High school sweethearts. Love at first sight. The most difficult relationship of my life, parenting aside. Today is National Spouses Day, and in honor of this day, I wanted to play a game. Two truths, one lie. I met my husband in January of 2013 during our sophomore year of high school. We began dating in March of 2013 and got religiously married at a mosque in 2015. We had our first son in 2017 and our second son in 2020. If you’re a bit of a hopeless romantic like myself, you probably think a simple love story like this is alluring. My relationship must be smooth sailing for us to have reached nine years together. If any thoughts similar to this have crossed your mind, I would like to let you know that you are highly mistaken. I love my husband more than anything. He is my best friend, and I truly believe my soulmate. But I cannot begin to recollect the number of times I have wanted to toss in the towel. Where I sat with myself, thinking things might be easier on my own. As a matter of fact, my husband and I have briefly separated for a few periods over the last nine years. Part of that was due to my hopeless romanticism, perfectionism, and setting unrealistically high expectations for myself and those around me. Other parts were due to legitimate marital issues. Specifically, communication (or lack thereof), healing through childhood traumas, and our own individual/internal obstacles.
They say communication is key, and I agree wholeheartedly. You can love somebody so immensely you think that nothing could separate you. But love alone is not enough if you do not have a solid foundation supporting your relationship. What I mean by that is, a lot more goes into a relationship than love. You can’t just celebrate your marriage on anniversaries or National Spouses Day. A successful relationship requires daily communication, effort, support, empathy, awareness, etc., to have a firm foundation for that love. I grew up with the ignorant belief that “true love” was supposed to be effortless. If a relationship wasn’t working, it was because those two people just weren’t meant to be together (blame my hopeless romanticism). For the longest time, I thought that when my husband and I encountered any conflicts, that meant that we weren’t meant for each other. Instead of looking at the conflict with him and figuring out how we could get through this, I viewed him as an adversary. It has taken a lot of time, effort, and communication to realize how toxic that thought process was and trust that my husband is my partner and that we are in this together, no matter the conflict.
Spending nine years with an individual outside of your immediate family feels like an eternity; at least to me, it does. Not to sound cliché, but while it wasn’t love at first sight, it feels as if I have known my husband for a lifetime. He knows me better than anyone else, sometimes even better than I know myself. He knows things about me my own mother doesn’t know. I can go to him with any concern, and there is no judgment. Concerns that others would find trivial, he listens with an open heart. And while he may not always see or understand where I am coming from, I know for certain he tries. What’s a relationship without effort? He sees me for me. All of me; the good, the bad, and the ugly (sometimes very ugly). No matter what hardships I have endured, no matter how lost I feel at times, he is always by my side. Even when we were separated, he was there. And after this much time together, I sometimes consider him an extension of myself. And while we have such an innate connection, I have to remember that he isn’t an extension. He is an individual with his own faults, challenges, and shortcomings.
Some may question why I’m airing the dirty laundry of my marriage for everyone and their mom to read on the internet, let alone to make a game of it. But one thing I have learned in my 25 years of life is the importance of integrity and being true to oneself. This includes being open to myself and others on how truly challenging relationships, especially marriage, can be. In the age of technology and social media, more often than not, people are mainly sharing the good things they have going on in their lives. With their marriages, how their kids are excelling, their new job, their new car, etc. And I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with people sharing their successes with their friends and the ones they love. The issue is that social media can often be like looking through a rose-tinted window and not accurately portray an individual’s life and all of their endeavors. And the last thing I wanted to do was create a rose-tinted window and give others the presumption that my marriage is flawless when writing a post in honor of National Spouses Day. Because even with significant flaws and all, I wouldn’t trade my marriage for that of another. As Selena Gomez would say, “the heart wants what it wants.”
This National Spouses Day, I’ll spend the time reflecting on my marriage. Looking at everything the two of us have achieved, together. Looking at the mountains we’ve climbed, the valleys we’ve crossed, as best friends, as lovers, as partners (special thanks to Marvin Gaye for that beautiful reference). Looking at the difficult times where we thought we couldn’t make it, where our marriage was drowning. Only to see where we are now and how those times made our connection inseverable. And I recommend you do the same. Make the most of this day and honor your marriage in a way that expresses the two of you. Make a note of what may be weakening your foundation, if anything, and what you may need to work on. Reflect on the good times along with the “bad.” Maybe play a game. Just be present with one another today.