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Friday, June 28, 2013

Happy Anniversary

 When I was sixteen I met my husband. While I was delaying going to class, I was introduced to Eric by my teacher mother as Eric handed in a paper. It was mortifying as she exclaimed, "OH! Abbey, this is Eric! Eric, this is Abbey! Now you can date!" in front of her class. But when I looked past the hot pink cheeks and into Eric's eyes, I knew that I was going to marry him. And, here we are. Five years after our marriage and almost twelve years into our relationship, we sit on opposite sides of the country wishing that we were able to spend the day, heck, a nice quiet meal, together.

Our Wedding- June 28, 2008
I recently celebrated my ten year reunion from High School, while I was there, my former classmates were disappointed that they didn't get to see Eric. When they apologized that he was working in Colorado and kind of shook their head at the sad military wife who was alone, I thought it'd be appropriate to let them know that it was okay. We could handle it. Over the past four years we'd spent approximately 4,000 hours apart each year. That's almost three full time jobs (assuming a 40 hour work week). When I told them that, they looked at me like I was nuts. Someone pointed out that I also had two children to care for and I was "essentially a single parent". True. And, true. Later that evening, I was asked by an old friend after I commented that Eric and I didn't have a lot in common, how we made our marriage work. I thought about it for a second and answered, "Because he challenges me, every single day".

I didn't make the "we don't have anything in common" comment as a jab to Eric. I meant it as fact. We enjoy different hobbies, we enjoy different foods, sports, activities, ideas on what is relaxing and we even have our battles politically. But we always can enjoy a nice bottle of wine, a five star cheese spread and conversation. When I think about the question, "What makes your marriage work?"(which I've been thinking about for a few days now) I keep coming back to the same few things: we have the same morals. We have the same beliefs. We love to entertain and laugh. We're suckers for The Voice and America's Got Talent. We understand alone time and how to better ourselves. We acknowledge that we are not perfect, and don't have a perfect marriage. But we always are trying to better it, through books, conversation starters and conversations between us, we strive hard to do what the other person needs us to do. We constantly try to be better for us and most importantly, for each other.

When we met, you have to understand that while we were wildly in love, we weren't ready to get married. We talked about it all the time and even though Eric dragged his feet on popping the question (I actually asked first), we both knew it would happen. In our dating period, we went to different schools, had different friends, studied different things and aspired to be the best at what we were good at. We always took pride in what the other person was doing, but we did what was good for us individually.

Eventually, the distance got to us and that longing, aching, brutal thing called love got in our way. I moved to Colorado and finished up school while Eric was at the Air Force Academy. Even when I moved to Colorado, Eric and I lived very separate lives. I worked and was active in Model UN while Eric played hockey. But when we got together, it was as if time hadn't passed. We'd pick up right where we left off and head out on an adventure. And adventure is what our life has become today.

We are by no means a normal family, shoot, we actually chose to live apart for six months, but we are truly, madly and more in love than we were five years ago. As I've gotten to know Eric more and as we've entered the phases of our lives (teen-ager, college student, fiancé, newlyweds, first time parents, and old married couple) we've discovered more ways to love one another than we could ever imagine.

It's not the fairy tale like we're told when we're young. You don't just fall in love and have it last a life time. You have to fight to be in love. You have to fight to keep a marriage. When we were teens I loved Eric for his kind spirit, his friendly attitude and his passion for hockey. As a college student I loved him for his intellect and drive. As a fiancé I hated hockey, but loved and supported his determination and dream of being a pro-hockey player. As a newlywed I learned to love Eric as a provider and caregiver. As a first time parent, I loved Eric's gentile soul and patience as he held his sons as they screamed at us for no reason. And now, as an old married couple I love that Eric would do anything for us and me. That he's always going ask me a million questions about my newest venture and even play Devil's advocate, but still be on the sideline as my biggest supporter. I love that he's got more integrity than the Air Force requires, more heart than he lets on, and strength enough to move mountains (or as our sons believe, strong enough to physically carry all of their toys from Minot to Colorado).

Just because I sound big and tough with my marriage advice, doesn't mean that I don't miss him. It doesn't mean that I don't want to spend my anniversary with my husband, go on romantic getaway or just stay in bed all day. Because I want all of those things. I want to go back to the place we got married and take pictures of where we are now. Not because Five Year Anniversary Pictures are in these days, but because in five years, Eric and I have been through more than most people have in a life time. Because in five years we've accomplished more tasks together than apart. Because in five years we've learned and relearned how to be in love and what love is. Because, we've fought and cried, and sometimes suffered through the pain because we knew it was worth it still. Because we still love to laugh. Because we love to kiss and be in each other's arms. Because we could still stay up all night and talk until the sun rises. Because we're still best friends. Because we've become a team, a unit, one.

Today I went back to the place we were married. I took the boys with me. I walked around the mansion and grounds and told the boys that this is where mom and dad were married. They didn't care, and they don't even know what married means. But as I walked through the room I put my dress on, I could visualize every detail of that day. Where every one was, who helped me put on my dress, when Eric and I had our First Look, the taste of the champagne, the butterflies in my stomach, the smell of the hot, sweaty, Summer air. As we walked the grounds I saw our guests dancing, playing games and having one heck of a party. I saw our first dance, and even tasted our cake. It was like it was yesterday. I wanted Eric to be there with me. I wanted to have him remember those things too. I wanted to have him twirl me around the back yard and break into our choreographed dance while we laughed and probably fell to the ground.

2008 and 2013
Instead, I chased my sons around the yard and laughed as they twirled around and got dizzy. I had a picnic on the back porch, enjoyed a beautiful Summer day, changed two poopy diapers, and picked up giant ants so the boys could see them better. See, while it would be nice to have that romantic, movie, time travel moment, I actually have the fairy tale I always dreamed up. Eric looked like a prince, I looked like a princess. And we had a Pinterest wedding before it even existed. We were high school sweet hearts, got a dog, we got married and drove off to California for a year. We bought a house, got some good jobs and had two kids. While we don't go on as many real adventures as we used to, we get to slay dragons, build extravagant buildings and forts and have cozy campfires in our back yard. We get to stay up and talk as long as we want. We get to snuggle in to one another at night and we get to be together, no matter what.

Our love isn't as romantic as it used to be, I'd say we aren't swooning over one another anymore. We can keep our hands to ourselves and often have two little boys sleeping in our bed with us, but our love is real. It's no make-up, it's keep the door open when you go to the bathroom, it's sex with the lights on. It's rainy day hair, puke pajamas and hockey stink. It's also mature, and deep. It's a love that you only get to experience after a lot of respect and trust goes into the other person. It's a comfortable place. I'm not saying we don't like to get dressed up and put effort into ourselves to impress the other person, I'm saying we don't have to. I know that Eric isn't going anywhere. He knows I'm in it for the long haul. We just know, that no matter what, we're there for each other.

So even today, on our anniversary, while Eric is off acquiring things for the Air Force and I'm knee deep in a frog pond, we know that despite our distance and the lack of gifts or cards, that this anniversary is just as important and just as special as our wedding day.  Each year on our anniversary I re-read our vows. It's honorific to the day and a good reminder of what is to come in the next year. It's also a reminder of what we can improve at and how we can make sure we live up to our promises to one another.

Five years ago Eric said this to me: "Abbey, I promise from this day forward that we will forever share our lives together. You will be my equal and my best friend. I promise to make the most out of every day together, even though life can be difficult and complicated, no matter what, I promise to work through it. I pledge to you that no matter the obstacle, our love will remain and strengthen. I will do my best to be a good husband and a good friend. I promise to help you achieve your goals and support you in your times of need. I will never stop loving you, never lose faith in us and never give up on you. I love you".

And I replied: "Eric, today, I am forever yours. I promise to continue to support, encourage and inspire you. I promise to laugh with you, talk with you and make you smile. I promise to be there for you in times of sorrow and struggle, in good times and in bad, when our love is simple and when it is complex. I promise to respect you and honor you and hold you in the highest regard, always and forever".

After we completed our vows, our officiant said, "Eric this is Abbey, Abbey this is Eric, now you are married. Kiss your bride"And just like we started dating, we started our life together, and boy, has it been a life. The best one I could have ever imagined.

Our First Look

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