I met my husband, Todd, when I was 14 years old. We went to school together and over time developed a friendship. When my dad died during my junior year, Todd was there for me. He never tried to fix anything and was there to listen. I was not interested in him as a boyfriend. I remember my sister saying, “Todd is really nice and cute. Why don’t you go out with him?” My response was, “if you think he is so nice and cute, why don’t you date him?”
In retrospect, she saw the person he was before I did. Todd was always sweet and kind but I never thought we would date. I am not sure to this day at what moment we went from friends to dating. We both love music and we attended many shows together in high school. These shared experiences led to us dating at some point. I remember our first date was a Beatles convention in Los Angeles.
Our relationship was built on a friendship first before there was an attraction. Maybe our friendship helped prepare us for the challenges of dating. We both brought our share of baggage to the relationship. I had issues from losing my dad at a young age. I had always been overweight and was insecure. Todd struggled with addiction and emotional issues. We were two young, inexperienced, troubled teens. Not the ideal starting foundation for a lasting relationship but I believe our combined struggles and adversities made us tough and tenacious.
Over the years we have grown together. We have grown apart at times. We have relied on the other to be strong when one of us is weak. It has not been easy. There were times I did not think our relationship would survive. We have faced financial, physical, mental, and emotional struggles. We have raised two children. Emily has a disability that has her dependent on us for her care.
Raising children is difficult for most couples. If one or more of those children has any disability, the task and challenges become greater. Most couples that have a child with a disability divorce. They do not survive the added challenges and obstacles. One parent always does more and it is never 50/50. The fact that we recognize this is key. We know that one of us is always contributing more than the other in some way. Todd works hard outside of the home providing for us financially. I spend more time inside the home which includes the majority of Emily’s care.
In the evening, we work together. We make a great team and our synchronicity is incredible in our care of Emily. We both help get Emily ready for bed and handle medications, teeth brushing, and other hygiene. As Emily has become an adult, her care is often a two-person job for many tasks.
What are the key things that I think have contributed to our marriage working? I would say the top few are:
- Never quitting on our marriage. Even when one of us wants to throw in the towel or tap out, we keep fighting for our relationship.
- Time apart from each other. There are times I just need a break from caring for Emily and being on call for her. Todd is great about understanding that and giving me the respite I require.
- Date nights. Well, this area has been lacking during the 67 months of the pandemic. (I know it has only been 18 months but it feels like 67 to me so I am rolling with that.) We do make time to do things together. In February we went camping and last month we went to a concert for the first time since 2019. We both enjoy live shows. Attending concerts together is our favorite way to connect and recharge.
- Giving each other space to pursue our interests. I do not demand, nor do I want to spend every moment with Todd. I enjoy trips with friends and Todd enjoys camping and hunting with friends.
- Did I mention grace? We both afford the other LOTS of this. We both have bad days. We can both be moody at times. We both get tired. The emotions are real and that is okay.
Maintaining a relationship takes effort, hard work, and dedication. It is continuing to support each other through the highs and lows. I am not a relationship expert but I believe marriage takes more than love and trust to sustain it. Todd and I love and trust each other but it is grace and grit that has kept us together for over 30 years.