My husband and I both love music. We may not always love the same kind of music, and more than one road trip may have ended in silence due to car stereo battles. But we have enough musical preferences in common to share Pandora and iTunes accounts, so that’s something.
Today is our wedding anniversary. And like most parts of my life, when I think about the last two decades (16 years of marriage after four years of dating) most of my memories come with a soundtrack. The song I had stuck in my head when we met, the first songs we danced to, the songs we quoted in mushy love notes, the songs that helped me get through our long-distance phase, the songs played at our wedding, fixing relationships – and so many more!
When I thought about writing a post today to celebrate our anniversary, I skipped right over the lists of things I’ve learned (because, REALLY. what on earth do I know?) and what I’d tell my 20-year-old newlywed self today (because, WHERE WOULD I START?) — and landed on a soundtrack for our marriage. These songs describe many parts of the first 16 years of our marriage, though they certainly don’t encompass everything. Still, I figured 16 songs for 16 years was a good place to start!
16 Songs About Staying Together Through Hard Times
1. Dear Future Husband (Meghan Trainor)
Okay, this actually IS a terrible place to start. But it’s definitely the song I was singing as I headed into marriage. Expectations? Oh, I had plenty. And they were so wrong. “Dear Future Husband” might seem like a catchy, shoo-bop kind of pop song I’ve come to love Meghan Trainor for, but it’s a lot more dangerous than that.
“After every fight just apologize and maybe then I’ll let you try and rock my body right. Even if I was wrong (you know I’m never wrong), why disagree? Why, why disagree?” SIGH. I totally believed this – and I was totally wrong. Look. Buying into this song’s philosophy of “I’ll be nice to you if you do what I want” will cost you way more than the sexy outfit Meghan wears to clean house in the video. It can cost you years of a happy marriage. Ask me how I know…
2. Thinking Out Loud (Ed Sheeran)
Still, despite expectations and baggage and ignorance, we were truly in love when we got married. We may not have known how to love each other well, but that did not stop us from loving each other a lot. And this song? Well, even if the words don’t all fit, the feel of it is a perfect depiction of that early kind of love.
3. Our House (Crosby Stills Nash & Young)
“Our house is a very, very, very fine house with two cats in the yard…” Check and check! We bought our first house, and it was so cute! And we had two cats, and they were so cute! Yay! Life is good!
4. Love is War (American Young) “Sometimes love is a white flag; sometimes love is standing tall. Sometimes love is a feather; sometimes a cannonball. But it’s worth fighting for (it’s worth fighting for). Baby, sometimes love is war.”
Learning when to stick to our guns and when to compromise has been huge in our marriage. Figuring out that we are on the same team and fighting FOR each other instead of WITH each other has been life-changing. Sometimes love IS war, but not in the way we thought during so many of our early years.
5. Hard to Love (Lee Brice)
A man sings this song, so when it first came out it was easy for me to assign its words to Mark. Yeah! I thought. He IS hard to love! So lucky to have me, putting up with him and his hard-to-love self!
Except…um…it turns out we’re BOTH human. And hard to love. SO human.
Taking responsibility for my role in our struggles was a turning point in my heart and our marriage. Realizing that I can only change myself – and maybe that’s a big enough project for now, anyway – is something I wish I’d learned so much earlier. We’re ALL hard to love, really. Choosing to love each other anyway is the miracle of marriage (and any lasting, loving relationship).
6. Love is a Battlefield (Pat Benatar)
Before I figured out that I can be hard to love and before we realized that we were actually on the same team, well, the Carver house was full of fighting. So many fights. So many tears. So many crying hangovers and headaches and hugs and then doing it all over again. Those years were hard.
7. Say Something (A Great Big World)
Harder still was the season when we both just felt worn down. After years of fighting the same fights, shouting the same words at each other, and watching them fall empty to the floor, we were tired. We were battle-weary and desperately afraid it would never get better.
“Say something, I’m giving up on you. I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you. Anywhere I would’ve followed you. Say something, I’m giving up on you”
I’m so incredibly grateful that we didn’t give up. It was a close call, honestly. There were days…well, there were days when all I wanted to do was give up. Marriage is HARD, you guys! But through the grace of God (because my strength gave out long before things ever improved), we were able to cling to the last string of our marriage, the smallest memory of why we made those vows in the first place.
We didn’t give up.
8. Just Give Me a Reason (Pink & Nate Reuss)
“We’re not broken, just bent.” As it turns out, we were never completely broken – though my heart might have argued differently during a particularly difficult season. In even the most hurtful and most challenging times of our marriage, God reminded us of at least one reason. One reason to keep fighting, to keep praying, to keep coming back to each other. We weren’t broken, and we did learn to love again.
9. I Hold On (Dierks Bentley)
Just like superheroes, Mark and I have had to learn to use our powers for good and not evil. Well, not our powers exactly. But our stubborn natures? Those we’re working hard to harness for the good of our marriage these days. Sometimes being stubborn and refusing to let go can be a good thing.
10. Let’s Stay Together (Al Green)
Staying together doesn’t happen by accident, and neither does a happy marriage. We’ve had to make the conscious decision that THIS – loving each other, respecting each other, fighting for each other, holding on to each other – is what we will do. We will not give up, we will not walk away. We will stay together.
And, hopefully, in an Al Green way more often than a “I’m stuck with you” way.
11. Remind Me (Brad Paisley & Carrie Underwood)
“Now we keep saying that we’re okay, but I don’t want to settle for good not great.” Just like staying together doesn’t happen by accident, neither does staying in love. Mark and I know couples who have been together for decades – but they don’t even seem to like each other. And we agree wholeheartedly that we don’t want to grow into that. We want to like each other, to enjoy spending time together, to remember even if we don’t always feel how we couldn’t get enough of each other so many years ago.
12. Don’t You Wanna Stay (Jason Aldean & Kelly Clarkson)
Mark has worked nights for several years now. We still have days where we can’t figure out how to make that work for our lives and our relationship. But for the most part we’ve adjusted. Still, watching him leave every night after dinner is hard (and, hard for him as he has to leave every night).
13. Once in a Lifetime (Talking Heads)
“Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.” The daily grind of kids and house and bills and chores is annoying. Over and over again, we do the same darn things – just to turn around and realize it’s time to do them one more time. What? You need dinner tonight, too? Bills are due every month? The floor is dirty again? It can be numbing to face the monotony at times – so I’m glad I have a partner in this. This may not be my beautiful house, but this sometimes-boring, often-chaotic life is our beautiful life.
14.You’re Gonna Miss This (Trace Adkins)
I’m not much for sappy songs, believe it or not. But I know our current stage as a family with little kids is a special one. It’s hard, but it’s good. And whenever we can, Mark and I try to remind ourselves and each other to take a good look around (as the song says) and recognize these as good times.
15. You’re the Reason I Come Home (Ron Pope)
This is the song that gave me the idea for this post. Not a week goes by these days that Mark and I don’t joke about running away from home – but we are always running away together. We are each other’s shelter, each other’s safe place. We fit together and are stronger together. And even when I escape to the grocery store or he plugs in his iPod for a little peace and quiet while mowing the lawn, we always, always come back to each other.
16. One Friend (Dan Seals)
“One Friend” was an old song even 16 years ago when I asked my cousin to sing it during our wedding. But the words are even more true today. Mark is my best friend. And if I had to pick only one person, I’d pick my favorite one – him.
“I always thought you were the best; I guess I always will. I always thought that we were blessed, and I feel that way still. Sometimes we took the hard road, but we always saw it through. If I had only one friend left I’d want it to be you.”
What songs are in your soundtrack?
Oh, and just in case you’d like to listen to this eclectic mix of songs, I’ve created a playlist for you. Enjoy!