When I married, I didn't realize my wedding day bliss would turn into the hardest, most challenging experience of my life. Don't get me wrong. I have a beautiful marriage — a deeply fulfilling, satisfyingly wonderful, fairy tale marriage. But my fairy tale hasn't been free from struggle, worry, discouragement and frustration. Simply put, it's been hard. And you know what? I think "hard" is exactly how fairy tale love is meant to be.
I didn't know marriage wouldn't be a perfectly concocted "happily ever after." You know what I'm talking about — the kind of life where Prince Charming waits on his beloved hand and foot, constantly telling her how incredible and beautiful she is. Okay, so maybe I really wasn't expecting that kind of happily ever after. I had glimpsed reality in the marriages of those around me, and my expectations (in my eyes) were realistic, but I didn't know marriage would be this hard.
I didn't realize that I would be asked to give so much of myself — that I would be asked (or rather forced) to give away so much of my selfish, proud, know-it-all self. I didn't know marriage would be this hard.
I didn't know that the personal price to be paid for a lasting marriage was so high — that it would require me to be vulnerable, humble and, at times, embarrassed. Embarrassed at who I am when I say things I don't mean, of the harsh person I can be when I put up my defenses. I didn't know marriage would make me search inside myself — really search — and look my weaknesses in the eyes. I didn't know marriage would be this hard.
I didn't know marriage would require me to apologize so often — and for the same things week after week. I didn't know marriage would squeeze my heart until it hurts as it gives me the chance to forgive again, and again, and again. I didn't know marriage would be this hard.
Yes, marriage is hard — in a heart wrenching, soul-stretching kind of way.
Marriage is my happily ever after, and it's my reality. I chose it, and I love it. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. Know why? Because it's changing me.
Slowly but surely, marriage is making me better. It's showing me a higher way. It's creating a more meaningful life for me. It's helping me progress and improve in ways I could never accomplish on my own. Marriage gives me the chance to reshape, remold and readjust my heart to make room for a deeper, more sacred, more selfless love.
And you know what? I'm happier than I've ever been. I didn't know marriage would be this hard, and I'm glad it is — because I'm quickly learning that "hard" is the secret ingredient in happily ever after.
Aaron & April are the founders of Nurturing Marriage, a website dedicated to strengthening marriages. They enjoy playing football with their two little boys, watching sports, eating cereal late at night, and going out for frozen yogurt.