My husband Scott and I celebrated eight years of marriage yesterday! I’m not incredibly sentimental about anniversaries, but I do like to reflect about the years we’ve spent together, how we’ve grown and what we’ve learned. This year, I’m feeling especially nostalgic about our first six months together in Wisconsin, so I thought I’d share them with you along with a few thoughts on marriage. 🥰
Scott and I were incredibly young when we got married—22 and 23—right as Pinterest was born and before hashtags and videography became wedding staples. The ceremony was at a tiny church in my hometown and was performed by one of my favorite college professors who also happened to be a Methodist minister and the stadium announcer at Auburn. We took communion together, sang “In Christ Alone” and walked across the street to our reception venue, where we danced and ate dessert.
We graduated college six months before, and we didn’t have money for a proper honeymoon (whatever that is), so we took a roadtrip instead. After our wedding reception, we loaded everything we owned into our 1995 Land Rover Discovery and set off for La Crosse, Wisconsin, where Scott was scheduled for six months of intensive training for his new job.
We spent the first week of marriage trekking north, stopping for a few days in Nashville to see the sights and hear some music. This was before Nashville was invaded by 20-something hipsters, before the murals and coffee shops and hip restaurants came to town. We ate pancakes, walked around in the rain, toured the Ryman and visited the Bluebird Cafe. I’ve been back many times since then, and it’s a completely different place.
We planned to spend a night in Chicago, but it was January and there was a blizzard, so we spent that night at a Holiday Inn Express in Merrillville, Indiana instead. We swung through Chicago for deep dish pizza the next day and finally arrived at our tiny first apartment (which we had not even seen photos of) that evening.
That apartment was $400/month and offered zero frills—uncomfortable furniture, community laundry and a tiny galley kitchen. But the memories we made there still make us smile. Life was so simple and fun. We learned to cook from Jacques Pépin reruns on PBS, walked to the grocery store across the street and constantly listened to the best “soft oldies” radio station ever (every time I hear “Radar Love” or “Mellow Yellow” I am instantly transported back to that apartment). We paid off thousands of dollars of student loan debt. We stumbled into a wonderful little church and were adopted into a precious small group, and I was able to find a nanny job and some freelance writing work.
Every morning, I dropped Scott off at school and drove to my nanny job in a neighboring town, where I did phone interviews and wrote articles during nap time. I created a food blog to document our culinary journey, and Scott participated in a Polar Plunge in the just-thawed Mississippi River that year on his birthday. There is a story involving him consuming a tad too much alcohol with friends that day that lives on in INFAMY, even eight years later. It was a fun time.
I asked Scott the other day if he could remember a time in his life when he was most happy, carefree and satisfied, and he immediately said the time we spent in Wisconsin.
Eight years and 1.5 kids later, we’re kind of reliving that season of life, but in a new city—tiny apartment, one car, me caring for kids and freelancing, Scott confidently doing the job he was trained to do all those years ago. We’ve returned to simplicity, which suits us so well.
What I’ve learned about the DNA of our little family over the past eight years is we thrive on the simple lifestyle we lived those first six months of our marriage. We aren’t built for the hustle. We aren’t built to be on-the-go all the time. We are 9 p.m. bedtime people. Breakfast together at 6:30 a.m. people. Walk together for miles and miles people. A few really close friends people. Location over square footage people. Routine people.
A lot of those words I just used to describe our family's values would’ve scared me at the beginning of our marriage. Much of who we are today I resisted for years because it clashed with my individual personality. Without my family, I would run myself into the ground with workaholism, social obligations, endless volunteering, over scheduling and a technology addiction. My relationships with Scott and Julia have truly saved me from some of my more self-destructive tendencies. I’m sure Scott would say the same is true for him. During our time in Wisconsin, I’ll never forget him saying, “Without you, I’d just stay in my little box all the time and never venture out of it. Without me, you wouldn’t have a box.” That’s proven to be so true throughout our marriage.
This union of two people for life is all about creating that shared family DNA—taking two people with different upbringings, different habits, different preferences—and creating a lifestyle and identity that works for both. It requires some sacrifice and compromise on each person’s part. The goal should never be to change our spouse to adjust to the way we think life should be lived—or to forfeit our preferences completely to appease our spouse. No one should go through marriage unchanged. Over the years, both spouses will ideally move toward each other, letting go of some of their preferences and enlightening their spouse about others. 😉 We are on the same team. And just like any great team, we thrive when we are rooting for each other while also pushing the other person to improve and grow. Marriage shines a light on our dark places and forces us to address them, yielding healthier, more well-rounded individuals who have come together to create a beautiful new thing.
Married folks—your relationship is worth the work it takes to make it great. Friends, jobs, houses, churches, reputations, vacations, material possessions and just about everything else will fade away eventually. Those things are important and worthy of our time and attention, but the relationships we have with our spouse and kids are for life. They deserve to occupy that No. 1 priority spot. They deserve our respectful words, our acts of kindness and our time.
It’s worth the investment and the sacrifice to make those relationships sources of joy, comfort and peace rather than conflict and hurt. It’s worth it to choose them over all the other things that compete for our attention and affection. It’s worth it to go to therapy. It’s worth it to have those hard conversations when something isn’t working for you. It’s worth it to pray for your spouse. There’s not a marriage on the planet that thrives without intentional investment.
I’m so grateful to be on this journey with Scott and that we’ve fought to create a life we both love. It hasn’t always been easy, this merging of two into one. But it’s so worth it.
So here’s to eight years of marriage. Here’s to embracing our shared identity and a return to simplicity. Here’s to raising our babies, enjoying good food, exploring cities and mountains and rivers, rich friendships and stubborn authenticity. Here’s to us—we’re so much better together.