Each stage of life looks different and brings unique challenges to every couple. My hope is that you will be inspired by the stories of the women in this series. I hope that their experiences will help you find more ways to make your marriage relationship a priority throughout every stage of your own life.
Charlene blogs over at Enduring All Things. She and I also co-run a Facebook group for wives. She and her husband, Pearson, started dating in high school, were together throughout college, and have been married for four years. The stages in their marriage have been unique and included spending almost every waking moment together to rarely seeing each other at all. I loved hearing about the different challenges they've faced, how they've kept their relationship as a top priority no matter their current schedule, and a cool future plan that they have.
What does it mean to you to prioritize your marriage?
That your marriage is the most important relationship you have. It doesn't necessarily mean that you're spending the most time on that relationship because different people in different stages of life have different priorities, but just that you never completely neglect it. You do something for it every day, and it's always on your mind. You can't just neglect it because you have little ones and other things to tend to.
How have the different stages you've experienced in life affected how you prioritize your relationship with each other?
Right now, we have to be a lot more intentional about our marriage because we don't have a lot of time to spend together. Pearson works a lot because his school and work are one and the same, right now. He has an 80 hour a week job and he does get a stipend for it, so it's school but it's work. He has to work so much and then during the regular school year, he has papers to grade and he brings those home, so even when we are together, he's working a lot of that time. We have to be really intentional and plan date night and then we also have to be flexible, or at least I have to be. He doesn't have set hours and he doesn't often know the day before what his experiments are going to look like the next day or how long they're going to take. A lot of times I don't even know when he's going to be home until he calls me on the way home. So we could plan a date night for Friday and then he'll get home really late so we'll move our plans to Saturday and then he'll end up having to go into work on Saturday so we'll plan for Sunday. That happens a lot and it used to really bother me not being able to schedule it, but I have to realize that it's still going to happen and he really wants it to happen; he's not trying to blow me off.
When we were dating, in college especially, we went to a small Christian school with a pretty small campus, we saw each other all day every day. We'd see each other between classes because he'd come pick me up from my class and walk me to my next class. We saw each other all the time and it was completely different. We almost had to work on prioritizing other relationships that got neglected because we were spending so much time with each other. We'd do homework together, we were always together and I had friends tell me that they were jealous of him and the time that we spent together.
We dated two years in high school and that was totally different as well because I wasn't planning on marrying this boy. I was 16 and we lived 45 minutes away from each other and neither of our parents were too crazy about us dating each other real serious, so it was mostly just talking on the phone. But again, we talked on the phone every night, we were still making each other a big priority. I graduated college a semester earlier than Pearson. We went to school in Arkansas and we grew up in Georgia. When I graduated in December, I was frantically looking for a job on campus or near the university and I didn't find anything there so I went home because I had a job lined up there already. We were a nine hour drive away from each other for an entire semester and I kind of got my feelings hurt a lot because we didn't talk every night like we did when we were in high school and I kind of expected to when we were long distance again. Things had changed, we were both busy, I was working a full time job for the first time and planning a wedding and he was in his last semester of college so we had to be more intentional about it then too and realize that other things take priority and that soon we would be married and living together so things would be easier, or so I thought.
In the beginning of our marriage, before he was deep into school, so the first year of grad school, he was taking classes and he wasn't in a lab yet; you don't join a lab until your second year and that's when you start your research. He was home at a good time every night, I cooked dinner every night, we watched all six seasons of Supernatural in two months and it was almost like we got really complacent and even took each other for granted. You could say we prioritized our time together, but I don't know that we really even did. Even if we weren't together, we would be doing the same thing. We didn't prioritize conversation or anything like that and now that we don't have that time together, we realize that we took each other for granted and now we're more intentional about it.
What are some rituals or traditions that the two of you have?
We were actually just talking about this the other day. My family didn't have any traditions growing up that I can remember so I'm trying to implement that kind of stuff in our relationship and our marriage. We have the tradition at Christmastime of pulling a mattress out to the living room and sleeping on the floor under the tree. We do it more than just at Christmastime too. We always go to an outdoor mall near us around Christmas because it's phenomenal how they decorate and they have carolers walking around in the old dresses and things that you'd picture when you think of carolers. Also the Transiberian Orchestra, we started going to the concert the year before we got married and I was sad because we didn't go this past year. I guess it's not something that we need to do every year because tickets are expensive and it's the same concert every year but I was sad when we didn't this year.
We've started this thing where we go stay in a cabin in the fall with three other couples that we're close to. We've done it for two years now and now all three of the other couples have kids and they're still planning on doing it, so it will be interesting because we're not planning on having kids until Pearson's out of school. They're all planning on bringing them this year and last year one of them had already had the baby and they came and it was fun, it'll just be different. When Pearson graduates, we're not sure if we'll stick around or move down to the south to be with our families, but I would still be willing to travel up here every year to do that.
My best friend from college and her husband, on New Years, we go to one house or the other. Either we go there or they come here. We started it because we wanted to see each other over the holidays and they were both in grad school. We tried to see each other at Christmas, but we both have two families to see at Christmas so we decided on New Years.
The first year we were married, we used to have breakfast for lunch every Sunday. We haven't done that in a long time, but I'd love to bring it back, especially when we have kids. We'd go to church and come home and have bacon and pancakes and eggs. I love the idea of having that one meal every week that we know what we're going to have.
My parents always come visit every October. It didn't start out as a plan to come every October, but they've come every year in October since we've lived here. We have our shows on Netflix that we watch every week and we usually end up watching them all on Friday or Saturday because we didn't have time during the week. Whenever I go hang out in Pearson's lab when he's there late at night, we always go to Buckeye doughnuts either when he has time between experiments or when we leave the lab for the night. It's a little 24-hour donut shop and we love their donuts! Also, we always see every marvel cinematic universe movie on opening weekend, usually the Thursday of opening weekend.
How have the obstacles and challenges that you've faced as a couple made you a stronger team?
Like I was talking about before with how little time we have to spend together so we're more intentional about it. We weren't both on the same page about it from the beginning but once we talked about it, we both realized that we need to make each other a priority. I feel like that's the biggest obstacle we've had.
Also, just moving here. We moved 600 miles away from anyone we knew, we didn't know anyone here and we had to lean on each other. I guess it was both good and bad because we didn't make a lot of friends when we moved here, we just stayed home and watched Netflix, but on the other hand, we had each other to talk to and vent to and we weren't tempted to go out with other friends and talk about each other. We were here for each other.
I feel like sometimes even still, we take each other for granted and once we realize it, we have to bring it up. That's always hard for me because I hate controversy and I don't like to even talk about what's going on with me. Like even when I'm upset and Pearson obviously knows I'm upset, I won't even talk to him about it but I've learned that I need to. I feel like that's kind of an obstacle I've overcome. I've learned that I need to not only for myself, but because quality time and conversation is one of Pearson's love languages and his love tank is not full if I'm not opening up to him.
Tell me something that you hope to do together in the future.
We're wanting to go to Disneyworld for our 5th anniversary. That'll be not this summer, but next. That's something that I've been wanting to do for a long time with just the two of us before kids. I want to go back with our kids of course, but I want to do it once before kids because I love Disney and I want to do it once with just my husband.
We'll probably move, depending on where he'll get a job or what he's going to do after graduation in December of 2018. We're kind of just waiting around for that before we can buy a house and settle down and start a family. That's something that we've talked about fairly often and we've talked about adopting. We want to give kids a home and we know several friends and family who've adopted.
I can remember when we first talked about adoption. We were sitting at a restaurant and they had a TV and the news was on. I don't even remember what was on the news, but it was something terrible and Pearson said, "This world is so corrupt!" and then one of us said something about not wanting to bring children into this world so I said that we should adopt. Then we'd be taking care of kids who were already in this world but may not have been wanted. So for a while, we were only going to adopt and now I think we're thinking of both biological and adopted children.
Again, it's hard to make concrete plans because we don't know for sure when he'll be graduated and we definitely don't know what's happening afterward so we'll see.