The Ups and Downs of Marriage

Twenty-six years is a really long time after all

5/31/20244 min read

My mom had Alzheimer’s, and as I watched her decline, I watched my stepdad step up to the plate. We did not always agree on the amount and kind of care she needed, as I was on the conservative side, rushing to say she should not drive and that she needed 24/7 supervision, while he was more laid back.

But, as she started to decline, I watched him step up. He cared for the house, sorted her medications, and managed the finances, all of which she used to do for him. Then, as she worsened physically, he bathed her, changed her, and fed her, often while being physically assaulted.

I started to hold him up as the ideal of what a husband should be. He set a very high bar.


Yesterday was my husband and my 26th wedding anniversary. We were college sweethearts and friends before we started dating. When I moved away for graduate school, he moved with me. He proposed on the bedroom floor of our crappy first apartment, surrounded by laundry because we both worked too much to pick up.

Our wedding was nice but modest. Our flower girl, who was five then, now has two children of her own. It is amazing how quickly time passes. We lived below our means in small, plain apartments until we could save up enough for a down payment on our house, which is also modest but makes us happy.

I never felt secure in our early marriage. I am extremely overweight, what the doctors classify as super morbidly obese. I knew it did not matter to him, but I was so used to being insecure about it that I never felt fully safe and always worried that it could go away. He was a little emotionally unpredictable, and it took me a long time to learn that when he was depressed or angry, he really did just want to be left alone. And this made me feel even more insecure.


We hit a bump when we had our only child, the cutest little boy any has ever seen, of course. I think everyone struggles with this. We were overtired, overworked, and overstressed. And neither one of us fully appreciated what the other was doing, both of us believing that we were doing more than our share.

Money was tight for several years after that, as I tried to stay home with our son as much as possible. Not working was impossible for us, so I worked a series of low-paying part-time jobs that I could either bring Josh with me or do when my husband was home. This was before working from home was as readily available as it is now.


Parenting is hard. We did not always agree on the minutia but came together when it counted. My husband allowed more screen time than I wanted to. My mom was overly indulgent, especially regarding sugar, which bothered my husband. We never did a will because we could not agree on who would get him if we died. Luckily, we never needed one.

We both agreed on school and tried to work with our son on the importance of working hard and doing his homework. We lost this battle nearly every time. We both agreed to try to give our son as many fun experiences as our limited budget would allow. This brought us closer to each other as well as a family trio. We agreed on the importance of game nights and movie nights and reading to him before bed. We went to swimming lessons and soccer and t-ball.


We both celebrated him when he came out to us. We drove him to Scouts and DnD (although he did the most here) while I served on the PTSA and SBDM boards at school and the Boy Scouts parents’ board. We both came together as a team when he started having mental health struggles and tried to overdose. We visited him in the hospital every day and would always stay until staff prompted us to leave (well after the hour we were allowed). We both took him to therapy so we could go in together as a family before and after his sessions.

We drove him to college and then turned back to each other to try to renegotiate what it meant to be two instead of three. And we did well. We played games together, went on date nights, and even a few solo weekend trips.


Then, I had a gastric bypass surgery, and it went badly. Really badly. They were not able to do it laparoscopically, and I ended up with almost four dozen staples. My blood pressure and oxygen dropped very low right after, and I was in the hospital longer than expected. I was released to a facility for physical rehab. This place was terrible. I was only fed half the time and was left in my own urine for hours, as nurses would never respond. So, my knight in shining armor helped to spring me.

He took care of me at home in the same way that my stepdad cared for my mom. He cooked for me, shopped for me, helped me in the bathroom and the shower, and helped me stand, sit, and walk when I couldn’t do these things alone. He met the absolutely ridiculous bar that had been set in my mind.


Over the course of our marriage, we have helped each other through health crises (mental and physical). We made it through the loss of his mom and both my parents, multiple pets, and an almost 20-year-long job. We have worked hard to raise an amazing human who never doubts that we are here for him. We have had hundreds (if not thousands) of date nights, played thousands of board games, and gone on dozens of weekend trips and even a few vacations. We have also cried and yelled and needed our space. All in all, it has been a fantastic 26 trips around the sun.