Katie Schnack
October 25, 2015 12:00 pm

When people ask how I met my husband, I have to do a lot of explaining. Because we have been together a long freaking time, and we are not even 30 yet. We met when we were 12 and he asked me to be his “girlfriend,” whatever that looks like at 12, that very day. We have basically been together since, through thick and thin, bad hair and good hair, vacations, finals weeks, marriages and pregnancies. He proposed when we were only 19, and we got married at 21. (I felt like 21 was an “adult enough” age, which is, restrospectively, hilarious.) But I have zero regrets because the really crazy part is, I still love him. Really, really love him. And I even like him. Kinda sweet, right? But also maybe a little too much cheese to handle? Sorry, but this is my story.

When I tell people about all this, I feel like I have to half apologize for having this “on-paper-picturesque love story romance.” I want to also add in “but it isn’t all rainbows and kittens in bedazzled sweaters! We don’t have it all figured out either, I promise! Far from it. We just happened to meet as kids and never grew sick of each other. Sometimes we suck!”

Because the reality is, marriage, relationships—no matter how sweet the start or cute the staged Instagram photos are—can be so tough. Great, but so very tough. I married my childhood sweetheart and over the past 15 years of loving him and seven years of being legally wed, here are a few things I have learned.

You can hold onto the past, but not too hard.

Yes, I will always remember the sweet memories our young love brought about. Any relationship in the early stages comes with those butterfly moments. But butterflies can only carry you so far before they have to rest their tired little wings amiright? I will forever cherish the proms and college visits and first holiday memories I have with my husband, but recognize while the past is awesome, the future can be pretty dang amazing as well. There are still countless opportunities to slow dance and fall in love all over again, but instead of in a sweaty high school gym it might be at your college roommate’s wedding or in your living room when the power goes out. Love can live on if you look ahead for ways to keep it kicking, you just have to focus on moving forward not hanging on to what is inevitably meant to be left behind.

Baggage is a real struggle, y’all. Sometimes it is your job to get rid of it

One day I realized I had married the person all my baggage was attached to. No knocks to my man, but we had just happened to grow up together, so we did a lot of dumb stuff over the years to hurt each other. Every cause of any teenage heartache I ever felt was sharing my double sink and sleeping next to me, long since our acne had cleared. It got to be a little ridiculous that I was hanging onto those wounds. I realized we were now adults, and I would need to let this crap go. That was on me at this point. So, I went to therapy for a few session. I healed stuff I didn’t really know I needed to, and moved on, so I could fully enjoy the grown up, non-childish husband I was so lucky to have. People can genuinely change and grow up, but you have to do your part to allow for that to happen for things to move forward in a positive direction.

You can’t forgive fast enough

In relationships, hurting each other is going to happen. All the time. In fact, marriage kinda brings out the absolute worst side of you. (And the best side, but you know, also the worst). For us, something that has kept things floating along in a semi-sane state is just forgiving quickly, and easily. And by fast, I mean as fast as emotionally possible. If you say the rudest thing of all time, three seconds later apologize. Then, both of you pull up your adult britches and move on. Human nature guarantees you will hurt each other, lets not deny it. The aftermath of how you handle that is really what matters.

Laughter is vital

When childhood romance gets overshadowed by full-on adulting activities, like bill-paying and house-buying and trying to successfully grow a human being then successfully raise said human being, it can be a little rough. For all our ups and downs, we had to find a way to get through it with some sense of enjoyment, because what else is life? Laughter has been a key for us. My husband has been known to crack jokes just as I am about to burst into tears from a Comcast struggle gone wrong, or he dances like a hot mess for me when I am too overwhelmed to get out of bed on a Tuesday. And I let myself laugh at him. I let myself set aside some of the stress and just be present and enjoy the tiny moment of fun with him. And while it can’t always fix everything, it can make things just a little bit better to swallow, and sometimes that is as good as it can get.

Your partner won’t ever be everything for you, so stop expecting them to be

Even with our cheesy past and happy marriage now, my husband won’t ever fill every emotional void I have, and that is fine. His job isn’t to fix all my bad moods or force me to chase my dreams or get all my mental ish sorted out. His job is to love and support me the absolute best way possible, but that is where it ends. Anything semi-salvational is just fantasy. There is a point where you have to create your own happiness, get yourself motivated and on the right track, and let your partner off the hook. Because we are all flawed, crazy-a human beings that are bound to mess up and fail, and if we put all our hope in someone like that, disaster is just inevitable. So if it is your faith, or your art, or your calling, look to that to fill you up. And then just enjoy the ride with your bestie-love, holding hands along the way.

I have no regrets from marrying so young, because we gave each other enough space and grace to grow up while bound together, and still enjoyed ourselves while doing so. Marriage is hard, but I think most all of the best things in life are. Hard, but worth it.

[Image via ABC/Disney]

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