We were young and ready to take on the world. Naive to think we knew what it was really going to take to be grown ups, but we sure as hell gonna to give it a shot.
Not knowing where we would live to start our journey as a newly married couple, we planned a weekend away in Virginia Beach about three months before our planned wedding day. Picking up a newspaper from the local beach town,we were encouraged as we scanned the classifieds. We saw a few job offers that looked promising and found a cute two story townhouse apartment, that if we crunched the numbers right we could make it work. We jumped for it. Signing a one year lease Sean moved in by himself after getting hired at an irrigation company installing sprinkler systems. About six weeks later right after our honeymoon, I joined him in our new home.
Virginia Beach was located about four hours south from my hometown of Woodbridge VA. We figured it was far enough from home to establish our own life. But close enough to visit on weekends. We did not have two households of stuff to combine since I was moving in from directly my parent’s house and Sean could fit everything he owned in his little Subaru.
Trying to conserve as much money as we could, my dad said he could help us get moved in. He had an open bed dump truck and was willing to drive it for us. We loaded everything we owned in the truck, which was a few pieces of furniture and a ton of wedding presents. We covered it with a bright blue tarp and headed south to start our new life as Mr. and Mrs.McNally. Everything made it safe except for a few house plants that arrived pretty tattered without their leaves.
Over the next few weeks and months, we tried to figure out our newly married life. Prior to May 12th, 1990 was our nine month long distance engagement. Sean lived in Michigan and I was in Virginia. We had only been on three dates before getting engaged. Now we were on a quest to spend our first year of marriage, dating and getting to know each other.
Living in a new city, the first time ever moving out from my parent’s house, at ages twenty and twenty one we had so much to learn. But there’s nothing like learning to swim except jumping in the deep end. We were determined to make it work.
I got a job at a photo lab. Back when getting photos printed in one hour was a pretty big deal,before the days of digital photography. I help expand the services the business offered to include hand printed black and white prints. I spent part of my days in the quiet solitude of the dark room smelling the chemicals that reminded me of home. I had my own darkroom since I was sixteen.
Once Operation Desert Storm was in full force. Our new hometown emptied due to massive Naval deployments and the area quickly struggled economically. One day Sean came home from work early after getting laid off that morning . Not knowing anything other to do, than to get up the next day and look for employment. Within days he secured another job, installing signs at a sign shop. Before the year was up he moved to another sign shop, that involved graphic design and creating signage. This gave him a handful of skills that carried him through several jobs as his career path evolved in the years that followed.
Combined we made $9.52 an hour. Somehow, we were able to pay our $550 monthly rent, buy groceries and pay utilities. A friend had given us a Nintendo game as a wedding gift. Many evenings our entertainment consisted of renting a couple movies from Blockbuster with a buy one get one free coupon we would get from the junk mail stuffed in our mailbox. Then we would have an ongoing WWF challenge on our Nintendo.
The upside of our early financial struggles was that our time was spent on each other and not on separate hobbies and other people.During these early years we grew up and became one, together. We had many firsts, together. We struggled, together. We prayed for provision, together. When prayers were answered, we rejoiced, together.
When times were tough, we leaned in to each other, not anyone else.This created a strong bond in the foundation of our marriage.
Many years later I credit this foundation as the glue that kept “us” together as we later encountered hits that tried to tear down the life and relationship that took us many years to build.
It was returning to this foundation in our decision to continue “us” that we were able to start over and push the reset button in our life and marriage. Was it easy? We would both answer in unison “No”. Was it worth it? “Hell yeah”
Marriage is full of hurt and painful times, but there’s also much rejoicing and many triumphs too. Forgiveness, kindness, grace and mercy are key in any successful marriage. It’s not a once and for all decision, but a daily choice to make it work and walk it out, together, through thick and thin, being kind to each other and speaking well of one another.
If you and your spouse find yourself in a rough spot, deciding if it is worth sticking it out, I encourage you to carve out time for just the two of you. Be nice to each other. If you have small kids, get a babysitter. Go away together. Do simple, fun things again. Go to bed together, at the same time again. Make being together a priority. You are likely two very different people since you met or since you were married. I imagine there have been many life changes for each of you since then. Get to know who each other is now, and fall in love all over again. If there have been mistakes made and offenses given, then most importantly, forgive each other.