For Better or Worse

For Better or Worse

My marriage is a fairy tale. Not the kind you read about in children’s storybooks where all the hard stuff only happens before the happily ever after, but the real kind. The kind with ups and downs, joys and sorrows, and is much more realistic than the storybooks describe. My prince charming doesn’t own a white horse, my carriage is a giant mobility van, and the only maid in our castle is me, but our lives are still beautiful.

My prince charming is not an easy man to describe. He is sweet and silly. He’s strong, independent and loyal. He is my favorite person. He drives me crazy sometimes, but that doesn’t stop him from being my best friend. He sees the best in people, and thankfully he has always seen the best in me, and his support has meant the world to me.

He is not a perfect husband, and I’m not a perfect wife, but we are perfect for each other. We love each other with fire. Sometimes that fire makes us bicker and argue; other times it makes us feel like there should be a romantic comedy written about our lives. We’ve even argued about which of us would come off looking like the better spouse in the movie version of our lives.

He asked me to be his wife when I was only nineteen years old. Fifteen years ago, on Christmas Eve in front of family and friends, he got down and one knee and asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. Without a moment’s hesitation, I said yes and I have never regretted my decision.

Our love story has been one for the books, but it’s also had more suffering than we ever anticipated. We’ve lost loved ones, suffered the pain of miscarriage, and have grown into different people because of everything we’ve faced together.

Two years ago, my older brother tragically passed away. It broke me and was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through. My husband was an amazing help to me through my grief. At his memorial, as I followed my mom around trying to get her to eat something, my husband followed me around with the same intention. When I broke down crying in the middle of my speech, he took over without hesitation and read it for me.

Every birthday he leaves me these goofy notes. I wake up and head for the coffee maker only to find my kitchen covered in sticky notes. Notes that say “I love you” or “You’re beautiful,” and one note, usually featuring a silly drawing of a sad guy with a caption that reads, “me without you.” Every year I wake up to this birthday tradition. It’s the simplest thing, but I think it describes our marriage well – simple and playful, but full of love.

When our sons were diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, just two months after my brother’s death, it completely jolted us. Our lives went from carefree to incredibly stressful. Suddenly everything felt like a battle. Insurance hurdles, financial struggles, and medication battles stole our peace daily those first few months. We felt like we had to fight for everything. Every day we had to fight to choose joy through our tears.

There was no warning, no family history, and no way to prepare for Duchenne. It shook our lives and our marriage. It changed us. My husband was devastated, but like most men, he seemed to have an easier time getting through each day in one piece, or at least pretending like he was okay. Me, being the emotional mama that I am, was struggling to keep breathing, let alone fake a smile. Getting out of bed felt like a tremendous feat. Anxiety turned me into a frantic mess and I sunk into a deep depression.

All I cared about was loving my babies and giving them every ounce of my time, until I had nothing left by the end of the day. At night, I’d research Duchenne, clinical trials, medications, stretches, and supplements until I couldn’t see straight. I was so exhausted but I couldn’t sleep. My fears seemed to show up in full force at night. I became consumed.

As a man who has an incessant need to fix broken things, it was hard for him to watch me suffer from depression. Not only were we both dealing with the pain of watching our boys get weaker physically, he was also watching his wife turn into someone he didn’t recognize.

He encouraged me to seek God and seek help, and thankfully I’m doing much better today. He never made me feel weak though. If anything, he made me feel strong for fighting through each day. Depression lies to you, so I constantly felt inadequate, but he made sure to combat those lies with unconditional love.

The night we found out about the diagnosis, I remember laying side by side holding hands in the dark. We stared at the ceiling in silence as tears fell down our cheeks. That night we vowed to always hold each other up through the hard times. I’m so thankful that God has helped us keep that promise to this day.

The other day we pulled up to the grocery store in our giant mobility van. My husband helped the boys get out using the ramp, and I hopped in to get our daughter out. When I turned around, there he stood ready to take my hand and help me down. It reminded me of that promise we made to each other the first night after the diagnosis. It made me think of all the things we’ve been through together side by side. What a comfort it is to know that no matter what the future holds, he will be there ready to take my hand.

Whether it’s offering his hand to help me down, making me laugh, picking up dinner when I’m tired, or simply encouraging me with his words – his support has meant so much to me. Men don’t always realize how much the little things truly matter. I’m not a wife that wants extravagant jewelry or flowers, I want honesty. I want unconditional love. I want the kind of man who prays with me, laughs with me and offers me his hand at just the right times.

Our fairy tale is far from perfect, but it’s real. If you ask me, the hardships we’ve faced actually make our love story better. It’s easy to boast about a happy marriage when all you’ve faced are peaceful times, but what about the couples that have walked through fire together? In my opinion, the best kind of love stories are the ones that know the true meaning of “for better or worse.”

It’s the husbands who say, “Take my hand and we’ll overcome this together,” that deserve praise. It’s the wives who say, “I’m in this forever,” that inspire me. It’s the couples who are determined to love and support each other through the dark times that I admire. That’s what a real fairy tale looks like, and I’m honored to be able to say that for better or worse, this is mine.

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