With all of our focus on how to make your wedding special, we thought it was important to highlight some ways to make your marriage awesome, too. Introducing “Snapshot of a Marriage,” a series from contributor Emily Westbrooks, who interviews couples on some of their secrets for a strong and successful marriage.
Vitaliy was an exchange student at college in Chicago, entering his senior year, when he met Candace. He was chatting with a few friends at a cafeteria table, and mentioned his home country Ukraine. Sitting just a few seats down, Candace perked up when she heard mention of the country that she remembered from her grandmother’s Christmas traditions.
When Vitaliy’s friends left, Candace scooted down and started asking questions about the Ukraine. She was sure Vitaliy could tell her more about her grandmother’s culture, the details of which had been lost to her family when her grandmother died. Says Candace, “I thought, He has the info I need and he’s going to give it to me.” Vitaliy, meanwhile, was unconvinced, returning to his room and telling his roommate, “Man, that girl is crazy!” But Candace was persistent, the couple started spending more time together, and they were soon boyfriend and girlfriend.
When the couple had been dating only a few months, Vitaliy’s parents and brother were killed in a car accident. Vitaliy returned to Ukraine to take care of his younger sister, and Candace decided to leave her last year of school to join him. When the time came to return to the United States, the couple made a big decision: “We decided we would adopt Vitaliy’s sister,” says Candace, “and we would go ahead and get married.”
Candace and Vitaliy started their marriage with a fifteen-year-old to care for. “It was the hardest time of our life,” says Candace, “but I really feel like it’s what strengthened our marriage.” And since their wedding, the couple has come up with ways to keep their marriage strong.
“Having an unhappy marriage is not an option,” explains Vitaliy. “So we have to make it work.” One of the ways they make it work is by having regular date nights. Candace adds, “And sometimes those date nights need to be maintenance nights, where we really check in with each other on how we’re doing in our marriage.”
The couple now runs a photography business together, with Candace joining full time late last year. Candace was a little worried about working so closely together, but has worked to find a balance between the roles of co-worker and wife. “Sometimes I need to be his wife, not his business partner. I have to ask myself, How can I love you today?”