I met my husband 12 years ago. I can remember it like it was yesterday. He was interviewing for a position as the pastor of our church, giving the sermon that morning. I walked into church expecting to see our regular minister, but instead was greeted by a strikingly handsome man with blond hair, blue eyes, and muscular arms for days. If I’m being honest, I didn’t care for his goatee but I could let that go for those arms. Ahem, I digress.
I had no expectations of ever finding Mr. Right as I was single parenting my one year old son then. I had a lot of baggage that I was carrying around with me and I didn’t feel worthy of a partner who would love and cherish me. How could anyone love me with all my imperfections and flaws?
God had plans and boy was I ever wrong.
There he stood that day.
Right in front of me.
Welcoming me to the church with open arms and secretly crushing on me at the same time.
Little did we know that his interview with the church would turn into a lifetime commitment to each other just a short year later. I had no expectations of what marriage would be, other than what you see in the movies. Romantic dinners for two, white linens, clean floors, brunches with friends, and long walks on the beach. And while some of those things happen occasionally, they do not make up even the majority of our marriage. It isn’t snuggling by the fire drinking wine every night or even those sappy interactions that you see in the movies. and to be clear, there was no honeymoon. I had a baby that could not be left behind.
When I met him he was in graduate school progressing through a masters degree in divinity. I had no idea he was also a firefighter. I mean, being a pastor’s wife doesn’t sound so bad. Right?!? Well, he decided that he could not support a family on a pastor’s salary and God was leading him to something else entirely. At the time he was trying to be a firefighter and a pastor and it wasn’t serving him or anyone else well. So, he put down his bible and took a job with Cal Fire. and friends, the rest as they say, is history. Oh, no? Not quite.
From the outside looking in, one may think we have it made in the shade, it’s easy street, we’re the lucky ones. I have been asked more times that I can count if I married him for the uniform. Clearly not. Those arms, maybe, but not that uniform. and if I’m being honest at first I despised it for taking him away from me for extended periods of time. I felt like he was married to the job more than he was to me. So today, I want to quash those pesky fantasies of what being married to a person in uniform is like by telling you my experience with it for the past 11 years:
Marriage is taking out the trash yourself because he’s stuck on shift again.
Marriage is piles of laundry that will never get folded.
Marriage is Netflix and chilling alone at night because he’s on duty.
Marriage isn’t sexy abs and biceps, but it is a choice to be selfless and understand that the needs of the many outweigh my own.
Marriage is knowing that even though he’s well trained for his job, things can and will go sideways. It’s the reality that one day he may walk out that door and never come home again.
Marriage is taking care of the kids when he is away. It is listening to them ask over and over when he is coming home.
Marriage is driving 3.5 hours to visit him at his station because you haven’t seen him in 20 days just to find out he will have a day off tomorrow.
Marriage isn’t fancy dinners for two, it’s pizza at the firehouse with his brotherhood.
Marriage is a decision to tune out the chaos of fire season and just breathe.
Marriage is masking my own worry in order to comfort the public when their world is burning down.
Marriage is being rock solid even when you feel like sinking sand.
Marriage is trusting in a higher power to bring him home.
Marriage is believing that no news is good news in all catastrophic events.
Marriage is being his soft spot to land when he’s had a rough call, and knowing that he’s had his fair share of them.
Marriage is about seeing someone when they are most broken and loving them instead of trying to fix it.
Marriage is not wanting sympathy for the life we lead, it’s about sharing our experience so that the next generation does better.
Marriage is making time for each other because if we don’t schedule it, someone else will.
Marriage is knowing that even when he is away, I am the most cherished and loved person in his life.
Marriage is fulfilling his needs and sometimes having to find a solution for my own.
Marriage is loving myself first, so that I am able to feel loved.
Marriage is choosing to stay even when everything is telling you to run.
Here’s the thing, before I married my husband, I thought that this life looked pretty easy. I mean, how many people can say they work 3 days and then have the rest of the week off? I saw other fire families having 2-3 weeks off together to spend as a family and thought that was all the time. I pictured all the romantic parts of marriage and while those exist and are wonderful, most of what marriage consists of is sacrificing for the other person and choosing to love them through the icky and sticky parts of life.
I never really understood that love was a choice until one day about six years ago, I had to choose whether I would run or stand firm in our marriage. Until I broke under the pressure. Fell to my knees and cried to God asking him to help me weather what I thought at the time was the worst fire season we would ever go through. He had been gone a week. Today, 6 years later, a week seems so short. We’ve weathered 30-40 days at at time. I wish a week was the norm.
Being married eleven years brings perspective that a newlywed can’t even imagine. In the beginning it was thrilling to be waking up (most days) next to the person I would spend the rest of my life with. It was romantic just to sit and drink wine and play cards together or hang out in our beanbag chair watching the latest episode of Bones. But after 11 years, I am just happy when he walks through that door after his 72 hour shift unscathed. I am ecstatic when he doesn’t go to the latest campaign fire that burns down an entire town. I am happy to know he is sitting safe in his station putting a fresh coat of paint on the wall. I have no fantasies of romantic dinners or long walks on the beach. The only walk I care about now, is the one from his truck to the doorway when he returns home safe from his last shift. Every single time he comes home to me, I am thankful.
Marriage is the hardest and most beautiful thing I have ever done in my life. Loving one person through the highs and the lows, humbling myself enough to put my needs aside and take care of him has been one of the most rewarding thing I have ever done. When he is successful, I am too. When he celebrates an achievement, I celebrate with him. When he weeps over a lost brother, I weep too. When he has a tough call ( and believe me there have been too many) I experience it with him. And friends, that’s what marriage is. It’s hard and rewarding choices mad every single day to honor the commitments that we made 11 short years ago. and just in case you were wondering, we committed to spend the rest of our lives together through sickness and health until death do us part. Choosing to love him even when it is hard, feeling his love in return, choosing each other every day, trumps romantic walks on the beach any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Now, I would love to hear from my married readers, no matter how long you’ve been married, what is one thing you have learned about marriage that you think may benefit our newly married couples to hear?
Photos by: Lindsey Roman
CHELSI IS A DESTINATION WEDDING AND PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHER BASED IN FORT BRAGG, CALIFORNIA. SHE LOVES TO TRAVEL AND WILL GO ANYWHERE TO CAPTURE YOUR LIFE'S SWEET MOMENTS. SHE LIVES FOR SEEING THE WORLD, CAPTURING AUTHENTIC LOVE, AND MAKING PEOPLE FEEL FABULOUS. HER STYLE IS AUTHENTIC, REAL, AND EMOTIONAL. SHE BELIEVES IN LAUGHING TOO MUCH, SINGING TOO LOUD, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY LIVING LIFE TO THE FULLEST AND PREFERS CAPTURING EVERY SINGLE AUTHENTIC BEAUTIFUL MOMENT THAT EVOKE EMOTION OVER PERFECTLY POSED PHOTOS.