Lessons from Love and Marriage

Please don’t tell anyone, but I am a sentimental fool. I cry during chick flicks, I love a good love story. I love falling in love and sometimes I get teary thinking about how lucky I am to be married to the man of my dreams.

I met my husband before I knew what kind of man I was dreaming about. I was 29, raising my little girl by myself. I had a bunch of debt, some emotional trauma from a bad first marriage and awful divorce. I had what no one wants…baggage.

I was friends with his sister. She loved me. She loved him. And she thought we might love each other. Maybe it wasn’t love right away, but it was really fun. He taught me to be more adventurous on the ski slopes and in the kitchen. I taught him that we could still have fun, even though we had to be home early on school nights.

We had so many differences, but loved many of the same things. We loved to hike, ski, and travel together. We were also both extremely concerned about my daughter’s happiness, and what our relationship would be like for her. That focus made us slow down and really figure out what we wanted. If this wasn’t going to be a forever thing, it wasn’t going to be a thing at all. So, we got to know each other, and dated for 6 years.

We had our ups and downs, and ons and offs but we knew a few simple things; I loved him. He loved me. And we both loved her.

In the Fall of 2004, Mark proposed to me after a romantic dinner in the mountains. The next day, he proposed to my daughter. He didn’t tell me he was going to do this, but he had his grandmother’s wedding ring engraved to say, “Jag älskar dig”, I love you, in Swedish. He gave it to her in a tiny box, with a tiny note that had a big question, “Will you be my daughter?”

I said yes. She said yes. And on May 21, 2005 we were married. We celebrated with close friends and family. We told ourselves that marriage wouldn’t change anything for us. We were wrong.

We bought a house and started our lives as man and wife and child. We were happy. I was in love with him, in love with love, and ready to see where this journey would take us.

One year later, the dragon appeared in our fairy tale. I didn’t feel well. I was tired and dizzy, and the side of my face was tingly. After a month of extensive tests I got the phone call. “You have MS.” All I could think of was, “how I am I going to tell my family that I have Multiple Sclerosis?” I had to tell him first. I had to tell him that I didn’t know what was going to happen. I had to tell him that I didn’t know if I would be able to hike with him, ski with him or even walk with him someday.

About a week after my diagnosis, I did the unthinkable. I asked him to leave me. I didn’t ask him to do that so he would feel sorry for me. I didn’t ask him to leave me because I wanted to do this alone. I asked him to do it, because I wanted him to have a full life, and I wasn’t sure if I could offer that to him anymore. I thought he deserved more than taking care of a wife with MS.

I learned so much from him and our marriage:

  • Love is not enough. Take it from an expert, it is easy to be in love, but it is not enough to sustain a long term relationship. You need all the other stuff too. You need patience, gentleness, romance, passion, compromise, real friendship and selflessness.
  • Being right is not important. Seriously, in most cases who cares who was right? By the time you are really mad at each other, you likely can’t remember the reason you got angry in the first place. It’s ok to just kiss and make up. Not everything needs to be resolved.
  • Actions speak louder than words, but say the words anyway. When my husband says, “you look beautiful” or sends me a text that says, “can’t wait to see you tonight.” It makes me feel special and more loving. Say I love you every day. Even when you’re not feeling it.
  • Marriage at it’s best, is simple. Wow, I can’t believe I said that. I thought marriage was supposed to be really complicated, and near impossible to hold onto. I was wrong. Marriage is complicated and near impossible to hold onto when you stop thinking about each other, when you stop thinking about marriage. Keep it simple and if you notice things are crazy complicated, pare down. Like you would clean out a closet, clean out the things that are getting in the way of being married.
  • Less stuff means more genuine connection. By getting rid of our stuff, paying off our debt, and spending less, we can finally zero in on what each other needs the most. Even though we have known each other for 11 years, we are getting to know each other better, because we have the time and space to pay attention.

I am forever grateful that he did not take me up on my offer to leave. He has seen me at my worst, and inspired me to be my best. By staying focused on the most important things in our lives, we fight MS together, and we are working towards an amazing future and enjoying ourselves along the way.

I think we told ourselves that marriage wouldn’t change a thing because things were so good. Things were so good, and we didn’t want to disturb what we had. Instead, we made what we had better. Each day I think, “I can’t believe I love him more than I did before.” Every day, I think about how lucky I am to be living my very own love story.

As one of the main characters of a simple love story, I know that my intentions and my actions support my marriage. My husband is amazing, but he can’t do it alone. We may encounter bumps in the road and a few surprises, but together, we will celebrate and protect our marriage, and our family.

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Comments

  1. says

    Absolutely beautiful post, Courtney. This gave me the chills.

    I also love to hear that you dated for six years before you were engaged. My partner and I have been together for five, and are asked quite often when we’ll get married, but since he’s Australia – where many couples no longer marry, but still raise children and live as if married – we’re waiting. We live together and are so happy together.

    Thank you for sharing you story.

  2. says

    Thank you so much for opening up and sharing. It just goes to show how strong of a woman you truly are! I love how he proposed to your daughter! That shows how sweet of a man he is! You both are truly blessed! Congratulations from Chicago!
    Jenny

  3. says

    Such a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it. And the tips? Timeless. They sound very similar to what my wife and I have discovered since being married. “Love is not enough” especially resonates with us….er, with me. It isn’t enough. We both require more and different things than just love. Getting to know each other and taking the time to foster that is so key. Again, thank you for sharing!

  4. says

    Hi Courtney,

    What a beautiful post :-)

    I had tears in my eyes once you got to the proposing to your daughter bit – how thoughtful. I have never heard of someone doing that before.

    You sound and all look so happy and thanks for sharing your advice x

  5. says

    I’m echoing what others are writing. I think it was a lovely and true gesture for your husband to propose to your daughter. Thanks for a great post!

  6. Melissa says

    Courtney,
    Thanks for sharing your wonderful story. I often hear people say “It’s the first year of marriage that’s the hardest”, and “relationships are a lot of work”. When I hear that, sometimes I think, if it’s so hard, maybe they aren’t in the right relationship. I’ve been married for nearly 7 years and I have yet to encounter the hard part (knock on wood). I think it’s important to know know who you are, and that the person you are sharing your life with knows who s/he is, and accepts that the other person isn’t going to be ‘everything’ for them (impossible, and too much pressure!). Humans have a way of making life much more difficult than it has to be! This is the short version of my story: When I was nine I told my mother I was going to move to Australia when I grew up. I was in the Peace Corps in Romania (and worked with the MS Society there) and went to Santorini, Greece, for a vacation and met Scott, an Australian sailor. We wrote letters and emailed for over a year, then I went to see him in Australia, bounced back and forth for a while, we eloped in Vegas, and now I’m living my childhood dream. I’m thankful everyday for my life and the people (and animals!) in it. May you have many years of happiness and good health ahead of you!

  7. says

    I’m so happy for you that you can write the things you share in this post, and so happy for myself that I could have written parts of it too! Not everything needs to be resolved…love it.

  8. says

    Hi Courtney,
    I love your story and you all look so wonderful. We’ve been deceived by our culture and story books about happy ever afters. There may be happy ever afters but it’s no fairy tale, it’s hard work. I loved reading your story and I’m finally going to catch up on my neglected on line life this week. That means I’ll be at the bootcamp;) Thanks for the inspiration. Hugs, Tess

  9. says

    A beautiful story, Courtney. It takes a lot of understanding and maturity to handle the big changes in our partner’s lives. I actually know of someone who divorced her husband after he had a stroke. Those sad stories really are out there and I’m so glad that yours is not one of them!

  10. Barb says

    Lovely story. I especially love how you were concerned about how your relationship would affect your daughter. How very selfless of you. She is a very blessed girl. My husband and I married after dating 2 and 1/2 years. We were both just kids (19 and 22) What did we know? I was “riding off into the sunset” into the great “happily ever after”. Well, 37 years later, I’ve learned that people change, life is hard, and love lasts. Neither of us is the same as we were way back then, but we’ve learned to adjust, let each other grow and have stayed in love all these years. I am truely blessed.

  11. says

    Thanks for sharing your story – my husband and I dated 7.5 years before getting married, so I know how those long courtships feel! I’m keeping up with you and your blog because I agree with your last bullet point – we desperately need to eliminate the stuff to regenerate our connection with each other. I’m working on it!

  12. says

    What a beautiful love story!! Simply beautiful!!

    The proposal to your daughter brought the stinging eyes and the heart squeeze!!

    Thank you so much for sharing your story…..it makes me appreciate my husband and our own story!! We celebrated 22 years this year and that story gets a little dusty!!

  13. says

    I love this story, Courtney! Thank you for sharing it and encouraging us all to simplify our marriages–you’re SO right; it doesn’t have to be complicated.

  14. Mom says

    My Darling Daughter,
    You absolutely amaze me with your writings. I am so proud of you and the family that you, Mark and Bailey have made together. It warms my heart to peek into your life.

    Love you,
    Mom

  15. says

    Aw yay :) I love it when I read about happy and beautiful partnerships. My boyfriend and I just celebrated our 7 year anniversary (as much as you can when both of you are sick.) I couldn’t ask for more from our relationship. I’m so grateful for what we have and the time that we’ve spent together. He’s the one and only person who supports me in everything I do and helps me be the best I can be.

    Great use of story btw. I loved it!

  16. says

    Your post was beautiful. And I love that your husband proposed to your daughter – ooooh, I got goosebumps reading that.

    I wish all of your good health and joy together.

  17. Von says

    What a romantic, touching, and real love story. Thanks for sharing. My husband and I have been married for almost 22 years now with a tween daughter. We strive to keep our life simple and I credit that for our happy home.

  18. says

    Courtney it’s amazing how I came across this today of all days as I have just posted how I want love in my life. To find and enjoy what you have gorgeously shared with your story. Love and marriage is simple when the right two (or in your case three) people make it so. You’ve inspired people like me to never give up and that’s very important inspiration indeed. You look beautiful and radiant in your wedding dress and your husband is a true gentleman and wondeful soul. I’m so glad you found each other. I wish you long years of love and togetherness and hope to one day emulate your happiness.

    • says

      John, Thanks so much for your kind words. I’m glad this post was at the right place at the right time for you. Keep me posted on your search for love! You know I love a good love story.

  19. says

    Had to share this. A reader emailed this to me after receiving this post via email:

    “I hope you get a chance to read this comment, but your email could not have come at a BETTER time. I, too was married in 2005 to my soul mate, and most of the time we are so happy. I happened to be furious with him tonight, and I opened your email about marriage lessons about an hour later. Thanks for reminding me about the real reasons a marriage can work and that you don’t always have to “fight it out” to see who is right. I just wanted to let you know that I believe things happen for a reason, and your message came at the PERFECT time tonight.”

    Love it!

  20. says

    One of my friends was recently diagnosed with MS as well. She’s taken time to figure out what this means to her and her life away from her boyfriend, whom I am closer friends with than her. I think she might be trying to push him away so he doesn’t have to share the troubles of her life. I hope they resolve that, because to me there is hardly a more solid relationship than theirs. It’s not perfect but it works really well and supports and uplifts them both in a way I would be totally jealous of if I didn’t love them so well and didn’t have my own relationship that is pretty solid as well ;) Oh and she also wrote me a letter about all this and asked me to look in on her boyfriend electronically to make sure he’s ok. Anyway,

    I loved your post and it’s making me teary eyed :)

    • says

      Miss P. If your friend ever wants to talk to someone living with MS, I am happy to help. Sometimes it helps when you are recently diagnosed to talk to someone who has experienced that scary time. Let me know how I can help.

  21. says

    Courtney, your story is incredibly inspiring and powerful. What a wonderful gift you give by sharing this post. I love that you included photos from your wedding it gives it even more meaning and more beauty.

  22. says

    I love your ring story, Courtney, and I’m glad you decided to share it on your blog with beautiful photos from your wedding. You guys look so happy.

    My parents divorced when I was 3, and both of them remarried when I was 5. My sister and I were flower girls at both of their weddings, and my brother was ring bearer. I liked my stepdad, but it was still a huge change at the time. But now I can’t imagine him not having been a part of my life. He truly was a second dad to us.

    The fact that your husband included your daughter in his proposal in such a meaningful way says a lot about his character. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

    Naomi

    • says

      Naomi, I’ve always wanted to tell the story and your comment on my comment inspired me to do it. I’m glad to hear that your stepdad is so important to you now.

      Happy Thanksgiving to you too! (and have a great weekend!!)

  23. says

    Hi Courtney,
    What a beauty filled story full of *love* and inspiration..wow! Thank you for sharing so openly.
    I also think the tips you share on marriage can be used to embrace opening our hearts to *living* life fully…especially ‘at it’s best, it’s simple’..Sometimes we allow Fear to redirect our steps, or our minds to cloud the moment..and you’ve shared here the *magic* that surrounds us and may be ours when we open to it..

    • Courtney Carver says

      Thanks Joy! I agree that sometimes imaginary things like fear and mind games get in the way. The simpler it is, the more we can enjoy.

  24. Robyn says

    I read your post on Ali’s site, which brought me here. Wow. What a beautiful story! It made me cry, in a good way! I too am on my second marriage, and am in love in way I never knew existed. I have two daughters and he loves them and they love him. I’m so lucky, you’re so lucky! I think I’ve just stumbled on a new blog to follow! Yay!

  25. says

    I’m also here from Ali’s site, although I follow your blog in my e-mail as well. I’d just never read this post as it was from some time in the past. I love your bullet points at the end of this beautiful post, and I agree with every one.

    I have a strange love story. My sweetheart and I met and were engaged 8 days later. We were determined to make it work, and God has been so good to us, honoring our intentions. We’ve been blessed with four daughters, and we celebrated 23 years of marriage this spring. Our rockiest years have been the most recent, but despite financial and vocational uncertainties (including bankruptcy), we find ourselves enjoying each other more and more.

    A good marriage takes selflessness and thanksgiving, but the rewards are immeasurable. Thank you for sharing your story!

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