Last night, as another episode of our newest binge show came to an end, my husband looked at me and said, "17 years... that's crazy." I smiled, agreeing with his sentiment. 17 years together is crazy.
On this day in 2006, Nick asked me to be his girlfriend. With the exact words being ... "will you be my girlfriend...and if it doesn't work out, can we still be friends?" I, of course, said yes.
While 17 years is a long time, especially for two people in their early thirties, what's crazier to me, is such a small event having such a profound inpact on our lives.
The last few years have been different than all my years before. Even though I have always been growing older, I haven't always been growing. But in the last few years (and this last year in particular) that has changed.
I have spent so much of 2022 looking backwards, but not in the way that brings distruction to ones life. I've been looking back in order to move forward. I've been deep diving into my past, looking over what I went through, analysing the things that made me who I am, and with that knowledge, moving forward as a better mother, wife, and person.
At fifteen I had truly reached my first real fork in the road. Sadly, had he been one of the slew of other guys I had liked to ask me out, I would have said yes to them. That's not to dimish against the person he was, but to shine light on the broken girl I was. Because honestly, I was just looking for love. Or more so, someone to love me. To choose me. Pick me. (Sorry I saw a chance for a Grey's quote and went for it).
But truly that was what it was. And call it luck, fate, or the product of an amazing woman (my MIL), but this boy was the exact thing I needed in life to keep me from ruining my future before it even started. And while I look back on how I was in the early years of our relationship and cringe, I also look back at it in awe that he was so strong in character that he loved me despite every flaw that came from my trauma.
Now, as I learned the hard way, no one is perfect. But let me tell you, for almost fourteen years, you wouldn't have been able to convince me that he was anything but. And now, as I continue to grow as a person, I can recognize that he isn't perfect, but he tries to be better when he's not. And THAT, is why we are still together.
Starting a relationship when you are teenagers is the easy part, even though at that time, it seems like the hardest. Nothing prepares you for change. Nothing propares you to do all your adulting as two people instead of one. Nothing prepares you to fail and succeed together. Nothing prepares you for the moment of wanting different things, but still loving each other enough to not let that stop you.
I used to believe that love was enough. Then I beleived it wasn't. Now I beleive that effort is love. And if their is effort in your love, then it is enough. Effort is communication. Not just communicating your needs, but learning to communicate with them so that you understand yours. Effort is picking up their "slack" when you see them struggling, knowing that they'll do the same when you are. Effort is buying them an apple pie when you heard them talking about craving one a few nights before when it was a blizzard out and neither of you would risk your life for a dessert (though the final product was almost to die for).
Effort is hard. But effort is necessary for a relationship to evolve. And all good relationships do.
Seventeen years ago I would've told you that I didn't want things to change, because I loved him and he loved me. But I'm not that same girl anymore, and while he is more aligned with his former self than I am with mine, he did still evolve, and I can see that in the way he loves me.
I am light-years from who I was. I cry for that girl often as I lay my past to rest. But the fact he could love me through every one of my ever changing selves, makes the seventeen year mark even crazier.
If you are struggling in your relationship, take a look at the effort. On both sides. Don't see it? Say something. People get comfortable. We've seen it shown on television for years. The old married couple. The grumpy couple. The people who are content to merely exist.
If you want that, I love that for you. But if you don't; check your effort. Check theirs. Communicate what effort is needed. Ask about their needs. Because effort is sexy. And in my opinion—effort is love.