I’m not where I thought I’d be 11 years into my marriage.

I looked at the calendar today, and if it wasn’t for a Google repeated reminder my husband set years ago, it may not have been on my radar.  It’s our 11 year anniversary this coming Saturday.  I’m not sure if it’s because we’ve celebrated a few times over the course of the past few years or for other reasons that I don’t feel as big of a fanfare.  To clarify, my husband fibbed a bit – a few times – to tell random hotels that it was our 10 year anniversary so we could get freebies (yes, we’ve all done it, right?) and we had champagne and strawberries, free stuff, amongst other things, even though it may not have quite been our 10th year of marriage.   Maybe it’s the 3 kids we have that are currently building forts and playing peekaboo.  Either way, I feel as though it wasn’t at the forefront of my brain.

So now that it’s coming up, it makes me think back to this past year of my life.  It’s been a tough year work-wise, and I’ve felt challenged by my mental health and stability.  My kids have presented challenges that I know appear “big” to me but probably aren’t compared to what it could be.  And my marriage has been challenging as well, which makes me pause.

Our communication isn’t the greatest.  We overanalyze each other’s words and ruminate on them.  We aren’t on the same page intimacy-wise, and that can be problematic for us for reasons we can all understand.  Work has caused us to have our sights elsewhere, instead of on each other and our family.  And we, of course, like to have our own time out and about to relax and unwind, even if only to be away for an hour or so.  All of these things get in the way of our marriage.

When I said “I do”, in sickness and health, in good times and bad, I meant it.  But it isn’t what the marriage “prep” classes tell you about.  Actually, our marriage prep class was maybe 45 minutes long, sort of a quick Cliffs Notes edition of life and love before we got married.  (The priest had to catch a plane, and admitted there wasn’t much he could tell all of us that we wouldn’t figure out on our own.  Amazing.)  There are so many pieces of advice that I have acquired over the years, for raising kids, for how to advance my career, but not for a happy marriage.

Why is that?  Why do people not step on toes when it comes to marriage, but they are more than happy to intervene with kids?  Why couldn’t someone tell me what my life would be like, 11 years in, and tell me that’s it’s more difficult and challenging than just listening to each other?  There are books for self-help, getting your kid to sleep on their own, and everything else imaginable.  But why is that marriage books only seem to be what brings you back from the brink?  “One more try” isn’t what I’m hoping for; I’m not there yet.  I need the reassurance that this is all normal and changeable and apt to be difficult no matter what.  I know there isn’t a magic wand I can wave to make everything perfect, but damn, I wish there was more of a guide that didn’t cost an arm and a leg to determine.

And so, coming up on Saturday, if I do end up forgetting, it won’t be because I don’t love him or that it wasn’t the best day of my life (or a super close second to the births of each of my children, which he agrees are the best days of his, too).  It will be because we have sort of lost our way and need to find our way back.  I’m hoping that this next year will bring us to that point.  Or at least help us find the treasure map to get us there.

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