Marriage: Year Ten

Fall 2012: Learning Why We Make Vows

Here is one thing I learned in the fall of 2012: There are some people in the world who don’t care about your marriage vows.

Here is another thing I learned in the fall of 2012: I do.

There is tension, temptation, strength, and fear between those two truths. Truth #1 creeps into my daily and evening routine with random texts and Facebook posts, and I am frantic with anxiety, trying to hold it all together – wanting to keep a work “friendship” while pushing away these sporadic flirtations, wanting the compliments to go away but also feeling noticed. Truth #1 makes me feel offended and flattered, violated and appalled.

I throw myself into Truth #2: I do. There are Bible verses about temptation and I wield them like the sword the Word of God calls itself, aim and stab, remind myself over and over again but especially in the moments when marriage is less the “for better” and more the “for worse.” Brandon is traveling again, and I go along for a weekend to retreat with him. Our date nights take us golfing and to dinner, line dancing and out for drinks. Sometimes date night is Scrabble in the living room, sweet potato fries and guacamole and American Honey.

I don’t let on much to anyone what pops up on my computer screen from time to time. It’s too much, and I am a woman who has things under control.

Spring 2013: Learning about Losing Control

Things start to fall apart. As a woman who has things under control, when those things start to push against the edges, the surface calm ruptures. Somewhere in the spring of 2013 after my mom’s cancer diagnosis and Elvis’s episode with kidney stones and more and more out-of-town travel trips, I officially lose it. I want to quit everything. I know I’m not alone, but I feel so alone. I don’t want to ask for help because I feel like I’m always asking for help. I am stronger than this. I’ve got this.

It feels to me like Brandon is living his best life now, on the road with his road friends, traveling from city to city, eating at exotic restaurants, drinking bourbons. I don’t believe that he misses us when he’s gone. When he tells me there’s a new game on his schedule I start to cry. “Look at me! This isn’t me! I’m losing it! Why am I bawling right now?!”

We keep going.


Spring 2013: Learning about Mercies

On the day an essay I wrote gets published, called “Field Guide to Resisting Temptation,” Brandon goes to a bar. There is a woman there he finds attractive. We both know already about this attraction. I teased him about her the first time we met her. This time, she comes on to him (Truth #1: There are some people in the world who don’t care about your marriage vows.)

Brandon wakes me up when he gets home. “Your essay on temptation was published just today and then this happens,” he says. “I understand, now, I understand.” (Truth #2: We do.)

Summer 2013: Learning What Parents Do After the Kids Go to Sleep When You’re Camping

At Camp Sandusky, the children are asleep in our 10×10 shed. The crickets and the highway roar peacefully behind us. We watch the embers burn in the fire ring, play cards, drink sweet tea vodka. There are so many ways we never imagined being here. Will this life always be this crazy? Are we missing it? Is this what we will do forever?

We cycle through these narratives every six months or so, in the quiet and undistracted minutes alone. Our marriage is not just tag-team grocery shopping and babysitting, laundry washed and folded, dinners discussed and cooked and eaten; no, we are creators and dreamers, lovers and friends, ambitious and insecure, weathering the seasons together as best as we can.

The fire dims and the night air cools. I am grateful for our double seater, for darkness, for sweet tea vodka. We kiss. We do some other things. Camp Sandusky turns out to be not so bad after all.

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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