Forgiveness + Love | Relationships

Mt St Helens | July 2013

I've come to be a firm believer that forgiveness, love, and commitment are largely intertwined. You can't have one without the other if you want a successful relationship. Of course, this is just my opinion. However, my foundation is that my 5 1/2 year relationship has been one with many ups and downs, with a lot of long distance, having nothing but communication, growing and learning as adults, parents, through heartache, through good times and bad. We all have our stories, and if you are as aware of yourself, your faults, and others as I am, I bet you have a good one to share, full of advice that won't fall on dull ears, and will teach others something pretty great.

With that being said, I've come to find myself in a place over the past year or more where I am constantly on a search to be a better person. To be the best version of myself possible. To be the best mother I can be. To be the best wife for the man I will be marrying. When times get tough, I ask myself, "Do you love him?" Yes. "Do you want to be with him?" Yes. Ok then. Work through it. And that has gotten us through two year long deployments, one four month deployment, and numerous trainings.

I found myself, not too long ago, frustrated by visions of what I wanted him to be. I would see these great men, and wonder, "why isn't he like that?! I know he has it in him, I've seen it before." I very quickly realized how INSANE that is! I didn't fall in love with him because I had a vision. Yeah, I dreamed of my prince charming, and I found him, I didn't create him. I started looking to all he does for me now, everything he offers me, all the reasons I love him more than anything in the world, how he is so perfectly my best friend, and the one made just for me. I completely believe that he is. I realized that everything I want out of him, is already there. I don't need to nag him, asking for more, because I'm not aware enough of other things, of everything he brings to our relationship and offers me. I see this in SO MANY relationships. It breaks my heart.

There are times when we stumble and fall, and times when we make grave mistakes. And when those times occur, we have to work through them. We have to know when to stop punishing one another for our transgressions, forgive them, love them, and move on. It's not forgetting, it's not being stupid - it's being strong enough, it's being committed enough, it's knowing that there is something solid, something you believe in enough to maturely work through whatever problems you face. Together.

Sometimes it's hard to see that we're enough when the person you love is capable of a mistake that may break your heart. It's easy to look to relationships you admire, and think they have it all and if he loves me, he wouldn't do that. This is my hardest to overcome. But that isn't true. I know it isn't. Everyone has their problems. Everyone makes mistakes. No relationship is perfect. You might see all the great things on the surface, when you're around another couple, or from the personal things you know about them, but nothing compares to what goes on behind closed doors. You just can't know it all. And with that, we all make mistakes.

During our most recent deployment, I was alone with two children, two dogs, a home we own, and only his mom to help me through those times. Everyone I came across said, "I don't know how you do it. I don't think I could." My typical response was, "What other choice do I have?" And things fell silent then. Because really, what other choice is there? I have a friend who says that if her husband were to leave again, she wouldn't be there waiting. It's not like I want to be with someone else. It's not like I'd rather be single. So again, what other choice is there, other than to simply wait? I love him. I do not love him conditionally. Therefore, we do what we have to. We are always stronger than we think. And even though I might struggle with these things, it's a battle for love we all have to face.

This is what 60 years of marriage looks like.
I photographed a wedding last weekend where the DJ had all married couples come to the dance floor. There were dozens! Within about ten minutes, he would send away couples married 5 years or less, 10 years or less, 15, and so on. He got to 30 years, 40, 50, and 60 years. I was shocked when I saw half a dozen couples standing who had been married 40 and 50 years. So many great relationships in one place! Wow! And then there were three couples standing at the end, still dancing. 52, 54, and 60 years. This couple in the front were the winners, with a 60 year long marriage. I was nearly in tears as I circled the dance floor, trying to capture each couple, and focusing on these two, wondering so many things, with so many questions, and just wanting to hug them. What a feat, what a thing of beauty, especially in a society with the highest known divorce rate to date. 

It occurred to me then; they have faced their struggles, they have overcome the worst, they have fought and yelled, they slept on the couch, they stomped off angrily, and said things they didn't mean. It's not easy, and it isn't for everyone. And yet, it is possible. The DJ then asked this couple, "what is your advice for the newlywed?" The husband said, "Don't go out to sea." Everyone laughed. The woman, hesitated, and eventually said, "Lots of love." 

And it was then that I realized, there is no secret. There is no recipe. There is just forgiveness. And love. And commitment. It's pretty simple when it comes down to it. Love one another and don't give up.

View the beginning of our trip to Mount St Helens last weekend HERE.