What Makes a Long Marriage? (No, really. I'm asking.) - My Messy Beautiful

Wedding Rome - 23

Marriage, partnership, coupledom- whatever you want to call it, it's been on my mind a lot lately. This post will probably give you a glimpse of me that you haven't seen before. (Oh, and there's a giveaway at the end for those who make it through.)

I got married for the first time at 22. I was still in college and probably had no business making such a big decision. At the time I wasn’t even sure about my choice of majors. But we married and had some good times and some not so good times.

At 28 I decided it probably wasn’t going to work for the long haul and not-so-elegantly jumped ship. Being divorced is not something I like to think about, and nearly a decade later I still carry a lot of guilt.

My grandparents stayed together their whole lives- more than 60 years of marriage. And while my first marriage lasted longer than most celebrity weddings (probably combined), it was less than a tenth of my grandparents time together.

At 31 I married for a second time. My husband Jeff and I embraced our impulsive tendencies and exchanged vows in Rome. We were touring Italy for two weeks as a sort of combination elopement and honeymoon before returning home to a small ceremony and reception with family and friends (where we embraced our procrastinator tendencies by not signing a caterer until the day before our flight out).

Prior to our trip we had arranged (via email) an officiant and a date. That’s it. No place. No photographer. Nothing. Jeff and I are the kind of people that trust that things will work out. (I’m not endorsing that philosophy, just saying that’s how we roll.)

While driving from Sorrento to Rome the day before our scheduled ceremony, we called the officiant and asked, “Can we do this tonight instead?” Because why not get this show on the road already?

He said yes, so we turned to a couple in our tour van (Mike and Jordanne) and asked if they would be our witnesses and photographer and videographer. They got all excited and said yes.

When I came down to the lobby of our hotel, Mike and Jordanne surprised me with Gerber daisies. Little did they know that was my favorite flower. They just thought I should carry some flowers and they went in search of a corner stand to make it happen. Did we choose the right people or what?

The officiant and his coordinator came to pick us up and we began discussing location. The beautiful Borghese Gardens were nearby (well, I didn’t know they were beautiful until we arrived because we hadn’t been there yet) and we wandered until we found a spot Jeff and I liked, then we exchanged vows in tragic Italian. Why Italian? When in Rome…

Who knows what we even agreed to really. To this day we joke with each other: “Oh, you don’t remember that? It was in the Italian vows.”

Wedding Rome - 16

It was a beautiful, peaceful ceremony and somehow so perfectly imperfect that it suited us, well, perfectly. It turns out Jordanne had studied photography for a while and was super excited to try out my camera. Her photos were amazing. See? Things work out.

Now here we are with a teenager (my full-time stepson) and a toddler, and we're coming up on our six year anniversary- just the time when things reached their breaking point for me last time.

There are certainly days where we like each other and days where we don’t like each other very much. Days when we say things to each other that we wouldn’t say to people we don’t like. It’s hard.

There are days when I think maybe I’m bad at marriage. Then there are days where I think marriage must suck in general because there are so many couples who bicker with each other or make offhanded remarks to each other or spend excessive amounts of time outside of the home just to avoid each other.

Where are the happily married couples? Or at least the not unhappily married couples? Where are the people who get through the tough days knowing that there are enough good days to make it all worthwhile?

Because the good days are so good. There are days Jeff and I just click. Days when we make other people sick with our sweetness toward one another. Days where we put on music and dance around the kitchen while cooking together (and man, do I wish there were more of those days!). There are days where we giggle and smile and hold hands and make googly eyes.

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Somehow we keep showing up. We keep coming together. And maybe that’s what they mean when they ask you to be together for better or for worse (if they even said that in Italy- who knows).

I guess there will be good days and bad days. Maybe the key is to keep the balance tipped in favor of more good days. Jeff and I call it the credit/debit system. He has freely admitted there will be days when he will screw up and his goal is to build up enough credit to outweigh the debits. I definitely strive to do the same.

Maybe it’s the practice of coming back together day after day, racking up credit and acknowledging that there will be debit, that gets people to 60 years together. For now, I’ll keep taking it one day at a time and fiercely celebrate our soon-to-be six years.

Oh, and for the record, we returned to Italy with Mike and Jordanne in 2012 when they exchanged vows. I was their photographer and Jeff was their officiant.

See? Things have a way of working out.

Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project and Giveaway:

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — Learn more or join in at Momastery.com. Also, be sure to check out Glennon Doyle Melton’s Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback.

Now for some exciting news. Glennon has given me one paperback copy of Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life to giveaway to a Live Wonderstruck reader. So cool. I read this book when it came out in hardcover and it is one of my favorites. I gave it 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads (and no, I don't hand that rating out lightly).


Sorry for the scary picture. I promise I didn't eat the book.

Anyhow, to enter, simply leave a comment on this post by midnight (Eastern time) this Thursday, April 17. I will announce the winner in Friday’s Flecks post. I think I’ll select the name out of a hat this time (or more likely a bowl). Good luck!



  1. Next October my husband and I will celebrate our 20th anniversary, which...damn...how did that happen? At any rate, I think you answered your own question. "Somehow we keep showing up." It sounds like an off-the-cuff comment, but it implies persistence and presence, which I think are the keys to making it last.

  2. Having the insight to know when a relationship is unhealthy and to jump ship - regardless if it's a graceful leap or a giant lumber away - out is healthy. The days of clicking or grating doesn't mean unhealthy. You and Jeff work and work well together. Keep showing up because some people us you as the dream relationship.

  3. Wow! I love this so much. (Don't enter me in the contest--I'm a fellow blogger).

  4. Thank you, Cara! That means a lot to me, especially coming from a fellow blogger. Thanks for stopping by. :)

  5. Congratulations, Liv! 20 years is an incredible achievement. And yes, I think the key is in continuing to show up. Wishing you many more magical years with your husband.

  6. Thanks, Alina! I guess relationships, like all things in life, are never easy.

  7. how eloquent and hopeful and honest and real. a beautiful post. thanks. Bill

  8. How amazing! I was just telling a dear friend yesterday about my idea of the marriage credit/debit system, altho I didn't say it in those words. Loved the part about the Italian vows. We had vows in English, 31 yrs ago, but are always saying to each other, "Didn't you hear that part in the marriage vows where I get my way about this?!!"
    Your writing brought tears to my eyes. I think we're just learning how to do this marriage thing every day and year as we go. Really difficult sometimes. Really transcendent sometimes. It feels like it is for a reason, bigger than us, but we don't always know what that is.

  9. I enjoyed this post very much. It is funny, honest, interesting, brave and just awesome! Keep them coming, Sherri! You have a talent :)
    P.S. How was Italy? Any favorite spots?

  10. Going on 15 years of marriage... I can tell you that you answered you own question - just keep showing up. Thanks for your honesty! Best wishes to you!

  11. Relationships are definitely not easy; it takes work and compromise, sometimes we find out the hard way! Marriage as an institution does have its flaws like anything else. I think it helps to not take things too seriously (a challenge for me), but being able to laugh at the same things together is always a good thing.

  12. Being able to laugh is definitely important and, yes, sometimes hard to do in the moment. It all takes practice.


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