We are starting our love stories series today with Malinda Fuller. She is a writer, a mom, a wife, and an inspiration. I have been following her for a couple of years on Instagram and I reach out to her because I've found the way she and her husband support each other so beautiful, not to mention that engagement story. Dreamy.
“Get out of the sleigh,” he ordered through chattering teeth.
I threw him a look that said, “you’re crazy!” and slid further beneath the warm blankets.
“Get out of the sleigh,” he sighed again, from the ground.
I groaned slightly and slipped into the biting cold, dropping down onto the crunchy white ground.
Silence surrounded us. It’s what happens after a long night of steady snow. It blanketed everything, and it was stunning. In front of us was a frozen lake surrounded by evergreens dressed in shimmering flakes. The sky was clear. It was a perfect Canadian winter day.
Down on one knee dropped my then-boyfriend, and awkwardly pulling off mittens, he cupped my hand and asked me to be his wife. It wasn’t a drawn out speech— for he isn’t a long-winded man, and the mercury hadn't risen above freezing, so I quickly said yes and dashed back toward the warmth of our sleigh, pulled by horses. The driver cheered, we stole a quick kiss (a first) and sat in a daze for the remainder of our frozen, fairy-tale ride. It was the day after Christmas, and I was elated.
Our engagement was quick and deliberate. I lived in my native land of Canada until the day we got hitched and then we moved back to Texas, which is where we had met two and a half years prior. We were young and in love, with nothing more than a 4x4 truck and the smallest u-haul you can imagine to our name. Our first apartment cost us less than $500/month, and we quickly moved from living as two individuals to life as “one.” I thought it would be bliss, and it was. Except for that messy part where two people bring hordes of stuff into a new relationship— no, not material possessions, but baggage none-the-less.
Travel schedules pulled us apart and then brought us together. Career changes brought turmoil and stability. Geographical moves brought us closer to family, and then further away. And children…. oh children, they brought gray hair and laughter. But at the center of the new adventures were two people who had committed to each other— till death do us part.
It wasn’t extravagant trips or expensive gifts that gave us stability in the midst of change (primarily because we didn't have much of those two things!) What gave our marriage the strong foundation was years spent growing a friendship first. Our entire dating relationship and engagement was spent living in separate countries which forced us to work on that all-important piece of any relationship: communication.
We didn't have smartphones or social media. We used email, and before that, we purchased a stamp and dropped an envelope into the mail slot. We had landlines, and we used them often. We decided early on that we wanted something better than a mediocre marriage and that we would need to be proactive about it. And that meant choosing to fight.
Fighting for excellent communication means that we don’t let things build up; we address them right away. In the beginning, we talked honestly and bravely about pornography, jealousy, about our dreams for the future, and the hurts from our past. Our conversations today are just as vulnerable when we address money and spending habits, work/life balance, the in-laws, sexual satisfaction, and unfulfilled dreams. We welcome the probing of our heart, and we continually evaluate what’s working and what’s not— asking "what does the other person need," and "where are we headed next?" We are allowed to ask any question, and we pray together on the regular.
On the regular means daily— every night before going to sleep is just one occurrence in a typical day. Even when my husband is away for his job we still pray together daily. We pray over the kids, our work, over friends and our sex life, over our finances and families, over the community we are a part of and our audacious dreams for the future. We realized a long time ago that to have a great marriage we couldn’t do things like the world and hope for a better result. We needed to bring God into the center, and fight to keep Him there.
We fought for date nights— which in the early days meant sleep training our children so that “evenings together” became a priority. It was our chance to connect, and it was the only way we could afford to have alone time, and physically manage it with two children under two. Now that they are older (but with family still far away) it means putting a line in the budget for date nights, even if we have to cut something else.
Our kids are our world, but they take second priority to our marriage— because one day our kids will be old enough to leave. And then we'll either be two people sitting at the dinner table with nothing to talk about except the weather, or we will be entering our third act of life with excitement for all that is yet to come. But you can’t arrive at that place if you haven’t done the work of fostering your marriage during those child-rearing years.
We’ve made mistakes. We’ve hurt one another. When our past sexual experiences and emotional relationships came creeping into our lives throwing doubt, worry, and fear, we had a choice to make. Stay and fight, or turn and run away. My husband is quicker to apologize then I am, and he is full of compassion and grace. But we always forgive— even if we don’t want to, because that’s what love does. Loving the other person, especially in the moments where they least deserve it, or when you least feel like giving it, is the definition of love. It’s choosing selflessness every day and serving each other continually.
I would classify our current season of marriage as strong and sweet, but there have been others better defined as "dark and difficult." We've come this far by choosing to love and choosing to fight for a thriving marriage. It doesn't just happen.
We’ll be married 13 years this spring, and while sailing into the double digits of marriage may be a significant accomplishment by today's standards, it also feels like a blink. Some days it feels like we are just getting started, and I couldn’t be more excited about what's yet to come.