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It was a sunny and clear November day in LaFollette, Tennessee, with temperatures in the high 50s. My husband, Houston, and I said our vows before a small congregation in the First Baptist Church, before leaving for a week-long honeymoon. A lot has happened since then. We’ve had four children, said goodbye to two parents, moved 11 times and now own and run a farm to table venue. With the help of family, friends, pastors, sometimes a therapist or two and definitely God Almighty, we’ve continued to stretch and grow in our relationship.

As I reflect on the past 35 years, I’m reminded that marriage is a lot like a wedding cake. The outside is often decorated in a way that draws oohs and ahhs, but beneath the external beauty are the layers, the structure that holds the whole thing together. It might not be as pretty as what’s on the outside, but leave an ingredient out and the finished product won’t be right. Or, bake at too high a temperature, and a layer can crack. No matter how much icing you use to cover it up, eventually the crack will come to the surface and the icing will break apart as the cake separates.

In my own marriage, I’ve seen a few key elements that if included can strengthen our relationship, or if neglected can sabotage it. Things like spending quality time together, practicing self-care, building supportive friendships and working together as a team have helped solidify our bond and enriched our marriage. There have been times when we’ve allowed ourselves to get too busy or distracted and omitted one of those ingredients, causing our relationship to become unbalanced or unhealthy. Eventually, we weren’t the only ones who could tell something wasn’t quite right.

We’ve definitely had days where our marriage looked more like the cracked wedding cake than the ideal, but with each new challenge we’ve gathered strength from each other and those who support us. Today our marriage is strong. We continue to learn new skills, stretch muscles we didn’t know we had, all in an effort to help build the best foundation. We’re taking on new roles, like grandparent and farmer, and enjoying the way these new ingredients flavor our relationship. Hopefully the way our marriage appears on the outside is a reflection of the attention we’re paying to the foundation.

So on Nov. 23, we’ll celebrate - each other, our love and the institution of marriage. This is us.

Sherry Asbury Clark is Co-Founder of Purdon Groves and a freelance writer. Her column, Finding Myself in a Small Town, appears each week in the Corsicana Daily Sun. You may reach her at sherry@purdongroves.com. For more information on Purdon Groves, a farm, table, venue and retreat property, check out purdongroves.com or visit their Instagram or Facebook pages.

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