The Hardest Thing I've Ever Done

I had a lot to learn about having a happy marriage

My husband photographs people for a living. In more than two decades of working with him, I've talked with hundreds of couples planning their weddings. Most people enter marriage with expectations, dreams, and a mixture of joy and fear of the unknown. I carried this to an extreme and entered marriage with a fantasy.

When I was 17, my best friend and I went to the mall to have a photograph taken with Santa Claus. He was an old man with a real beard and his own long white hair. We sat on his lap, a helper snapped the photograph, and my friend bounced up.

Before I could bounce up, Santa asked, "What do you want for Christmas?"

I looked him square in the eye. "Peace, happiness, and contentment."

Yes, a tall order from a 17-year-old, but that was me, and it was Santa.

Ironically, I left that conversation with Santa, walked into a music store, and met the young man who would become my husband. The timing wasn't lost on me. From the start, I saw this man as a gift, and I went to the wedding altar one year and two months later, expecting the same three things: Peace, happiness, and contentment. This was, after all, the list I'd given Santa.

Somehow, I thought making a life together would be easier than it turned out to be. From the start, Loyd and I struggled. We argued over the same things most couples argue over: money, housework, sex, in-laws, time, children, communication, intimacy. In the worst moments, we threatened to leave and even threw the word divorce around.

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