I remember being so excited to marry Scotty. We were so compatible, we were the best of friends and we rarely fought. Our pre-marriage counselling session was brief because in our minds we really did not have much to cover, it seemed we were the perfect picture of the American Dream. I remember talking a lot about marriage roles; he should take care of the money, he should take out the trash. I will make sure the house is vacuumed and tidy, stay home with the kids and make sure dinner is on the table. He would drive whenever we were together, navigate out of town places and plan trips. I bought into it all.

The perfect picture of happiness put it in a box with a bow around it.

I thought it would work perfectly and so did he. This was until we realized I did not have to vacuum to feel satisfied and I did not like when he told me what and when I could buy things. I had been an independent college girl; I had balanced a budget, lived on my own, financed my own college and now someone is going to regulate if I can get a Slurpee or not.

We had conversations, lots of them, he would vacuum more and I would scrape money together to get a latte every now and then. We managed and we made it work, we always communicated about everything and that is what got us through. Until everything was turned on its head, we would have zero communication about all of this petty stuff with a year-long deployment to Iraq. That year where I did everything all on my own taught me that this “he does this”, “she does that” kind of stuff really doesn’t matter. Yes, you need order and yes, as a married couple, you must be on the same page, but no one ever told me, there would be times when you would do it ALL as a woman. No one told me that the black and white ideal of roles is just not realistic in the chaos of life sometimes. In life’s up and downs, there are so many times when you will not be on the same page when you will not communicate effectively and will be annoyed and have your feelings hurt, and even wonder if you were really meant for each other. You will change, he will change and those old expectations that everything has to be perfect will tell you the lie that you aren’t meant for each other. This is a lie, it is simply not true!

I’m a totally different person than when we got married and I know Scotty would say the same for himself. I’m glad life showed us that nothing worth having is tied up in a perfect bow. Marriage is messy, marriage is hard (most of the time), marriage is what changes us for the better. Not because it works out how we thought, but because it works out how God wants to tell our story.

It is beautiful because it’s messy. More than anything I have learned through our journey that marriage is not a role to be played, a “he does this”, “she does that”, it is actually full throttle teamwork, plain, simple and true and honest teamwork. We need those times of struggle to remind us that none of us is perfect, to remind us that for growth we must change.

It took us time to figure out how to play to our strengths on our Smiley team. And guess what? I still vacuum, but he does the dishes, I handle finances and he folds the laundry, I drive everywhere and navigate new roads and he makes quesadillas for dinner.  And now I can pay for a Slurpee and a house cleaner. We forgive A LOT in our house, and we say I LOVE YOU A LOT because we never know when it will be our last day. Fighting through the tragedy early in our marriage gave us the perspective to live each day to its fullest, working together as a team. Unified. Not perfect, but held by God to fulfil His purpose.

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