I just hung up a picture today that was given to us as a gift that says "Every love story is beautiful....but ours is my favorite." Todd and I have a cool love story--the gushy, gooey story of "fate" and "destiny" that is faith promoting to all the singles out there who are getting a little....well....discouraged. We met online and, after a few long-distance "phone dates," decided to meet. I flew in from an international tour with Stephen Covey the night we determined to go out--it was the only night that would work, given that Todd was flying in from CA and leaving the next day for a family reunion. It happened to be the night of his 15 year class reunion and my LDS mission reunion--both events making us very aware of how single we were and were sure to lend themselves to many a conversation about "who do I know that I could set you up with?" Loathed those. Anyway, we decided that we would actually accompany each other to those events....and pretend that we were engaged. Yes--we faked our engagement on our first date. Talk about the ultimate example of Habit 2 (Stephen was proud).
Make a long story short....our lie that night turned into an eternal truth 9 months later. My job allowed me to fly on a private jet that whisked me in and out of an airport near Todd's house, and on the weeks I wasn't traveling, he made his way to UT to visit me. So we saw each other every week, played like crazy, and fell madly in love....or so we thought.
Fast forward 8 years. We have 3 kids--7. 6, 3--and a puppy. Todd's job is intense, stressful and sometimes consuming. #2 has severe autism and a myriad of other special needs. My once-jet-set lifestyle was traded in for a very home-bound one where any attempt to leave the house is either thwarted by a pooping or tantruming child, or our outings are cut short by one of the afore listed. While daily life does not lack in excitement, it is incredibly challenging, both physically and emotionally, as I am constantly trying to stay ahead of a spastic array of curveballs.
Back to the love story part....so I had an ah-ha moment today, not born of my own genius, but rather that of a friend. He suggested, in essence, that now it's real love. What Todd and I had then was love, the emotion. What we have now is the real deal--love in action--practiced, tested, tried, ripped at, interrupted, but surviving.
The statistic for couples who have a child with special needs is bleak--80% divorce rate. Recently, I could see exactly why. Todd and I have been really struggling individually--he has felt the weight of the world on his shoulders because of pressures at work. The moment he leaves work, he comes home to a wife with expectations and children with blaring needs. Add to that an adventurous spirit and longing for spontaneity and you find a stiffled, unfulfilled human being who cannot escape his life long enough to be himself for a minute. I have felt super lonely as I have struggled to make medical decisions for Matthew, battled with some uber hard behavioral issues and impulsivity, and tried to be a halfway decent Mom for the other two. It left me feeling guilty because I was not doing a great job in any area, overwhelmed which became almost paralyzing because I didn't know what to focus on, and lonely because I didn't feel like anyone could truly relate (and I didn't want to share the burden or complain). Pretty martyer-ish, eh? Net result of all of that was two unhappy people who needed each other desperately, too caught up in their own pile of emotional manure to allow the other to love them. We were coexisting and almost scared to let the other person see our pain because we knew the other was already so burdened. It started to come out sideways which, I'm sure everyone can relate, is not anyone's best angle.
Enter love the verb.....it wasn't that we didn't love (the emotion) each other, but we weren't loving (the verb) each other. Love the emotion is strengthened by love in action. I consciously decided that I needed to start doing things to show love so that I could feel love. So I did....tiny things that were no big deal to him, but by thinking about him and showing love, I started to feel less resentment for what he was distracted by and turned more of my focus to empathizing with him so I could share some of his burden. Vice versa, I felt him start to warm up to me and reach out to take some of mine.
The point I'm making is this--I know that every marriage in the world is hard. The gushy love stuff is great, but family in action is what breeds the lasting love, if we let it. Our love story has only gotten better with time because it is imperfect and stretched. It's the real deal.