by Rene Syler of Good Enough Mother

This week is a big one for us because after 18 years of marriage, we are still a team. Like most teams, there were some wins and some losses, a bit of fighting among the players, a few bumps, bruises and disagreements over which was the best way to move the ball down the field. We got banged up a lot this year; there were good times, some bad and a handful of really ugly, that are even tough to talk about, frankly.

THE GOOD: We’re still standing. I start here because there were a lot of things that could have easily brought us to our knees; it was bad enough they almost brought us to the breaking point. This 18th year, was probably more difficult than the previous 17 combined. But we have so much for which to be thankful. When I open the refrigerator or jump in the car, pull up a warm blanket or sleep in our soft bed, I am reminded of the good things. I know I complain about it, but I even secretly love the road trips we take as a family, the forced family fun outings, and the spirited discussion over the dinner table; I’m grateful for the memories we are creating for Casey and Cole.

THE BAD: I’m ashamed to admit but sometimes it’s hard to be thankful in the everyday because the everyday can be so difficult. Rushing in the morning or fatigued at night, a careless word said in clipped tone can be the spark for an argument that ends with hurt feelings. Add a couple of moody teens to the mix and what used to be real communication becomes perfunctory. You look up and realize you haven’t nurtured your relationship the way you promised you would, all those years ago and you’ve turned the lights out far too many times with jaw clenched too tightly to squeak out, “I love you” even though, under the hurt, that is what’s in your heart. That was us this year. A lot unfortunately.

THE DOWNRIGHT UGLY: This was the year I thought I was leaving. Really. Why? Because I felt like I was corroding on the inside. When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t recognize that woman, the one who looked worn out, frowned more than she smiled, who worked all the time and didn’t see much progress. And I felt us drifting apart. I was ready to run from this life though I wasn’t sure where I would go. Instead, I settled for a few trips with friends where I had a chance to rediscover the carefree me, the fun, flirty one who wasn’t being pulled in 30 directions, desperately searching for time for herself.

Dalliance. Infidelity. Affair. At our nadir I wondered if that thing I find repulsive, I might actually do. When you’re angry and hurting, you don’t think clearly and clearly, I was not. I did think about it though; it seemed like the shot of excitement I craved. At the end of the day, however, I didn’t do it, the chance for irreparable pain for all involved was just too great to risk. But I saw firsthand how relationships can break down, opening a fissure just big enough for someone else to step in to fill that void.

You know what I learned in all that? That you really love someone when you hurt more for him or her than they do for themselves, when you want them to succeed and are ready to inflict great pain on anyone who hurts them. I’ve felt that part of me heat up when I see people mistreating you and I see it in you when you become fiercely protective of me. It makes me smile. It makes me feel safe. It makes me feel like, no matter what, we’re gonna be okay.

But don’t you see? That’s what team members do. They squabble in the locker room but when the players are on the field, there is one goal, one objective with everyone moving in the same direction. That’s what we do, that’s who we are.

Could I have done things differently? Absolutely. Many times my temper got in the way of real communication. Could you have done better? Yes, of course. We’re not a perfect pair; I guess that’s what makes it, and us, interesting. And just like last year, I go into this next one hoping, praying, INTENDING to be at this place again next year.

Buff, thank you for leading this family, for showing me that even in tough times, we keep going. Thank you for supporting me, for your wisdom, your chivalry and for loving the perfectly imperfect me. While we have our ups and downs, disagreements over kids and money, I can’t imagine having anyone else in my corner.

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY BUFF!