HAPPY MARRIAGE! Everyone always says congratulations on your wedding, but that’s not really the point. The point is that you two brilliant humans found your ride or die partner in crime. So yay wedding, but YAY MARRIAGE. It’s a big journey, but a good one. So stay vulnerable. Love despite faults. Be happy when your person is happy. Use all the words you have to say what you need to say. Enjoy the adventure.
I recently wrote this in a wedding card. I was flying to Florida for the wedding of an old friend, and I suddenly found I was tired of my usual wedding card sentiments. Blah blah blah new life together! Blah blah blah embark on this journey! Blah blah blah first day of the rest of your lives! Blah blah blah happily ever after.
This October, I’ll have been married 5 years. You may consider this a drop in the bucket – but I’m 27, so five years is a major investment. And in the world of my peers, most of whom are not married, it makes me something of a mysterious sage. And so I figure, as an old married hag attending the wedding of beautiful, young, childless, energetic people, it’s my duty to impart some wisdom.
This is my first recommendation because it might be the most difficult, and it might be the most important. It’s easy to be strong. You build your walls, and you tell yourself you’re tough, unbreakable. And by being strong, you win. But that’s not how relationships work – if one person wins, one person loses. And if one person loses, the relationship loses.
Vulnerability begets closeness and tenderness. I like keeping people at a distance because I like feeling like I’m protecting myself. But if I do that in my marriage, we. will. fail. So I fight and I struggle to stay open, to shed the armor and expose my fleshy underbelly. I tell my husband how I feel. I tell him what I need. If I hurt, I tell him why. He does the same. And it’s hard. It’s so hard. But it’s so worth it.
Love despite faults.
Everyone sucks. Maybe not on the whole, but we all have faults and failings and do things worth loathing from time to time. My husband hasn’t fully learned the kitchen layout in the four years we’ve been in our house. I think the bedroom floor is a reasonable place to temporarily (3-5 days) store clothing. Neither one of us ever wants to walk the dog.
But we love each other more than we’re annoyed by our respective failings. My husband loves me no matter how many bobby pins he picks up off the floor. I love my husband no matter how many times he blinds me in the morning because the brightness on his phone is turned all the way up. Maybe it’s silly, but maybe it’s the most powerful loving thing we can offer each other.
Be happy when your person is happy.
This is probably the simplest of the bunch, which may make it the easiest to overlook. Have respect and enthusiasm for what brings joy to your person. Champion their causes. I love having an Instagram account for food, and my husband is there for it. He covers bedtime while I go out to foodie events. He takes photos of me eating every time we dine out. He knows it fills me up, so he supports me at every step. When I think about previous relationships, I think about boyfriends making fun of the things I liked. Maybe they were joking, maybe they weren’t. But they didn’t rejoice in what made me happy, and those relationships didn’t last.
Use all the words you have.
When the going gets hard, you have to keep talking. We had a hiccup the other night. My husband suggested a date night and arranged a babysitter. I assumed this meant he was planning the date, and he assumed we’d brainstorm and decide together. Unsurprisingly, it came to a head in a passive-aggressive standoff – snuggled next to each other on the couch in the basement with some loud movie on the tv. And it was dumb. And I was irritated. And he was irritated. But we kept moving, and we kept pushing, and we kept saying words until we found ourselves on the other side. If you give up on words, if you just stop and seethe and sulk – which is so easy to do – you’re digging yourself into a ditch it’ll be hard to emerge from.
You have to use words when it’s good, too. Use them to imbue moments, bland or otherwise, with specialness.
You look nice in those shorts – I miss seeing your knees.
Hey, I think you’re great.
I’m glad we did this.
Thank you for being here with me.
I love you.