The Journey Of Love: Reflecting On 20 Years Of Togetherness 

The Journey Of Love: Reflecting On 20 Years Of Togetherness

This past month Nate and I celebrated 20 years of marriage! It’s hard to believe that we’ve been together for two decades already. Sometimes it feels like yesterday we were two youngins in college just trying to figure out life. God has been so good to us!  Upon further reflection, it got me thinking about all the stages we have been through together and how we have come out even stronger. Marriage is one of the most complex relationships we can have. You hear people say all the time,  “marriage is hard work.”  That may be true, but it also takes a lot of love, prayer and nurturing! Let’s dive into some stages of marriage that we’ve been through.

The Stages Of Marriage 

1. In Love

The “in love stage” is where everything is new and shiny. You are on top of the world and the relationship is amazing! Nothing can go wrong! 

I remember meeting Nate for the first time in college. He had the most handsome smile and I loved his eyes! When we were dating, I first realized that I was truly in love with Nate when I first let LOVE lead, instead of having Atoya’s mind lead. 

Let me explain. As I was awaiting my acceptance letters for my Masters Degree, I received a full scholarship to the University of Texas at Austin. I told Nate I was probably leaving, and I was unsure of what that meant for us. I packed up my apartment and was  two weeks away from moving when Nevada offered me a full ride scholarship including a graduate assistantship with the NCAA compliance department. I had been so excited to go to Austin, however,  I realized where my heart was, which was with Nate. That was huge for me as a planner, to switch gears from my plan to letting go and choosing love in a way that I never had. Staying for love still allowed me to keep my relationship and reach my goals as well. It was meant to be. I thank God for that scholarship and meeting the love of my life.

2. Honeymoon

Next, is the “honeymoon stage,” you are fully in love, you are trying to figure out the details and it’s all about them. You are in the midst of making them happy and putting their needs before your own. I was able to love on Nate, get my Master’s degree and cheer him on while he continued playing football. 

We really got to spend time together and focus on each other. I loved this time of us vibing and spending time together doing absolutely nothing but absolutely everything at the same time.

3. Disappointment 

The next stage you enter after the honeymoon phase  wears off is “disappointment.”  You finally realize that your significant other isn’t perfect. What do you do? You notice their flaws more, and you find yourself criticizing them in your self talk or even out loud. I feel like this doesn’t happen until after marriage. 

For us this was after college once  when we moved  to Minnesota.  It was a difficult time for me because when we moved there, I knew no one in Minnesota and at times felt alone. On the other hand, Nate had his teammates and coaches. Once I found a job that coincided with my Master’s degree, it really helped me stay busy and get to know other people.  This was such a challenging time of life as we had to learn how to communicate our wants and needs as well as listen to one another with the intention of clarity and understanding and not become defensive or upset. Moving to a new environment is never easy. Furthermore, having our first child in Minnesota was tough as well because I couldn’t move around as freely like I used to and Nate didn’t have to decelerate. 

I’m gonna be honest, this bothered me because I did not feel that he recognized all of the sacrifices I was making. I had assumed he would be helping more, and he assumed things wouldn’t change for his work and social life. We both had to make adjustments and it took time. I had to learn how to explain myself and tell him how I was feeling. It is so much easier to explain your feelings when they are positive, however, when the feelings are sad or frustrating it is more difficult sharing that to him. 

Rather than being accusatory and in order for him to hear me and understand where I was coming from, I had to find a way where he was able to receive what I was saying. It was in this phase that I really learned how to tap into my feelings and communicate with him. For Nate and many men in general, they aren’t necessarily taught to communicate their feelings.  He grew up with 3 brothers so he had zero practice until we met. They didn’t discuss their feelings and empathy wasn’t a part of his mindset. He had to learn, 1) how to tap into his feelings, 2) how to be comfortable in that 3) therapy was huge in learning many of these skills together. 

4. Compromise

This is where you figure out how to talk through your disagreements. You stop holding things in allowing resentment to build. You work together and move in synchronized autopilot. Every now and then, there may be a few bumps here and there which is expected but we prepare by keeping our seatbelts on and protecting one another. 

Forgiveness is such an important part of any healthy relationship. At some point, you will feel wronged in your relationship. Learning to truly forgive is not easy but necessary when you truly love someone and when you love yourself. It allows you to move past the hurt and anger of a wrong that was done and to rebuild the trust and connection you have with the other person and with yourself. It also gives a lot of relief and mental peace and helps in the continuity of the relationship. Recognizing that we are all human and giving one another grace makes space for compromise and helps in resolving issues. It also plays an important role in nurturing and repairing the relationship and you are then willing to move past it and let go. This Bible verse always sticks with me, Ephesians 4:32 – “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” If I want forgiveness, I have to give forgiveness just as God does for me. It’s not easy, but it is the reminder we all need when faced with situations.

5. Embracing the power of Two

 This is when you realize that you are better together! You realize the ways that you compliment each other and in other aspects how you can challenge each other to be your best selves! 

Nate’s strengths are my weaknesses and my strengths are his weaknesses. Some relationships never get to this point. I can really say that we found a groove and it worked for us. Finding a marriage therapist was beneficial because they taught us to only speak for ourselves and not to criticize while speaking our feelings. This helps your spouse to be receptive and ultimately grow. Most importantly, pray together! The power of prayer always works!

Getting Through the Tough Times

Marriage isn’t for the faint of heart, but I can guarantee you, when you both want it and you both put in the hard work, you’ll reap the benefits. One thing that became important for us, is understanding love languages. We are all built differently and internally want things presented in different ways. There is a book I highly recommend – The 5- Love Languages. Upon reading this book and (there is a test too) that allows you to understand your own love language, what makes you feel loved and encouraged. This is powerful when you can communicate this to your spouse. 

My love language is acts of service & quality time. If I am not receiving love in these forms, it allows rooms for feeling unseen/unheard. Nate’s love language is  words of affirmation (he’s a Leo) and physical touch. Making a priority to communicate with your spouse on their terms and not your own, makes a huge difference in your relationship. 
Another book that I encourage anyone to read (there are various versions for stages of life). Is The Power of a Praying Wife. This book teaches and encourages you to pray and cover your family at all times. If there is something that you notice or see, pray over that, not just to ask for help, but speaking to and acknowledging the power of the word over your kids and your marriage. You can read variations of this book: Powers of a Praying: Wife, Husband, Woman, Parent, etc. Always, always, always pray!

Stay Connected

One thing I can’t recommend enough is to never stop dating your spouse! Spending quality time together is essential. Connecting one on one without distractions allows for love languages to be spoken and for new growth to evolve in your relationship. 

Date nights are something we prioritize.  If you have a hard time committing to date night try out the Adventure Book Challenge for Couples. This is filled with surprise dates in different categories and prompts to get you engaged and doing something fun. It even recommends capturing a photo to document your adventure!

In the busy-ness of life, if you can travel with your spouse there is something special about traveling and experiencing new things together. We’ve taken many vacations over the years from road trips to staycations, but the Maldives was something I’ll never forget! Take the time to go away together and forget the chaos of life. Don’t worry about the kids, it’s good for them to witness Mom and Dad spending time together and modeling an example of a healthy Husband and Wife relationship. One day the kids will be grown and it will just be the two of you again. Don’t be strangers once that time comes! 

No matter what stage of life you are in. Marriage is something to celebrate and continuously nurture. Cheers to 20 years for Nate and I.  He truly is my best friend, my cuddle partner, and we love making each other laugh! I love him deep and I am grateful that we continue to choose each other through it all! The stages are only a part of the process, but more importantly it’s the hard work and dedication that you put in daily that truly makes you become one. Cheers to you and whichever stage you are in; remember to persevere and be empowered but most importantly love, pray and cherish each other! 

With Love,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.