Keeping Marriage Alive In The Trenches

Marriage in the trenches! I always think of this blog as motherhood-with-an-extra-side-of-police-life, but in the last several weeks, the majority of questions I’ve gotten from all of you have actually been about marriage.

Several of you specifically asked about our “perfect marriage,” or “how do we do it” and while I struggled with how to answer you all while respecting the privacy of our relationship, I knew I had to try.

Our marriage isn’t perfect.

I’m not exactly sure what a “perfect” marriage looks like, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t look like us. πŸ˜›


Back in college, I met this guy. Our tiny school had tiny classes, and we were in many of the same ones together.

What started as friendship quickly turned into something more. The ridiculous notes he passed me in class started looking more like “You. Me. Starbucks. Date?” with cartoon drawings of flowers all around. He was a catch right from the start, you guys! haha

He first asked my Dad about us getting married when we’d been dating for about 9 months, and we were both 21 years old. (Dad told him to wait, but was all, “We like you, she likes you, just give it some time.” My Dad’s a smart man. <3)

A year later, we were engaged, a year after that we were married.

When our first anniversary came around, our baby Mikey was about 3 weeks old.


Parenthood brought a whole other set of challenges to our lives. We figured them out bit by bit until we found our new normal together.

Love started looking less like Starbucks and flowers, more like, “I’ll get up with the baby so you can sleep.”

Parenthood brought ups and downs to the romance of our marriage.

I’d be lying if I said the romance happened naturally.

It happens naturally now, because we have made it a habit in our marriage. But there were stretches when it took a conscious effort, when flirting with my husband was the last thing on my mind because OH MY GOODNESS CAN YOU SERIOUSLY JUST PUT YOUR CLOTHES IN THE HAMPER AND CLOSE THE CABINET DOOR WHEN YOU TAKE OUT A DISH?!?! πŸ˜›

There were (and still are, you guys!!) nights spent yelling instead of smiling, when kissing and hand holding was the last thing on our minds, when the sheer exhaustion of mind and body made none of this seem worth it.


Not love in some vague, pretty way. Love that is messy, and angry, and honest. Love that hurts and heals. Love that understands the why. Love that sees inside the depths of the other’s heart and stays. Love that shows in quiet ways, day to day, ways that can’t be captured by photos but are treasured in the soul.

You’re not here for that, though, are you – my super-eloquent, long-winded thoughts on all things love. πŸ˜‰ If you’re anything like me, you want to know how, you want to know specifics, and if you’re really like me – you want a nice, organized list! πŸ˜‰

I’ve got you, girl! List and all.

  1. The kids do NOT come first. I know this goes against the modern idea of “good” parenting where the kids matter most, come first, and the “husband is a grown man who can take care of himself.” Well, yes he can. So can I. πŸ˜‰ But he quite literally came first, and when we make it through these trenches, he will be there last, long after our kids have found their own homes and grow their own families to love and nurture.
    Our kids will take up time, patience, energy, money – they are loved with all our hearts. We are open with them that they are our greatest treasures, that they fill our lives with joy and that being their parents is our favorite thing.
    We also tell them no.
    We say no to bringing their toys and games into our bedroom, because that room is for us.
    We say no to climbing on us and asking to play at certain times when it’s our turn to talk or be together.
    We say no to filling every day with kid entertainment/play dates/outings because sometimes it’s important for us to bond and for them to be on their own playing together.
    We say no to them sometimes, so that we can say yes to each other.
    Our children see by our actions even more than by our words that we are important to each other.
  2. DO let the sun go down on your anger.Β Hear me out on this one. Again, I know it’s not standard marriage advice because – anger.
    Let’s be honest, though, in the trenches of parenthood, at least 75% of arguments stem from hunger or exhaustion! If you’re having a nighttime argument, chances are what you both actually need is some sleep, and none of this will matter to either of you in the morning anyway.
    Unless you’re fighting about whose turn it is to change the baby’s diaper. Then it’s his turn. I’m on your side. πŸ˜€
  3. Date each other.Β Yes, yes, go out on date nights. Those are awesome and important, and a huge shot in the arm break from the daily crazy. That’s not what I’m talking about, though.
    The trenches don’t always leave room (or energy!) for exciting dates, adventures, romantic getaways, or Pinteresty displays of affection.
    I’m talking about flirting, about reaching out to touch each other as you walk by, about smiling into his eyes across the table full of chattering kids.
    Pay compliments, whisper secrets,
    Hold hands during a car ride, leave a post-it on the coffee pot, give a kiss that’s more than an absent-minded peck, sneak down to the laundry room while the kids aren’t looking. It all sounds so basic, but you’d be surprised how often one of these silly little things turned our day totally around for the better.
    For Hubby and I, physical intimacy is an important and positive thing, and it’s a priority to both of us. If that’s not the same for you, that’s fine, too – everyone’s different… but there’s always room in the trenches for tenderness, a gentle touch, and a smile.
    Flirty eyes are usually a win, too. I’m just saying.Β  πŸ˜‰
  4. Ask for help… and write it down. Asking for help is actually a giant problem for me, one that I’ve had to get over slowly but surely. I hate asking for help. I will tie myself in knots and bend myself backwards to make sure that I am doing it myself without asking for help. #ihaveissuesbutthatsastoryforanotherdaypeople πŸ˜›
    I had to get over that.
    We’re in the trenches together. This house full of beautiful, crazy, wonderful tiny humans is ours together. Some days will be smooth and some will be wild. That’s the season we’re in right now.
    Now, if I need help from him, I ask. Then I write it down. Depending on the task/project, I write everything in detail.
    Nobody likes a nag and nobody likes nagging – the written list keeps both of us accountable. The flip side is that once he agrees to do something and we add it to the list – IT GETS DONE. In return, I don’t bug him about it, and I don’t give him tips on how to do it once he starts. (We added that clause after there was too much Wifey input on one project. #oops haha)
  5. Spend time with other couples who lift your hearts.Β This is a big one, and I would have to say that in the past year, full as it was with extra heavy challenges, it was probably the most important to our marriage.
    You all know exactly what I mean – there are couples who inspire, who lift up, who bring joy and make you really feel that love for your own spouse. And then there are couples who drag you down – they talk poorly about their spouse, they belittle, they complain about marriage/kids/family. (I’m not talking about venting to a friend, serious concerns that actually need to be spoken about, or poking fun altogether about the classic husband vs. wife stuff. I’m talking about those subtle, bitter, damaging conversations.)
    We are who our friends are – surround yourselves with loving people, and that love will quietly strengthen your heart when you need it most. Love breeds love.
    No one else can create love in your marriage except you and your spouse, but just like anything else, having examples around us to inspire and lift up makes a huge difference when you’re in the trenches.
  6. Thank you. I’m sorry. Forgive me. I love you. At this point, you all know how I feel about the power of words. Words matter. Words have meaning that can make or break our hearts. These four phrases are probably the most important ones in my marriage.
    Thank you. I acknowledge that you did something for me, for us, for our home or family. You gave of yourself in some way, big or small, and I appreciate the gift of your time and heart.
    I’m sorry. Few words have such power to change a moment. I made a mistake. I hurt you. I angered you. I frustrated you. I’m sorry stops with me. I’m sorry doesn’t qualify itself, or add any “but you -.” I’m sorry that what I said or did took joy from your heart.
    Forgive me.Β I’m sorry is my offering to you. Forgive me is what I am now asking from you. I ask you to leave behind the hurt I caused you. I ask you to let me try again. I ask you to honor the vow we made for “better or worse,” and stand by my side through the worse while we work back to the better. Forgive me – not because you have to, but because you choose to.
    I love you.Β I love you for all that you were, all that you are, and all that you will be. I love you for everything you do with me and for me. I love you for the life we are building together and all the little lives we joined in love and with God to create. I love you. I see you. I know every part of your body and heart, and I am here for you.

I’m not a marriage expert. I have no idea if any of this will work the same for you as for us. For what it’s worth – these simple habits have helped us through hell and back – and have left us with joy and love in our hearts. I would be so glad to know that sharing this has helped another couple along the way.

Our marriage isn’t perfect. Our marriage is noisy, loving, hectic, sweet, caring, frustrating, messy, romantic, fun, ridiculous, wonderful – pick a word and it probably fits.

Marriage in the trenches is no joke, but marriage in the trenches with the one you love is an experience I wouldn’t trade for all the world!

Are you in the trenches right now? What’s something you do to keep the spark alive?
























  1. Anna,

    After reading this, I realized if we lived near you guys, I think we’d be good friends.

    I’m a dad of 12, grandfather of 7 (2 on the way)…and have been married to my dream girl for over a quarter century.

    She hates when I say it that way cause she feels old (wink).

    I’ve become a fan, Anna.

    That doesn’t happen often in the blogosphere and certainly not with parenting advice.

    But you’re a principally-based thinker. How can I not respect and love that in another person?

    Marriage began with you two and it’ll end up with you two long after the kids have grown, gone and started their own families.

    I’m going to admit something here that you will never find on another blog about me:

    Dating my wife is REALLY HARD.

    Not because I don’t want to whisk her away, but because I do.

    We both wanted a large family, but it’s been challenging to provide over the years, and to keep my promise to her that she would never, EVER have to work to provide, letting her be the mom she always wanted to be.

    I’ve kept that promise for 28 years, but honestly, Anna, there are times when it breaks my heart not to be able to do something ‘special’ (by my definition).

    Our ‘dates’ are more going grocery shopping with no kids, grabbing an ice cream cone or telling the kids we’re stuck in traffic and then grab a movie.

    Hehe,….I kinda enjoy that last one.

    Thing is, marriage ISN’T perfect.

    It’s not supposed to be.

    It’s supposed to give us opportunities to bring out the best in us and to look beyond ourselves. To create that working flow of ‘becoming one flesh’.

    I never thought I could ever love someone like I do my Kathilynn and truth be told, I kiss the water she walks on.

    Wonderful article.

    I’ll be back.

    Jaime Buckley
    Your BIGGEST Fan!

  2. Wonderfully written, and I agree with it all!! Thanks for the lovely reminders πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  3. omgoodness number 1 was something we always debated before kids. me first saying – no kids come first and he saying no we do, and now he says kids come first and i saying no we do. we eventually agreed that if we don’t put us first our kids suffer, because unhappy parents will lead to unhappy kids! such a great thing to remember!

  4. Exactly! And a good reminder even for those of us who have been married nearly as long as you have been alive. It can be so difficult to keep your marriage as a priority when the activities of the kids seem to take over. But it is so important!!!

  5. I’ve been married for 35 the same Cop ( hard to do when I only claim to be 37).. You hit the nail on the head

  6. love this! At the end of the day, no matter the frustrations, exhaustion etc. my hubs and I try never to go to bed without some sort of connection. Rehashing the day, watching bad tv or the days where we just can’t stop’s our adult wind down time. I look forward to meeting him on the couch at 9:30….

  7. Your writing is so raw and I uncontained and I totally appreciate that! Love this “Not love in some vague, pretty way. Love that is messy, and angry, and honest. Love that hurts and heals. Love that understands the why. “!!!

  8. Saying “I’m sorry.” has been a game changer for us. Being right doesn’t really matter in a marriage. Finding compromise and happiness is what makes the wheels go ’round. This is such a great list and I love how down to earth and REAL you guys are!!

  9. Ok well you two are perfectly imperfect! And I love these suggestions/tips – especially about asking for help! This is a big one for me and I have been working on it!

Comment and share your thoughts!