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Defining A New Normal Within Marriage
By Billie Criswell

I was 18 years old when I met the man that I would marry, Daren. It was a casual evening with friends that found us chatting on a couch, pretty impressed with one another from head-to-toe. Even at my young age, I knew that this kind of love was different than I had felt before. It felt like magic from the very beginning. I remember having an “ah-ha” moment when I saw him: we locked eyes and I thought to myself, “This guy seems important to me in my life.” From that very moment, there was never another for either of us.

We moved in together after only 3 months of dating, and our ‘honeymoon’ period of the relationship abruptly came to a halt. Suddenly we were fighting about even the most mundane things. Still, there was a fire inside both of us to work it out, to stay committed, and though it was almost inexplicable at the time, we just loved each other so much that we couldn’t leave. Something so powerful attracted us to one another. Though we do fight, it is generally an occasion where we are working something through, and we tend to come out the other end of things better. Over time, and with determination, we learned to live together and to accept one another– faults and all. And what came of that was something altogether beautiful and more loving than either of us had originally expected.

After 5 years of dating, living together, working hard on our relationship, and sharing our lives, Daren proposed to me. Everything just felt right. We had come a long way in those 5 years. We had both grown up considerably in that time. Life felt entirely blissful as we planned our wedding and our honeymoon. We knew that being together would not always be easy– we had learned that from experience– but that it would always be worth it because our love had grown and blossomed into a lifelong commitment that was capable of endurance. It is amazing how love changes after years with someone– how it grows into something that is so deeply rooted that you cannot even find the source.

Our wedding truly felt like its own planet. The people, the music, the food, all swirled together into perfection–a time that is unmatched in my life. It was so perfect in every way. I felt surely it was enough love to sail us into eternity. But what I quickly noticed was that after the wedding and honeymoon, our lives changed considerably. I left my employment of five years as an office manager in a mental health facility to become a full-time freelance writer. Freelance writing was something I had been dabbling in, and after a lot of hard work, I was ready to strike out on my own. Daren was running the home business, Love Photo Booths, wherein we bring our old-fashioned photo booth to parties and other special occasions, but it is also largely seasonal. Since I had left my job, he was now in charge of supporting our little family of two (and three dogs). The new financial pressure, coupled with the big changes we were undergoing all at once, made for a stressful situation.

After nearly 7 years together, redefining everything so radically seemed a near impossible challenge. Each of us was disappointed in our own ways about the nature of things, and so, as though we had learned nothing over the last 7 years, we took it out on each other, not knowing what else to do. I cried behind closed doors, as I tried to cope with the changes. I felt misunderstood by the one person who was my shelter: my husband. Daren retreated into his own world as well. He was doing only what he had to, and nothing it seemed, of what he wanted to do. He would pay the bills, take the dogs to vet appointments, clean up around the house… but there was a distinct lack of passion for other things he normally found pleasure in: surfing, dining, going to live concerts. His unhappiness made my own unhappiness worse, as can be a prevalent cycle with couples.

The fighting seemed to never end, and the smallest missteps seemed to turn into big fights. I wondered what I might be doing wrong. I wondered what he was feeling. I wondered most about when it would end… and how it would end; would we come out better and stronger than before, as we had in the past? At the time, it surely felt as though the marital ceremonies had ruined a perfectly wonderful marriage of the minds, and I was daunted by what that would ultimately mean for us both. It was easy, at the time, to blame the institution of marriage for our problems… as though if we hadn’t gotten married we wouldn’t feel so trapped and unable to effectively communicate with one another. It was a frustrating feeling for both of us.

After a few months, when I felt that I could surely take no more, I turned to him and said, “I think that you have lost your passion in life. You are unhappy. ” He looked at me, bewildered, and told me he almost couldn’t stand to be around me. I countered, “That is because I do not let you run from your greatness.” He said nothing; I could tell he was pensive. The following day I spent out with my mother seeking to allow Daren some space to think things through for himself. When we returned home, I was wholly surprised to see that Daren had obtained a new streak of motivation, and was in the garage building speaker stands and a shelf for our record player.

The following day, he was also very motivated… and so, too, the day after that. He was so motivated he even helped me reorganize my writing office! He looked at me again as if I was that 18 year old girl– he kissed me without being prompted. We danced together to our old records and experienced a new level of resurgence in passion and energy. We had come out the other side.

It’s the sort of thing that no one tells you about marriage… it changes things, even if you have been together for years. It forces you to get off the plateau that you have been standing on, and climb to the next level. We both knew that marriage wasn’t going to be easy, but what we had forgotten about is the embodiment of passion that is innate to life and necessary for a good, happy marriage (and life.) There is a need for creation, and positive reinforcement from our support systems–each other.

For a small moment in time, life overtook us and we lost sight of our need to push each other as people because that, too, is a form of support. Life is sometimes a challenge; this is an inevitable reality that we all must face. Sometimes Daren and I feel it is hard to be honest with one another, but when we are honest about the way we feel, even if our feelings aren’t wholly positive, it yields the best results. Even if we haven’t perfected the formula of marriage yet, believing in each other and helping one another reach the next level, allows us both to not just survive, but to thrive, in life and in love.

Billie Criswell Bio:

Billie Criswell is a freelance writer and blogger from the Delaware Seashore. She writes on a variety of lifestyle issues, is a self-proclaimed foodie, and has been published online as well as in print. Billie has just completed her first book.

You can visit her blog a billion tiny pieces here.

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