I remember preparing for our wedding day. I planned for hours. I also envisioned that the fairytale would end there. It was as simple as that.

I was naive to the depth and breadth of what marriage consisted of.

I am no veteran at being married; my husband, Chris and I, have only been married a few years. But, I have learned a few things along the way.

At the beginning of our marriage we went on our honeymoon in Hawaii. It was paradise, accompanied with pina coladas at night and fresh papaya for breakfast.

We hiked our first mountain together in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.

When I descended down the 1,700 ft trail, I had doubt regarding how I was going to make it down the mountain. I had never hiked before, and here I was hiking the tallest sea cliffs in the world, over 3,000 feet high.

As I followed the twisted turns and rocky sandy trail with ocean on all sides of us, I urged my husband to turn back around with me. He would stop, listen to what I had to say, and encourage me to continue on the path we were on.

“Ok” I sighed reluctantly. I trusted him.

We made it down the mountain, and I was so much better for it. Chris always helps me be my best self by encouraging me and helping me become more patient. In return, I try to encourage him to embrace change and take more adventures.

Climbing a mountain was a perfect exercise to prepare us for what was to come, because our adventures grew more ardent as time passed. We sold the house that Chris lived in for many years, bought a house, and trifled through finances.

With every one of these instances, we became better at communicating.  Listen, talk. Listen, talk. Once in a while my Italian temper would flare, but my kind and patient husband grew kinder and more patient.

I learned that suffering together is part of marriage. When my contractions started at 30 weeks with my first child, I laid on the hospital bed, terrified. I  looked deeply into Chris’ eyes, not knowing if I was going to deliver our baby that day. Our eyes met in a place of fear and darkness.

Chris was again by my side when the baby finally decided to debut, at 40 weeks (thankfully!). He held my hand as I pushed out our first baby and took care of me during the recovery process. We have woken up in the middle of the night countless times since then, for feedings and changing diapers, accompanied with frustrations that ensued out of sleep deprivation.

Chris also stood next to me as we held on tightly to my dad’s hands, praying over his body to heal after his heart and liver transplants.  He sat with me for long hours in the hospital awaiting good news regarding my dad’s recovery.

These were the times when we held hands and walked through hell together, with no turning back. It made it so much easier to bare the suffering.

These were also the times that I was given the opportunity to see what my husband was truly made of.

These adventures have made our marriage stronger and our love more pure. They have taken away the trivial issues and provided us with the opportunity to see inside each other’s souls.

We have shared the good, the bad, and the ugly with one another, including the wounds and dark crevices that we have spent a lifetime hiding from everyone else. Feeling vulnerable and trusting each other have been pivotal in this process.  

But in marriage, we are forced to shed light on those dark parts while trying to improve them. Even the most shameful ones.

We are encouraged to love each other in these dark spaces, grow together and hopefully help get each other to heaven.  We try to meet somewhere in the middle, even though it is never perfectly symmetrical.

Agape love is one of the four kinds of love mentioned in the bible, and the one that is most representative of marriage. It is an unconditional, unselfish, sacrificial kind of love. The kind of love that Jesus showed us. The kind of love that we are supposed to give our spouse.

It is also a patient and forgiving kind of love, fortunately.

Now more than ever, I get excited when Chris walks in the door after work because he is my true partner, walking side by side with me, and I think that is the way that God intended it.

The fairytale didn’t end at our wedding day after all. The fairytale is being married to my soulmate and living this crazy adventure called life together.

The journey down Kalaupapa reminded me of this journey, beautiful, exciting, and at times challenging. We may not be climbing Kalaupapa anymore, but we are on a journey together to make it to the end, hand in hand.

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