13 YEARS AND COUNTING | LIFE, LOVE & MARRIAGE
The start of this new year is a little sweeter than most with 5 years of marriage, 13 years of dating, and what honestly feels like a lifetime of love. Not that marriage is a stroll in the park, just like anything worth having, it takes hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and grace. We’ve been learning how to love each other as husband and wife since January, 3rd 2014 which is why no honeymoon year of happiness (the year strangers smile and tell you to enjoy it while it lasts) will ever compare to the joy of the year ahead.
WHERE IT ALL STARTED
My little love affair with Gus started back at the wee age of, um I don’t know, maybe 6! I remember a very cute boy who was very good at his flashcards down the hall. There were two of him — if you didn’t know, Gus is an identical twin and the only visible difference was the color of their shoe strings— which was even cooler in 1st grade. We were on the same t-ball team (which I hated) lived in connecting neighborhoods, and went to school together from elementary school through college. In those days I was trading in dresses for soccer shorts and bows for boy’s sneakers… until about 7th grade I was a huge tom-boy. I was also a grade behind the boy with the red laces, so sparks didn’t start flying until I was a freshman in high school and he officially swept me off my feet.
I had just turned 15 —and more importantly, got my braces off— when our friend groups started hanging out. We did the awkward but exciting flirting thing for a few weeks until it was clear we were “talking.” Do people still use that word, the no -label, label? I’m starting to feel so old. Anyway, December came to an end and there we were, at a big high school gathering on the indoor soccer-field, for New Year's Eve and he charmed his way in for the first kiss. I’ll be completely honest with y’all, before Gus, I had pretty much kissed one boy… once! This is one of my favorite parts about our relationship; I was able to make all my memories with this man. By spring we were dating and in sweet summertime, we were lifeguarding together at the neighborhood pool (best job ever!). Our summer job was filled with endless slushies, sunshine and the dedicated hang out spot for our friends.
Fast forward a few years of singing Christmas carols at Grams’ house every year—due to our head start, we snagged the “2 turtle doves” spot early on— a few proms and the heart-pounding “I love you” moment before he left for college. Honestly, who would have thought we’d make it through the college years? Our parents secretly wished we had met later in life, the chances of dating through high school and college almost sounded silly. And it’s true, we had some growing up to do, but while we were learning who we wanted to be, I guess we always knew who we wanted to be with. So while I was in a sorority (Kappa Alpha Theta) and working toward a Kinesiology degree for PT school, Gus was becoming a Civil Engineer through a crazy competitive program in the Navy. We managed to live, learn, and love each other through it all.
Side Note: Most of Gus’s family is or was in the military so you could say he is pretty darn detailed. Literally studies to a stopwatch, crazy organized and disciplined. Compare that to this free-spirited, dreaming and scattered creative thinker…you could say, yeah, opposites attract!
A big part of our love story has been traveling. By the time Gus proposed we had been to about 20 or so countries together. His dad is a pilot for Delta, and we took full advantage of buddy passes and free flights for about 6 years straight. Nick, (Gus’s twin,) Gus and I used to bounce around all over the globe together. Part of Nick’s Best Man speech was about being the man behind the camera and our guest book —which were postcard pictures of all of our adventures. So, when Gus surprised me with a trip back to my favorite city, Paris, I oddly wasn’t suspicious at all…
Maybe it was because I was 21 and a junior in college, well aware of how young we were, yet somehow, I missed all the signs. It was New Year's Eve — 6 years after our first kiss— with a bottle of wine and sparkling Eiffel Tower (which I thought wouldn’t be crowded). You could barely walk out of the metro it was so jam-packed! After working our way down to a quiet spot on the river, looking up at the Eiffel Tower with our bottle of wine and … that's right, I spilled the whole bubbly into the river. The spill that started my spilling streak. It was there, on The River Seine just after midnight in Paris that Gus got down on one knee, pulled the ring from his pocket and I lost my cool.
Gus was graduating in May and moving to California for the Navy in January. We had two options - either I graduate a semester early and we go to the west coast together OR I graduate on time and get married next May when he comes home. Do I look like someone who wants to miss out an adventure? Heck no! It was double the classes and wedding planning for this fiancé. You can bet, I had no idea what I was doing and yeah, a bit overwhelmed with the planning and registry process. I didn’t even have our church picked out until 3 months before the wedding! But the wait was worth it, we found a charming chapel that let Gus’s Grandpa marry us, just as we hoped.
PRO TIP FOR PLANNING: Instead of making binders, printing lists and limiting your registry to 2 stores… use Zola! I remember when they first launched about 2 years after our wedding and my jaw dropped. Partly out of jealousy and partly because this site is pure genius! You can make your wedding website, invitations, guest list, gift registry (from as many stores as you like, dreamy!) and basically simplify everything. I had a jumbled binder and excel spreadsheets- needless to say, this is way better.
It was January 2nd and a huge winter storm blew through Cincinnati. The rehearsal dinner was delayed, highways stopped with traffic and our wedding was… tomorrow. Holding out hope that the roads would be open, I woke up to 8 inches of beautiful, white, fluffy snow and sunshine. It was truly a winter wonderland. I walked down the isle, anxious to add a lifetime of memories to the 7 years we’d already had together. We read each other the vows we wrote, though I’m not sure anyone but Gus even heard mine through the tears of joy. After the par-tay we jetted off for our honeymoon in Costa Rica and then packed my little white Suzuki for our cross-country road trip to Cali.
MARRIAGE | LOVE & LESSONS LEARNED
YEAR 1 — EXPECTATIONS & GROUND RULES
The honeymoon phase. Unwrapping gifts and putting away wedding presents, ending and starting our days together —my personal favorite— and having a place WE could call home. Two homes actually, we lived in both California and Maryland this year. Gus was in the Navy so we moved around quite a bit. Starting with a little hotel suite on the West Coast for 4 months of training then taking the full U-Haul to Southern Maryland and settling into our very first home. Ahhh, y’all I was so excited! Even though we were a good 10 hours from everyone and everything we knew, it was just the two of us and I don’t think either of us would have wanted it any other way. We were newlyweds and all we really needed was each other.
On the flip side, two lives, bank accounts, roles, and responsibilities don’t just fit together flawlessly all of the sudden. We had to learn, through trial and error, how to manage our finances, understand each other’s expectations, and how to be a good husband and wife for each other. My idea of a good wife—a lovely home, great cooking and entertaining— doesn’t necessarily make sense when you’re husband prefers pizza and no dishes. Ya know? Thanks to our wonderful families, our morals and values were aligned but our backgrounds and habits were so different. Year one was all about designing our new normal, together.
YEAR 2 — THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE
Still in Maryland, with a handful of pretty fabulous friends that we still keep in touch with, we got a boat to explore the Chesapeake Bay as a family of three: me, Gus and Leroy. This year was full of backyard BBQs, evening boat rides and 10-hour road trips back to KY for so. many. weddings. Technically we had it figured out as a team tackling life together. Our big lesson this year was all about emotions, aka L O V E.
Have y’all read The 5 Love Languages? This book lays it all out! We thought we knew what love was all about, heck we’ve been in love for almost a decade. But marriage is a whole new level and apparently, everyone gives and receives love differently. So my hand holding and cuddles weren’t loving Gus like I thought they were and certainly not as much clean laundry and a few words of appreciation would have. And his cleaning and car washing weren’t giving me goosebumps like kisses and compliments would. According to Gary Chapman, my love languages are words of affirmation and physical touch and Gus is acts of service and words of affirmation.
YEAR 3 - SUPPORT
Hello Chicago! This was our big move to the big city and 3rd move in 3 years. WOW! Ugh, we loved living here. We were brunching, beaching and enjoying fast-paced city life together. It’s almost like each move challenged us in new ways to build a better life together. Plucking us from our comfort zone and tossing us into a totally new season to explore together. I would say a big part of this season was rooted in support.
This year, Gus supported me as I dove head first into blogging full time and navigating life as an entrepreneur. Building a business took more time, resources and sacrifice than I ever could have anticipated. Late nights, no schedule, and my laptop basically attached to my hip meant more stress and less time with Gus. Year 3, for me, meant constantly reminding myself of my priorities; making sure God and Gus were at the top of my list - because those relationships are the real source of my joy.
YEAR 4- FOCUS ON THE FUTURE
We had our church, our community, and an almost fully decorated apartment. Very possibly one of the best, most rewarding, and fun years of marriage yet! There was always someplace to be, something to do and we were there #CountMeIn. Dinner dates, concerts, beach volleyball and boating, the Murray’s were on the move. We were considering staying forever. This year marked a big decision though. Gus was getting out of the Navy and we had the opportunity—for the first time ever—to choose what life would look like for the next few years.
When we talked about our future, it was close to family, in a house with children and a backyard for Leroy. We didn’t envision a bustling city with branches and parties but space, peace, and a parking spot. Year 4 of marriage was fun but we had to focus on the future.
YEAR 5 - TRUST & COMMUNICATION
Hello, Nashville! A new house just 2 hours from family with some room for our family to grow. Half of this year together was spent living in limbo as we moved from Chicago. Sleeping on air mattresses, staying with friends and packing the car up a million times! I talk more about this crazy adventure in this post.. All because… we bought house and my heart pretty much bursts every-time we walk through the door together. There were, of course, the moments you want to pull out your hair; hanging blinds, curtains or really anything that could go terribly wrong. But we took our time doing all the things and making this home it our own little haven.
My favorite part of year 5… getting to work from home together! I was a little nervous at first, I’ve heard horror stories about couples spending all their time together. Not to mention, we don’t have any office space yet. But here we are —literally right now as I type this—at the kitchen table together with our coffee and laptops and life has never been better. We just opened a whole new chapter to our love story and all the other were setting the scene to make this one the best yet.
The lesson from year 5? I’d say is to trust and communicate. Trusting my husband is on my side, knowing he always has my best interest at heart and understanding that everything he does is for US. When either of us feels undermined or offended it’s typically due to little misunderstanding. I’ve learned to ask why he did something instead of assume it was to hurt me. Because it turns out… that is never his goal. It’s typically a little insecurity of mine that I defensively interpret as an attack. We are on the same team and that trust has made marriage delightful.
It’s only been 3 days since our 5 year anniversary but my heart has never been more full than it is today. Each year gets sweeter somehow and this year is one more opportunity to learn and love together!
I wanted to share this post in honor of our 5 year anniversary and to start this year off with a focus on love. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to share something so personal with y’all and super excited to bring it to you with a partner like Zola. For all you ladies who got engaged over the holidays—congratulations! You have a beautiful journey ahead of you and your own love story to write. My only tips to navigating the wedding planning process is to one… freakin’ enjoy it! And two, take full advantage of resources like Zola so you can dot your i’s, cross your t’s, and create a convenient registry from all your favorite stores.
I hope your year is lead with love! Thanks for reading everyone!