An interesting fact about myself is that I have been married twice and never divorced.
My husband, Corey, and I had been engaged for a year when we found out that I was pregnant with our first child. We got married immediately, for insurance purposes, but decided to go ahead with the large family wedding we had been planning as well.
When I say “we” had been planning, I mean the matriarchs in our families. In my typical airy manner I ridiculously requested our wedding be akin to a country picnic from a Jane Austin novel and then gave little more input aside from occasional color and wardrobe choices, but in the manner of mothers they delivered tenfold.
Corey and I got married at the Montgomery County Courthouse in February 2014 and again at the Mueller family cabin in June 2014. With two wedding dates, and neither date being particularly sentimental to either of us, we mutually decided to forgo celebrating our wedding anniversary and to continue to celebrate the anniversary of when we became a couple in August 2009.
While marriage may have legally bound us, our journey as a couple began long before the day I donned a white dress and walked down an aisle. Though it was a beautiful dress and the aisle was meticulous, complete with violinists and a ridiculously adorable gaggle of our–then tiny–floral crowned niece, and nephews clad in gingham shirts and pink bow ties.
At this point we have been together so long it is becoming aging to admit the length of our relationship. We started dating when we were 22 and in many ways we became adults together–growing and changing alongside each other and navigating our relationship from these ever evolving perspectives.
While fundamentally similar in belief systems, my husband and I are very different people. One difference is that he loves public displays of affection. I, on the other hand, do not. He wants gushy displays and hand holding, even an occasional public kiss. My general stance is that we have been together for almost the entirety of our adult lives and have two children that are 15 months apart; I think that people can deduce that we like each other. However, as it is a big anniversary, passing the decade mark, I will consent.
The song I selected to play as I walked down the aisle was “Songbird” by Fleetwood Mac, chosen as both a nod to our childhoods and a promise for a brighter, happier future together.
"For you there'll be no crying
For you the sun will be shining
'Cause I feel that when I'm with you
It's all right I know it's right
And the songbirds keep singing like they
Know the score....."
I look back on that selection somewhat cynically now. In some ways the memory of that song playing in the background as I walked towards my husband with Glenn quietly forming in my womb, slowly stepping into the future that awaited us all, feels taunting now. A cruel jest and a poor choice. It was not songbirds but crows that circled above, their caws an unheeded warning of the storm clouds that loomed just ahead.
Had I known of the difficulties that our life together would force us to face, I would have chosen differently. I would have chosen a different partner for him, one more genetically compatible. I would have chosen for him to have a different life than the one we gave him, one that was brimming with sunshine and less shrouded in grays. But I do not have the gift of premonition, and for myself I would have selected none but him to walk beside me. For me, there is only him.
Our years as newlyweds have been filled with more valleys than peaks. The peaks we have managed to scale have been hard fought, with the two of us arriving at the top bedraggled and travel worn, our clothes heavily torn and our bodies weathered, covered in scratches and smudges. But we have managed to arrive at those peaks together, pushing each other forward and pulling each other up, one often carrying the other when the terrain becomes too much.
I have learned so much in those valleys, about grace, forgiveness and what it means to really love without conditions. To hold space for another persons pain and to love them through their growth, even when you feel as if your own heart is breaking in the process. I have learned that relationships–like hearts–can be mended, that love is not only a powerful bonding agent but a pliable one as well, allowing for continuous expansion while readily deflecting onslaught.
It is often touted that couples with special-needs children have higher rates of divorce, and while it is true that we have amplified stresses and hardships, I think marriage–relationships–are hard for everyone. Loving another person for better and for worse is a continuous commitment. A commitment that is oft harder than anticipated when making those vows as bright-eyed newlyweds.
I won’t pretend that our marriage hasn’t suffered blows that would not have been dealt had we not had an autistic child–both from life and each other. But in so many ways healing from those wounds strengthened our union, weaving us closer together rather than tearing us apart. They taught us that healing was a choice, that love, that commitment were choices.
As a young(ish) bride I would have chosen nothing but sunshine and songbirds. I would have chosen “for better.” But I think had we been given clear skies, had we not been forced to face “for worse” so early in our marriage, we would have missed out on so many aspects of what it means to really love each other.
Corey, six years after that initial walk down the aisle and 11 years after our first date, I can't promise you that there will be no more crying, nor can I promise you that the sun will be shining but I can promise you that I will be here. Standing beside you, facing whatever storms come our way. And six years wiser, I am now much better at deciphering the calls of birds.