Daily: Callie + Austin Bollinger, 14 years

Some poets describe love as a garden, a relationship as something two people create, build and tend together. It’s an entity that requires work, attention, care; tender planting, pruning and weeding. Some days, it’s hot and dry and humid, and the work is arduous. Other days, the rain brings relief and growth. Still other days, it’s 75 degrees and sunny outside, and it’s easy to enjoy being there. You want to be. 

While the wedding day is about the one “Yes, I do” moment when two lives are joined together, the long haul of marriage is about continually choosing that yes each day. Here, three local couples share their wisdom on how they say yes to each other, daily keeping their commitment to the other and to what they’re building together strong and growing.

Austin and Callie Bollinger

Austin Bollinger met his wife Callie when they were in kindergarten, in Mrs. Parham’s class at Woodland Elementary School. And although their relationship stretches back far into some of the youngest years of their lives, they haven’t been together ever since then.

“We went through some rocky years in second and third grade,” Austin jokes. 

Actually, because Callie’s father was in the military, she moved away and left Woodland Elementary School after kindergarten. 

“I remember chasing her around the playground, and then the next year, she disappeared, and I didn’t see her again until 9th grade,” Austin recalls. “But [then I was] like, ‘I remember you from kindergarten.’”

The two dated during their freshman year of high school and then broke up. The summer between their junior and senior years of high school, they went on a school trip to Italy. Callie’s parents also went on the trip as chaperones, and Austin, who was the only boy on the trip of 10 students, says he spent a lot of time with Callie and her parents throughout their time in Italy. Callie and Austin became best friends and started dating during their senior year when they returned from the trip. Then, when they were 18, they decided to get married the next year even though some people cautioned them to wait until they were older. As oldest children, they credit their individual maturity as one of the key factors in the success of their marriage, along with their true friendship that is the foundation for everything else. 

Here, Callie and Austin share their wisdom about marriage with us, although at 14 years of marriage, they say they still don’t feel qualified to dole out advice. One thing is sure, though: their commitment to and respect for each other is apparent. And they’re people we want to learn from.

Austin Our relationship started as best friends — we connected on so many levels coming into our relationship. I think we’re both mature — we’re both first children out of our siblings. I think we matured very early, so out of high school, it’s like, okay, we’re getting married, and everyone’s like, well, if you guys are for sure, if you know, then wait. And we’re like, but if we’re for sure, why would we wait? And so we got married. … So we dove into responsibility very quickly, and I just think we’ve been on the same page the whole way through, for the most part.

Callie We’ve grown together, which is the lucky part, ‘cause I feel like I hear other people who get married so young, like at 18, 19, and they don’t grow together. But somehow, we have. But there’s no other option for us. When you’re married, you’re married. 

Austin We’re best friends; being apart is not an option. I wouldn’t want to be apart. 

Callie I would say I love you, and I like you. I feel like it’s really important to actually like the person, too, not just love. … What’s helped us is the love languages. Because since we did get married so young and had no clue, kind of, of what we were doing, I feel like the love languages helped us to figure out acts of service or touch — that stuff helped us, too. I don’t know if I would recommend [getting married at a young age] for everyone. ‘Cause again, I feel like we got lucky just because we were so independent, divorce wasn’t an option, we had to figure things out together.

Austin We were fortunate because we have both changed so much since high school. So, so much. Fortunately, we’ve maintained compatibility, and we’ve really embraced and supported the people we’ve grown into. I think a lot of people are waiting until their late 20s, early 30s to get married, and I think by then you know who you are, and so you find somebody who is compatible with you at that point. But at the same time, we all continue to grow and change. And even if you get married at 26, you’re probably going to be different when you’re 36. So maybe there’s really no great time, or all times are a good time [to get married].

Callie Yeah. When you know, you know.

Austin I think love is something you feel, but it’s also something you do. And I think a lot of people, when they stop feeling it, they just stop doing it, and so then they just split. And so even maybe when you’re not really feeling it, you’ve just got to do it. Love is an action. It’s something you feel, for sure, but it takes work, it takes effort. You have to keep putting in the effort. 

Callie And that’s why it’s important I think to also like them. 

Austin Yeah, for sure. For us, we’re both really independent. She’s not a huge fan of camping, so I go camping, and she stays home. I go with my dad. I love hunting, and she likes watching certain TV shows that I don’t. So in our independence, I’ll do my thing, and she’ll go do her thing, but we always come back. Like, we’re OK being apart, but we’re also really good being together. And so, it’s like finding the right balance of what works. … Because we’re best friends, husband and wife, we are a really good team. If I’m having a particularly hard time, she’s strong for me, and vice versa. 

Callie Just the way our personality type is, is we grow from [difficult times], we don’t hold on to them, and we keep going. It’s life, and we’ve just got to keep going. Learn from it and go. Talk about it. Communication. … And I think that’s how we are able to move on so quickly from things, because you are fixated on the future, and you do forget those things, whether they’re hurtful or deaths or job loss or all that stuff, you’re like really able to forget about it and just go on. You don’t hold onto things, which is good.

Austin So she keeps me grounded in the present, reminds me of what happened in the past, and then I’m like, alright, here’s where we’re going. … I have big aspirations, and so I have a very clear place I want to go, but we also try to stay grounded in our roots. Like, we’re Bollinger County kids.

Callie Yeah, remember where we came from, no matter what happens. Be grateful for everything we have. Work hard. Those core things, like those fundamental things, have not changed. It’s been the same since we were little to now, those core things. … We have a solid foundation because of [growing up in Marble Hill with humble beginnings]. Good values because of that. And I feel like we were kind of raised the same, too. 

Austin None of us are perfect, so finding somebody who likes you despite your imperfections is important.

Callie Women need to find men who are attentive. … [Find someone] who loves you no matter what, sticks with you no matter what, treats you right no matter what.