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Nikki Pennington, 32, met her husband Jerred, 31, when they were teenagers. (Pennington's grandfather, who knew Jarred from church, introduced them. How cute is that!)
The Tampa Bay, Florida, couple now have three children and just celebrated their 11th wedding anniversary. To mark the occasion, Pennington was asked by several friends to share the secret to their happy relationship ... and the answer isn't what you might expect.
"I remember thinking, 'My goodness, if they only knew,'" Pennington told TODAY. "There's no secret ... We don’t even go on dates!"
But there is one important thing they do every single day.
"I know the typical responses from the 'Don't go to bed angry' or the 'Always say I love you when they leave'," Pennington, who blogs at Grief to Hope, wrote in a heartfelt Facebook post on August 19. "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? ... His way of saying 'I love you' some mornings is letting me sleep in when he leaves."
"All the 'secrets' we've broken them," she continued. "The secret to a long lasting marriage is there is no secret at all. It's a get up and try again over and over every damn day."
Pennington went on to explain what "try again" had meant for her and Jerred, sharing candid insights on the challenges they had already faced as a couple. The biggest one was unexpectedly losing Pennington's mother six years ago.
"It was a shock for us ... something nobody had prepared us for," she told TODAY. "We had to face that obstacle of me going through the grieving process and him not knowing what to do."
Pennington alluded to the loss in her post, writing, "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."
Pennington's philosophy clearly resonated with many others — as of this writing the post now has more than 105,000 reactions and 123,000 shares.
"We've gotten a lot of messages from younger couples," she said. "It's nice, because it gives them hope. Younger married couples get a lot of doubts and negativity ... People saying 'You can’t do it. It's gonna be hard.'"
She continued, "What I wish they would say is, 'It's gonna be hard, but it's also gonna be really good.' The hard times aren't because you're married, they're because life can be hard in general."
She added, "I want them to know that they can do this."