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I really wanted to write something today. Because today is a special day. Today my husband and I have been married for one year.

One year.

In that year, so much has changed. We have changed. It might sound like an exaggeration, but we are completely different people than we were a year ago. We truly are. And I’m glad.

Most people would say we are still in the honeymoon phase. I would laugh to myself that we never had one. Our literal honeymoon was a disaster for a thousand reasons, and thankfully we can look back on it now and laugh instead of feeling sorry for ourselves. Our relationship has gone through fire and ice. It has been a difficult road. There has been lots of beauty too. I was torn about what to write in this post. A sweet and romanticized ode to our love? A dark tale of all our trials? I decided to do a realistic and good-natured snippet at what surviving our first year of marriage has looked like.

What our life really looks like today – I’m in bed with crazy hair and yesterday’s makeup typing this post. There is a mess of styrofoam coating the floor in the living room because the puppies found it and shredded it, as they do anything they get their little paws on. There are dishes stacked on the counters and remnants of Saturday nights dinner decaying on the stove, as we have been too busy and exhausted to clean up. Jacob just left for school, and will have a test tonight that lasts till 9pm. Oh, and It’s our anniversary. But we are much too busy to celebrate, and even if we had time we have $200 in the bank (total…haven’t really gotten that savings thing down yet) that has to last till next week’s paycheck. And we are in debt so we shouldn’t really spend money anyways. I just finished an expensive round of therapy so we had to cancel our 1 year anniversary photos. But I’ll be sure to take a cute selfie of us to memorialize this day.

I’m not complaining…I’m actually amused at our crazy life. I’m just trying to give you a small snippet from today of what our lives are like.

We spent a few moments this morning congratulating ourselves on making it a year, playfully making bets on how many more years we will actually make it. We laughed at stupid memes on Imgur and I shared some things weighing on my heart as we cuddled before the craziness of the day whilst puppies called for our attention.

Sometimes love isn’t what you think it will be.

Love can take all sorts of forms. For some it might look like a Nicholas Sparks novel. But that isn’t our experience, and despite being a hopeless romantic I’m actually ok with that. We are more like a sit com couple. I tried to think of a good example but I don’t watch sit coms. But I know we would make an amusing one.

Before I got married I had so many ideas of what love would be. And many people told me their ideas of love. The movies I watched and the books I read also played into my ideas and expectations. Some said, at times with an inaudible sigh of disappointment or subtle bitterness, that action was real love. That the initial feelings would die soon after marriage but the commitment was the true love…the daily grind long after the butterflies had floated away.

Other people said it was a warm engulfing feeling that sends you floating in the clouds. Or feeling that you’re truly alive. Or a deep emotional understanding. Or an intellectual connection. And rainbows and butterflies and flying unicorns.

But I would say ours looks like collapsing into bed after a long day and watching a show together.

At 21 and 23, most people would say we are too young to be married. I would have to agree. But who is actually ready for marriage? Regardless, here we are, navigating this crazy thing called life together.

We have chosen our path as best we knew how. My ideas about life and love and marriage are ever changing, and I’m still figuring out who I am…but the fact of the matter is we are here now, we have been though a lot together, and we are taking it a day at a time.  I’ll leave the really personal / complicated stuff for my therapist and spare you the details, dear readers. But this I will say:

My experience of love has been much different than I expected. Love has come with a lot of disappointment, pain, and uncertainty, and I’ve made many mistakes. But I have been surprised at the many beautiful and unexpected ways my husband has loved me. I am trying to focus on that. To cherish the ways he loves me. Even though I still don’t understand many things about life and love and marriage, I know this:

Love is my husband telling stupid jokes to make me distracted and less nervous as I’m sitting in a doctor’s office before a procedure.

Love is him telling me that I’m beautiful, even though I’m 25 pounds overweight because of medication I have to take.

Love is the feel of his beard against my cheeks.

Love is how he patiently helps me learn how to use Powerpoint.

Love is how he runs to Sonic late at night to get me a cherry limeade.

Love is how he gives me my medicine and a glass of water before we go to bed.

Love is how he goes with me to countless doctor’s appointments.

Love is how he tells me that my endeavors will be successful if I work hard, and how he puts to rest my self-doubts. Even when I don’t believe in me, he does.

Love is how he laughs at my antics and listens to my thoughts.

Love is how he has walked through a long journey of my struggle with depression, anxiety, and chronic illness. He has put up with mood swings and held me through panic attacks. He has loved me when I can’t feel anything. He has looked into my eyes with his deep brown gaze and told me everything will be ok.

Love is how he walks with me through life.

I have faced a lot of pain and a lot of darkness. My bright persona would probably make people think otherwise, but even though I rarely share the darkness it is there. I’ve gone through lots of pain spiritually, physically, and emotionally in the past several years. And I’m thankful for the ways my husband has loved me through the darkness.

Now please please do not think our relationship is perfect. It often seems like we are speaking different languages. We are so very different and have hardly any common interests. Finding connection is very difficult for us. And marriage is hard in so many ways. There have been intense arguments, emotional aloofness, misunderstanding, insecurity, and outright spite in our relationship. We push each other to our limits. But there has also been a great deal of beauty and unexpected joys. Forgiveness and trust. What good comes from focusing only on the hurt when there is so much beauty to be found? We are committed to one another despite our brokenness, and that is beautiful. Life can be downright brutal, and even though we are both imperfect, we know that we won’t have to face the ebb and flow of the tides alone.

My goal for the next year is to grow strong and confident as a person. To be able to love from a place of security, not need. To work through some issues and become a better person and a better wife. To love without holding back and without fear. To forgive myself for my failures and help heal the hurts in our marriage. To make it another year and eventually learn how to thrive in life instead of just surviving.

(Photos by the amazing Jessica Gold Photography)