With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I wanted to take the time to share a little more about mine and Zack’s story and how we got to where we are today. It’s easy from what you find here to assume that things are perfect for us, and while they really are so great and we feel so lucky, no marriage is easy and we certainly don’t want to give the impression that we don’t struggle. Thankfully, almost eleven years into our relationship, I can say we’re stronger than ever, but it took a lot of hard work to get where we are today.
When Zack and I met we were both in high school and while we had plenty of mutual friends (I even had classes with his brother), we didn’t officially cross paths until we were both working together at an outlet store in our small down. We hit it off right away and were dating within just a few weeks. Since we were teenagers, neither of us really had another real relationship prior, so we experienced a lot of firsts together and were by each other’s sides’ as we grew up. After Zack graduated high school he went off to college about an hour away and we stayed strong – we made every effort to visit one another and for two kids, we really were so great at communicating. I received a scholarship my senior year of high school to attend FIDM in Los Angeles and Zack put college on hold and moved with me without question. We moved in together and experienced living in a new city for the first time. We learned so much about each other in the years we spent in LA and after I graduated we came back to Phoenix, Zack finished up his degree at ASU and we got married. It seemed as though we were doing everything exactly as we should, but when we hit our first road bump a year into our marriage we crumbled.
We had done such a great job at staying connected through all the inevitable changes we experienced between high school and college, but after college we were at a loss. We had grown apart and didn’t really know exactly how to get back on track. We tried what felt like everything – we went to therapy, we talked with our parents and friends, we had countless chats with each other, we tried giving each other space and even forced date nights, but ultimately I gave up on us. We went through one solid year that had more defeating moments than hopeful ones and I just couldn’t take it. It seemed like there was no light at the end of the tunnel together. We were both heartbroken, but decided that parting ways was best for us both. Since we had been together from such a young age we thought, “how could we really know we were meant for each other?” It all happened so quickly, but we separated and then filed for divorce a month later.
Zack never gave up on us, and I couldn’t be more thankful for anything else in my life. After spending six very difficult months apart and only speaking to one another when we had to (bills, paperwork, etc) Zack asked me to grab a cup of coffee. I was shocked and unbelievably nervous, but I followed my gut and went anyway. Regardless of being divorced, it seemed as though we had picked back up right where we left off (in the best way possible) and it was immediately clear that there was chemistry between us after all. An afternoon cup of coffee turned into dinner and when he walked me to my car he handed me a letter. He told me that I didn’t have to respond at all, but that there was a lot he would really regret if he didn’t share it with me. Like most women I know, I broke into ugly tears before even opening it. I anxiously drove home, and with shaky hands I opened the letter immediately after walking in the door.
If you know Zack, you know that he is an unbelievable writer, and while he’s written so many wonderful pieces this letter will always be my favorite. He said all the things I wanted to hear the year before, he acknowledged where he had gone wrong and that he was willing to do whatever it took to make us work. He left me speechless really. I let him know that I needed a few days to process things and when I did reach back out I was hesitant. We were divorced after all, how could I be certain that we wouldn’t end right back where we were? But I took a leap, I told him I wasn’t willing to close the door on us, but that I couldn’t make any promises either. There are a few times I’ve felt more enthusiasm from Zack right then and there. He was committed to making it work, and it didn’t take long for me to come around to the idea either.
It took a lot of work once we made our relationship official again. We started off slow and dated while we lived apart for a few months, we saw a new therapist and we worked through our issues until the therapist herself felt we could handle things on our own, and we waited exactly a year from our coffee date before we remarried again. I realize that our story is bizarre and rare and while I certainly don’t think most couples are capable of coming back the way we did, I feel as though our story is worth sharing. The truth is that every couple will encounter bumps in the road and it’s important to know when to push through. So maybe you’re reading this and you’re at odds with your partner so close to Valentine’s Day and you’re feeling crummy. Sure, there might be something the two of you need to work on as a couple, but you definitely aren’t alone.
In America we put a lot of pressure on our significant other to be our everything, and sometimes it’s just impossible to fulfill that role. Over the years Zack and I have really worked on our communication and have learned to cater to one another’s love languages and needs. While I certainly rely on Zack as my husband, I recognize that he’s his own person and that when I can support him outside of our relationship we do tremendously better. We really do love our time together, but we also love being creative and working on our own individual projects as well. It seems as though we’ve hit our stride when it comes to finding that balance and it feels essential, especially now that we’re parents. It’s crazy to think that there’s could have been a path that didn’t lead us back to each other, and even crazier to think that Owen wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for that letter Zack wrote. Grateful doesn’t begin to cut it.
We made a promise to each other a few years ago to always celebrate Valentine’s Day after making the mistake of skipping it one year. We do our best to show our love for one another every day, and even though Valentine’s Day isn’t our personal holiday, I really don’t believe any couple hurts from thoughtful time together. Our rule has always been, no gifts, just time together. This year we will most likely be cozying up on the couch, ordering take out, opening a bottle of wine and calling it a night. It’s nothing fancy, but I’m looking forward to it either way. What are you guys doing this Valentine’s Day?
Photography by Stevi Sesin.