How Our Marriage has Weathered Life’s [Many] Storms

Thirteen years ago Jordan and I said “I do” on February 2, 2007. We promised to be faithful in good times and in bad. And Marjorie’s hospitalization last week was another stark reminder of just how good we’ve gotten at weathering the bad.

Life has thrown us our fair share of curveballs. And on our lucky thirteen I thought I would share how we’ve managed to survive the storms together and find joy in the ordinary.

1. Therapy

We all know communication is key in every relationship, but we aren’t all born with that key in hand. Enter: therapy.

Therapy helped us mold that key of communication in our relationship. If you ask me, all couples should do some type of counseling. Jordan and I weren’t given much of an option as it was necessary through my eating disorder recovery. But the communication skills we learned through the process still serve us today.

Therapy gave us the tool to not only talk to each other, but more importantly it taught us how to listen (really listen) to each other. It is no secret that I am guilty for bulldozing Jordan with strong words and I have had to learn to take a step back and listen to his perspective. And then after I listen, I communicate to him that I was right all along. JK. Not really.

2. Fight Out Loud (ish)

I grew up with parents who never fought. Or at least I thought they didn’t fight. Turns out they just did it behind closed doors, which was great but it painted a picture perfect portrait of marriage.

Jordan and I rarely have big arguments and we certainly keep those behind closed doors. But our kids are not shielded from our varying opinions, tough discussions and debates. I feel it is important to see that we don’t agree on everything single thing. AND I feel it is VERY important our kids see us communicate, compromise and work through issues together.

3. Go to Bed Angry

This one has taken us some time. When we first married, we agreed ‘Never go to bed angry.’ Thirteen years later – we go to bed not so happy with each other. We’ve found it is often better to call it quits and let the nerves settle rather than exhaust the same argument.

It is rare that Jordan and I have big fights anymore (see 1. Communication). When I was in my eating disorder, our fights were horrendous. I took all my self-hate and anger out on him, trying to hard to push him away so I could die alone.

Needless to say, no matter how horrible I was to him, he remained by my side. In that process, we learned that we needed to let tempers settle before talking through the issue at hand.

The reason we don’t have big fights anymore is because of the above – we communicate, we talk it out and if we have to we go to bed a little annoyed and talk it out in the morning over coffee.

4. Love Yourself

Partnerships don’t work when one half relies on the other to stand. In our relationship we are each 110% ourselves. We don’t apologize or change for the other, we love each other for being authentically ourselves. From being self-sufficient to having our own interests, I feel individuality is vital to any successful relationship.

Jordan knows that I need my ‘me’ time. It is how I fill up my cup. I know that he needs his space to decompress when he comes home from a long day of teaching. Both of us know and give each other the space to fill our cups so that we may pour love into our family.

Our individuality and commitment to each other is a constant balancing act. Respecting each other’s boundaries and needs while also compromising when the other needs a bit more support.

5. Stay In Your Lane

People often ask how we ‘made’ it through the eating disorder, all of our moves, Marjorie’s early birth, cancer (well and now pneumonia). The answer is simple: we stay in our lane.

We know where are strengths are and we use them. Jordan is NOT good in a hospital setting. He is like a caged lion on meth. He can’t sit still, paces with raging worry, knocking over medical equipment in his path.

I, on the other hand, have been baptized by fire in nursing and hospital care. I can sit for hours, listen to doctors, relay information and be a patient advocate.

While I hold down the fort in the hospital, Jordan holds our normal – which is just as (if not more) important. He is an absolute rockstar in maintaining routine for Manning and all of us when life spirals out of control. He is our steadfast normalcy. So while many praise me for my long hospital stays, there is no way I would survive life’s tough times without him.

6. Celebrate the Ordinary

After our many battles and hospital stays, you might find Jordan and I toasting champagne on Tuesday just because. Or get tears in our eyes when one of the kids reaches a seemingly insignificant milestone. We have had life flip upside down so many times we can’t help but feel massive gratitude for the ordinary.

We have emptied our bank account more times than I can count for life’s hurdles. And each time we find more gratitude in the simple things in life. Our relationship is not built on fancy vacations or big houses, but on grit and dedication to each other and our family. We have absolutely everything we need and then some.

We love and celebrate every minute of our crazy home, with its never ending energy, noise and love.

7. Know (and Accept) Your Partner’s Love Language

Jordan’s love language is touch. Mine is not.

Mine is receiving gifts. His is not.

We have polar opposite love languages. Mine gets misunderstood with material gifts, but my actual language is gifts of thoughtfulness and time.

After years of failed anniversary and birthday gifts, I have come to embrace Jordan for the terrible gift giver he is. He is never going to present me a surprise that I cooked up in my head. And that’s okay. While he can’t keep a surprise, he is amazing in SO many other ways.

My former therapist, Mary, helped me to realize that no one can read my mind – not even Jordan. So if I wanted something special for my birthday or our anniversary then I need to do it myself – and not hold a grudge.

And I have to learn to give Jordan his love language of touch. I hate hugging in the morning before coffee. Any human interaction before coffee is my worst nightmare. And yet, here I am hugging Jordan at the coffee pot because I know that is what he needs first thing in the morning. It might be an ass out hug reaching for my coffee, but it is a hug nonetheless.

We’ve found a middle ground in love languages and it is a beautiful place to live.

7. Empathy

I feel empathy is the greatest gift we can give any fellow human being. Jordan and I have worked hard in our marriage to give each other empathy and space.

Empathy happens when we truly listen to each other and do not start sentences with “At Least.” Jordan is the epitome of a sunshine and rainbow shitter. Everything will always get better. DRIVES. ME. NUTS.

During hard times, I need my space to sit in the shit and just be sad or angry. He was notorious (like many men are) of trying to swoop in and ‘fix’ everything.

Thankfully, he has learned to not shit rainbows on my reality parade. Through our multiple life hardships he has learned to hold the space – to not ‘fix it’ and sit with me in the hurt and sadness.

In fact, just this past week, with Marjorie in the PICU, I was hanging on by a thread. He did not say, “She will be better soon.” He simply grabbed me in a bear hug and let me ugly sob into his shoulder. That is empathy.

8. Laugh (A LOT)

It is pretty obvious I got lucky enough to marry my best friend. And a big part of what makes our relationship so strong is laughter. Seriously. We laugh…a lot…even when life is not so funny.

In our thirteen years together, there has only been one day that Jordan did not make me laugh: the day Marjorie was diagnosed with cancer – Wednesday, May 27, 2015.

Of everything that happened that day, Jordan’s stoic face and still body are what I remember most. I kept waiting for him to jump up and make me laugh, but he did not.

Laughter would come later that night. I forgot what he said, but I remember leaning my head on his shoulder as we sat together on the hospital’s pleather couch looking at our baby girl. When he made me laugh, I knew we would get through.

Jordan’s laughter is my daily dose of joy and reminder to not take life too seriously. He is my partner in JOY and the reason we have survived so many storms.

9. Never Stop Dating

Jordan and I certainly don’t get everything right. But one thing we do is date night. We try at least once every week or so to take some time out just for us. It might be lunch or a nice dinner out with a sitter. Regardless, it is time for just the two of us to connect. And let’s be honest, we end up talking about the kids the entire time.

10. Embrace Your Imperfect Marriage

We know in our minds there is no such thing as a perfect marriage, but that doesn’t stop our comparison gremlins from looking at others on Instagram with envy. When Jordan and I were in the throws of my eating disorder and working through therapy, I looked at many of my friends’ marriages and wished I had what they had. Little did I know they were struggling with money troubles, infidelity and every other marriage problem. Bottom line – nothing is perfect. Not even marriage.

Don’t compare your partnership to others. We are all different in so many ways. I have come to love how Jordan and I work through our differences and come together in hard times. I always say that Jordan was not my ‘rock’ in my recovery journey. He was my steadfast imperfect companion – learning and falling along with me on the journey.

That is how we have continued to live. We fall and help each other back up. We learn from mistakes and say, “I’m sorry.” We work together every day to embrace the ordinary joy and lean on each other through the valleys.

Happy thirteen imperfect years, my love. You probably won’t read this because you are terrible at technology and email. But I will tell you anyway a million times over.

I’m not sure why we’ve had so many bumps in the road, but I know damn sure God made sure we found each other to ride out this journey TOGETHER.

All my love.

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  • Melanie Arrigo
    February 5, 2020 at 1:58 pm

    Hi McCall
    Thoroughly enjoyed your writing as usual. You certainly have that talent.
    Hope all is well with you and things are getting back to normal.
    Do you have any update on the Baton Rouge e.d. support group?
    Thanks so much,
    Melanie Arrigo