Marriage: Loving through the rough and tough.

March 2, 2017

When many areas of your life are feeling stress or being challenged, how is a marriage supposed to function well? How can you love the other, when you yourself feel drained, tired, or void of emotional energy?

Currently Gabe and I are experiencing stress in many aspects of our life. Sometimes life feels just heavy. Yet somehow, we are ok. Our marriage is still fueling us and keeping us going. It had me thinking how this is possible when as human beings, our tendency is to shut down, lash out, or turn off when we experience pain or difficulty? Personally, my default when things get difficult is to bottle up and become numb. So today I wanted to write out a few things that have sustained us when grounds around us feel shaky.


  1. Good habits. Those words I keep circling back to. As I have seen play out, the foundation of habits we set from the beginning of our marriage are the habits that have become stable ground for our feet to land both in times when the sun shines and when we are burdened.
    A few examples: no criticism, affirming and encouraging the other, time to connect at night, and frequent apologizing. We have had times when we had to re-set and tweak those habits, but as life has changed for us, these still remain pillars of our relationship.
  2. Talk it out + Listen it out – I could win an award on how long I bottle something up inside, but early on, Gabe wouldn’t give up on helping me talk it out. He refused to let the sun set without resolving the problem. This was frustrating to an introvert, but as time has proved, it was imperative to ever break through or overcome a problem. As soon as I would talk it out, the well of negative energy and emotion would dissipate. It goes two ways though. In order to talk it out (usually the woman, right?), there has to be a listening ear to receive it. Eye to eye contact, no distractions, just listening.
  3. One thoughtful effort a day. – I hesitate to use the word thoughtful, because I feel like it doesn’t quite encompass what I am trying to communicate. Why aren’t there more words in the English language?! Anyways, one effort that is based in selfless love of the other can go miles in a marriage. One a day if possible will keep the stars in your eyes.
    A few examples: Gabe is really good about beating me to the coffee machine and bringing me a mug while I nurse Azelie. It’s a small way that he shows effort to let me know he cares.
    Last night, Gabe knew I was about to relieve stress through push-ups and squats, so he brought in his laptop with my current favorite Netflix show to watch. I was trying to hold onto anger from the difficult day, but how could I? Something so simple, but so thoughtful that it humbled me instantly.
  4. Add some comedy. Make each other laugh. Be ridiculous and make a fool of yourself if you need to in order to make the other laugh. It can take a load off.



Every marriage has different dynamics based on personalities, upbringing, circumstances, and a list of other factors. Our marriage isn’t without its trials (just call me prideful Polly!), and like all great things, it requires consistency, loyalty, dedication, and a whole lot of humble pie. I write this only as an encouragement to keep fighting for the fruitfulness marriage is meant to provide. It will come. There is nothing quick and easy about a strong relationship. It is actually made of the hundreds of small choices day in and day out to keep loving the other through the rough and tough, the good, the bad, and the beautiful.


Photo by Tim Willoughby (He took our wedding photos and so kindly snapped some pictures of our family last weekend….5 kids later!)


Leave a Comment

  • Rachel Layfield

    I COMPLETELY AGREE!:) i feel like i wrote these myself;) Love you sweet friend! Coffee sooooon!

  • This was really helpful to read. Sometimes I look around me at other couples with (or without!) kids and think, do they ever run into challenges too? Your use of the word “heavy” is totally spot on with what I have experienced as well, btw! I love your points about keeping things on track, and I smiled to read that Gabe brings you your coffee first thing in the AM! That’s actually our routine as well – we set the delay brew the night before (best invention ever!) and then my husband brings me up a cup while I am still in bed. It’s a little thing, but it’s actually a big thing.

    Thanks so much for the honest post!

    • Thank you Marai! I never thought I’d value those little things so deeply as I do know. Maybe because amidst the mundane, the effort really holds more weight:)

  • This is a great post and great things to think about for people who are married and getting married. My faincee is about the best person I know and he’s great at making me laugh and just doing the little things. I feel like I could have written this post, myself. 🙂

    They are great reminders!!

    • Humor lifts us out of negativity in a moment, and it is such a good thing to have around when life gets difficult! A quality that outlasts many!

  • So timely. We just had our 3rd baby and I just know we struggle for a while with each new babe. The amount of work with an infant is no joke, then add broken sleep and each of us feeling like we do the lion’s share and you have some feelings of resentment. Sometimes it feels like keeping your head above water is as much as we can do, but your post is a good reminder that little steps help strengthen the foundation

    • I think sleep deprivation is one of the more challenging factors to relationships! In those moments you are keeping your head above water, those good habits can be the life float you are hanging on to! Hoping you get some good rest soon:)

  • This is a sweet and thoughtful post and I’m very glad that you guys have such a good relationship.

    Unfortunately, I married someone who seems to very selfish, while he tries to be a good guy, there’s just so far to go. Plus there’s some delusion and extended family dysfunction in the mix. I’ve been hanging on by the skin of my teeth for years at this point, constantly giving, and almost never being taken care of . My marriage is a source of stress and sadness and has been for probably four of our six years. I recently started going to therapy so I could start to figure out how I’m enabling him, how to break out of this still place, how to live my marriage vows in this emotional and intimate drought.

    Ugh … I’m sorry to dump. I’m just tired and sad and kinda without much hope for the future, and it’s really hard to read these happy marriage posts when my own marriage has got a wall and my husband isn’t putting effort or energy into us and hasn’t significantly for ages.

    • Prayers for you! Many marriages go through valleys and peaks and I have seen marriages on the brink come back to a deeper love! Glad you are taking that first step of caring for yourself! Have you checked out the Gottman Institute. They have amazing therapists all over the country. Also I don’t love every single part of this book… But I think that book “love and respect” has some really helpful insights.

    • Kathryne

      We have been married 18 years and many have been hard … very self absorbed husband and ugly in-laws. I had to make a choice wether I wanted to stay in the marriage and then had to let go and be the best I can be and hope and PRAY he follows. Counseling is good too. 6 children sometimes help and now that they are teenagers, not so helpful!!! Teens are much more difficult on the marriage and we work HARD everyday!!

    • Jenn, my heart breaks reading this. I can only imagine how difficult it is to hold onto hope when only one is giving and the other is taking. A marriage requires an equal effort in all aspects of life. Therapy is a very good place to start. Only you know how serious the situation is so I could encourage you to hold onto hope, but as Kathleen said, work on getting yourself cared for so you have the right frame of mind to assess the situation. I’m rooting for you!

  • How do you not criticize?! Can you give a concrete example? My husband is an amazing husband and father, but he has, self admitted, so much to learn and I feel like by the end of the day I don’t have the patience to ‘baby step’ him through the bedtime routine we’ve had for three years! How can I build the habit of not criticizing?

    • So criticism is one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse of a relationship. The Gottman Institute has many strategies for how to avoid critics and still communicate your needs. Use I not you statements. “You didn’t take the trash out” “I would really appreciate if you took out the trash”. Or simple state the fact and invite dialogue. The trash didn’t get taken out, how can we remember it”. Try to avoid even when really upset universal statements like You always or you never! And when you lose your cool or criticize in an angry way (because hello we are humans!) apologize as soon as you can and call a spade a spade. “I am sorry I spoke disrespectfully, I was frustrated but i love you.” The positive bids should outweigh the negative. Check out the Gottman Institute!

      • Hi Lynne, this is probably the most difficult habit to form and the also words are the most difficult damage to undo. As Kathleen said, we try to avoid the words you always or you never. Constructive criticism doesn’t have to be harmful if it is spoken with the right tone and backed with the right intention. For instance: “I know you must have had a long day, but it really hurt when you snapped at me for no reason.” Or “Because I am with the children all day, it would help me so much if you could take over bedtime tonight.”

        It probably is most difficult if its something you have been dealing with for a long time, because ugh that can be so frustrating! However, we tend to shut down and lose any desire to listen to the other if the approach is negative. Hope this helps?

  • Such great wisdom here! Marriage takes work, humility and LOTS of humor!!! It’s important that people talk about the fact that it takes work. Thanks for writing this!

  • Oh, so agree with these – especially #2. I used to not voice something when it was just an annoyance, and so it just builds and builds and then I explode. Much better with that now! Thanks much for sharing that things aren’t always perfect – but the imperfections can be overcome with teamwork.

  • Mara Horrocks

    “hundreds of small choices day in and day out to keep loving the other”….i LOVE that. it’s so completely true. we don’t just decide to fall in love and get married and that’s that for forever. it’s a constant choice, a constant moving relationship that ebbs and flows just like anything else. thanks so much for this. xo

  • So good over here! Keep on keeping on friend!!

  • Thanks for the very inspiring post Anna!

  • I still look up to you guys for marriage goals 🙂 Thank you for being such an incredible example to me and so many others. It is so incredible to see you both so in love with each other even when life is getting to be so hard and real. LOVE YOU SEESTA. xoxo

  • I’m still learning. Thank you for your wise words.

  • elizabeth ashley

    I really love this. Thank you for sharing.

  • Relationships are hard but also worthwhile. Thanks for sharing these personal stories and tips on how we can do better each day!

    Love from Singapore,
    Yeeling | An Online Space for Travel + Inspiration

  • Beautiful post and so many great reminders to stay present in marriage. Thank you!

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