As someone who has been married for a little over 1.5 years in the middle of med school and now residency, I can attest that when you’re mentally stressed, physically exhausted, and working constantly, it can be incredibly hard to be a selfless and considerate partner. Sometimes it’s all you can do to not just sit on the couch while your dishes fester, laundry wrinkles, and family makes do with leftovers one. more. time. I’ve done it more times than I care to admit. Not only that, but it’s also all too easy to illogically take out your stress on your partner – get into stupid arguments and find fault with their words, actions, or personality. When it feels like the world is on your shoulders, although marriage is supposed to be your safe haven, it winds up feeling like yet another burden.

But I think people give up too easily these days, especially on those days. They think marriage is supposed to be fun and games all the time, that the safe haven is supposed to come without effort, that balancing work and spouses and family and kids and faith is anything less than a full time job on its own. One thing that my husband and I have going for us is that we are both incredibly stubborn – when it comes to life, unfortunately, but also when it comes to our marriage. We refuse to (permanently) give up on each other, even on the days when we have given up on ourselves. In these short few months, that has made all the difference.

Sticking it out with someone when it sucks, when it makes your life harder, forces you to be there for the big moments, the triumphs, the days that remind you why you chose them. They often come without warning, which is why you have to get through the bad to encounter the good. As you build a life together, grow closer to each other and learn more about your partner, those moments increase in strength and frequency. And the studies prove it: The longer you’re together, the more likely you’ll stay together. The process can’t be rushed any more than you can make the flowers in your garden bloom on your timeline (or more practically, the slow cooker cook faster) – because it’s not your timeline, it’s God’s.

I think this has been the most difficult part for me, the patience. I expected to walk into a marriage and automatically understand the way my husband works, and for him to do the same with me. It was a silly idea – I can’t even do that with my parents and sisters with whom I have lived my entire life! But I am more blessed than I deserve, and for me the gratifying moments have come sooner rather than later. Probably because God knows that my level of patience is nothing like that of the amazing women who have come before me – my mom and my mother-in-law, in particular.

To my readers, married or unmarried, because this is relevant to all important relationships: Be patient – but also be stubborn. Excepting any situation of abuse or grave injustice, don’t give up so easily. It is the most difficult thing in the world to figure out another person’s mind – I haven’t even figured out my own – but as slow and sometimes painful the process may be, every small step forward is so very worth it. My mother likes to say that the goal at the end of every day is not joy, as the movies and songs would have you believe, but contentment – peace with yourself and your situation. This established baseline is what imparts the joyousness to the times of true joy. Sometimes, the positive takes a while to come; but more often, it is simply about where you choose to place your focus.