unhappiness away. We were tired. We were both working. Our kids were still so young. Our discomfort with each other grew. We lost sight of the reasons that had drawn us together. Daily life felt like a battleground.
Then, one day, I left. At the time, it seemed like the only way I’d – we’d – ever be happy again, but not long after we separated I realised I was wrong. Being separated was just as hard – if not more so – than being together. Space helped me realise I still loved my husband and that our marriage was worth fighting for. And so we did.
But how do you make the journey back to your old life when so much has happened, so much water has passed under the bridge? The truth is, you don’t. Instead, we worked to build a new life, which is even more wonderful than the one we had before.
My husband and I aren’t marriage experts. We’ve only been together just over five years but we’ve been through challenging times and come out the other side. I’d love to think our experience could help other young couples save their marriage. So here are our ingredients for making a young marriage last:
1. Acceptance. It’s sometimes very difficult to accept both a situation and the role you played in creating it. When I was honest with myself about the role I had played in our marriage breakdown, I had an infinitely better chance of being able to see my husband’s point of view and fix the situation. Unfortunately, acceptance also means realising that some wrongs can’t be made right.
2. Assistance. I sought the help of a counsellor who helped me come to terms – and accept – the situation I was in and navigate the treacherous waters ahead. Having someone impartial was a blessing. Friends and family can mean well, but they often have their own agendas. I credit a large part of our success to our marriage counsellor.
3. Faith. So whether it’s Jesus, Buddha or a belief in the divine power you have within yourself, sometimes letting go of control and trusting in a power greater than yourself can make a tough situation more bearable. My faith helped me through and made me realise that I would be OK regardless of the outcome.
4. Persistence. Marriage is a long distance race. It takes a stamina that many of us don’t realise when we first sign up. It takes work. Every. Single. Day. In my opinion, the success of a marriage isn’t built on regular date nights or weekends away, although they help. It’s built on prioritising the needs of your spouse on a daily basis.
5. Love. Most importantly, there is love. I’m not talking about the at-first-sight kind of love — we all know that fades. I’m talking about the love that settles in once you really know someone. Maintaining that type of love takes work and a life long commitment to your spouse and marriage. Love most definitely is a choice and the choices you make – especially on days when love doesn’t come naturally – will be what ultimately gives your marriage the strength it needs to survive.
Thank you so, so much for this, Khali. Having battled a rough patch in my marriage (and continuing the uphill struggle, even right now), I think there's a lot of wisdom and truth in this.
Read more from Khali at Little Lovely. And stay tuned for more guest posts this week.