Jer and Nikki Pennington have been together since they were teenagers, and have now been married for 11 years with a lovely child. Having been together so long, they are always being asked—“What’s the secret of a successful marriage?”
Nikki knows the typical responses—“don’t go to bed angry” and reminders to say “I love you”—but that wasn’t it for them.
“You guys, do you know how many times in eleven years Jer has taken residency on the couch prior to us having kids because we were mad? Do you know how many times he’s left without us saying “I love you” because kids and life. His way of saying “I love you” some mornings is letting me sleep in when he leaves and everyone is still asleep,” she wrote in an open and honest Facebook post that quickly went viral.
Nikki says they’ve broken every one of those “secrets.”
You get up and try over and over again every single day. You hang on tight, eating frozen dinners as newlyweds, because it’s all you can afford.
“It’s staying up all night in tears with your first newborn child because you both are over tired, overwhelmed and scared to death but you are in it together. It’s counting pennies when you are young so that you can build a life together for your future family,” she wrote.
“It’s about knowing that nothing is going to turn out perfect, that your marriage won’t be a highlight reel because that’s not real life.”
“It’s about being deep in the trenches of so many obstacles that life could throw you and getting to look over and know that you aren’t alone and that your best friend is walking it with you. It’s about knowing that you can never be prepared for the burdens you might have to help your partner carry but you do know you are willing to be there when they need rest from the burden.”
“Just try every single day, in the trenches and on top of the mountains don’t ever stop. Because stopping, that’s one thing that isn’t a secret, it will make you fail.”
In another post, Nikki described their 11th wedding anniversary. She had been up since 5:30 a.m. to take care of one child, and since 6:30 a.m. had to tend to the other two. She cooked the entire breakfast herself, and then she picked up around the house, did laundry, ate a cold breakfast, and drank her forgotten and now-cold coffee—she was all alone.
“This is real life,” Nikki said. “You might be saying, ‘Oh no, where is the romance? Why is your husband working on your anniversary? How could he ever do that?! My husband would never!'”
But she wasn’t upset.
“You see, romance isn’t like the movies and wedding anniversaries don’t always entail lavish trips or full days of spending the day together and it being kid free,” she wrote. “For me, there is romance in this day even when he’s at work and I’m here doing this all on my own.”
There is romance everywhere she looked in her marriage—from when he proposed, to the excitement in his voice when they found out she was pregnant, to the way he carried her to the shower because she couldn’t walk after her first c-section.
“There’s romance in the the way he made sure he was there for every appointment, ultrasound and when they took their first breath,” she wrote. “There’s romance in the way he sends me out just to have ‘me time.'”
“There’s romance in the way he’s not here today on our anniversary. The way he’s out there working hard so I can be here with our sons. Waking up to see their faces first thing in the morning and not miss a second of their days.”
“There’s romance in the way he sacrifices those moments himself so that I can have them. So that they can have their Mom here with them.”
“Girls don’t get so busy being caught up in what your husband isn’t doing that you forget what he does do to show you he loves you.”
Thousands of comments have since flooded in from people who have been married for only a few years to those who have been married for decades.
“I read this out loud to my husband and he actually teared up,” wrote Crystal LaMadline.
“We’ve been through hell and back, lost a house, lost a child, lost ourselves for a bit. But we both know we couldn’t have done this without each other. 16 years together, 14 1/2 years married. #lovewins”
Cara Riddle said, “Take it from somebody who is going on 44 years of marriage….different things work for different couples. Commitment is a biggie, be friends, support each other and never give up.”
Laurie Elliott said, “41 years of marriage to my childhood sweetheart (we went “steady” for 8 years before we got married). There are no secrets to marriage, and there really shouldn’t be any secrets in marriage.”
“Marriage isn’t a never-ending romance novel. It’s being committed to working through the bad stuff, to accepting that neither one of you is perfect. It’s appreciating the little things and not letting other little things get the better of you. And knowing, in your heart, that this person is more important to you than anyone or anything else in the world.”