Dear The Many Newly Engaged/Newly Wedded Friends on my Facebook,
Congratulations! I understand you just got a really super big ring and/or you were married in a stunning outdoor or candlelit or historical venue ceremony. Your arms protruding from your exquisite strapless gown actually made me salivate. Somebody’s been working out.
You look young and glowy and happy and fresh and in love. It’s romantic.
As, I believe, is marriage.
But I am now old and storm-weathered and, to me, what is romantic and beautiful about marriage is not that two young people are head-over-heels and are wearing fancy clothes and having a great party.
What’s romantic is that you are looking at each other and making the promise to stick it out no matter what. If you get fired. If one of you gets cancer. If one of you needs a stint in rehab. If one of the children gets sick. If you can’t have children. If one of you ends up with PTSD. If he loses all his hair. If her teeth fall out of her head. If he makes a stupid mistake. If she makes a stupid mistake. You’ll stick – through bankruptcy and chemo and expensive treatment centers and sleepless nights and gut-wrenching worry and fatigue and displaced anger and screaming and the silent treatment and snoring and noxious smells and Rogaine and dentures and forgiveness…and forgetfulness…and more forgiveness.
You promise to stick.
Marriage is misrepresented by the pomp and circumstance of weddings. Despite appearances, it’s not the public acknowledgement of a young, gorgeous, sex-filled love that you’re gonna engage in forever as you frolic in a field of wildflowers and picnic on riverbanks. It’s just made to look like that so that you can have nice wedding photos to frame and put on your mantel. Don’t be fooled.
The act of getting married is the open, before-god-and-all-your-friends pronouncement that you both know for certain that it won’t always be those things. It is a public declaration that things are gonna get shitty – maybe for a long while – and you both know it and you both promise to stick it out anyway.
That is a seriously heavy promise to make. That’s what makes it beautiful.
Look, no one needs a marriage certificate and legally binding promises on the day they actually get married.
(Well, maybe if he vomits in her shoes during the sermon. I saw a video once…)
But, generally, you don’t need a signed legal document forcing you to be together as a team on the marriage day. Everyone in attendance just feels lucky if you don’t get all tonguey with the kiss or grindy on the dance floor. No one has to make you stick around. You can’t imagine a single other place you’d rather be.
It’s later on - when you have multiple little children in the house and a mortgage and bills bigger than your paycheck and job pressure. It’s after you’ve dealt with parents dying and children falling ill and the discovery that you both have major shortcomings. It’s after sacrifices you resent making have been made and apologies have gone too long unsaid. It’s after you’ve built up big walls where conversations should’ve been.
And you haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in years.
And you can think of 187.5 things you’d rather do than have sex with your spouse and one of them is deodorizing the garbage disposal.
THAT’s when the marriage certificate and the legal, binding stuff comes in really handy.
And I know you’re reading this and thinking, “Well, duh. We know that it won’t be perfect. But we’re in it together and our LOVE will pull us through.”
And, yes, I get it. I’ve been there. You’re in LOOOOOOVE. And that’s great. I still truly believe in love.
But here’s what I also know. You won’t always feel like you love your spouse. There will be times when you’ll feel so angry or hurt or tired or depressed or overwhelmed or just plain numb that you simply don’t feel it. Or maybe you'll sometimes feel love, sometimes feel friendship, and sometimes feel like you live with an annoying acquaintance. You can’t imagine that now so you just have to take my word for it.
It doesn’t mean that you won’t feel it again next month…or next year…or tomorrow. In fact, it might be deeper than ever when it comes back. But there will be moments when it will be gone and that’s the entire reason there is such a thing as a legal, binding love-union between two people. Because it is widely acknowledged that at some point, there will be a moment or a week or a year when one of you will want nothing more than to cut and run.
What a wedding truly is – underneath that gorgeous gown and next to that rose-adorned cake and amidst those adorable flower girls dressed in sage green taffeta – is a public recognition that at some undisclosed moment, you will look at your beloved and see a stranger – a stranger you don’t like very much. And, when it happens, you’re gonna get out your wedding photos and remember who you married since you haven’t seen him/her in a while. You’re gonna put on your new bifocals and reread those vows because you really meant them when you said them. And you probably still do.
And, if that doesn’t work, you’re gonna recognize that divorce lawyers make between $250 and $500 per hour, they round up to the nearest 15 minutes, and they charge for everything – including the ten minutes when you were crying so hard you couldn’t speak and that one tangent you got into with the paralegal about the ridiculous line at Starbucks.
You’re gonna do whatever it takes to keep the promises you made to be your spouse’s person. The person he/she can count on. The one who always sticks even when running looks better. Because everybody needs one of those. And the beautiful part of the wedding is not the color scheme you choose or the bouquet over which you spend hours scrutinizing, it’s the fact that someone is willing to be that person for you. Someone is telling you that when you are down in a pit so deep that you can’t see your hand in front of your face (much less an exit) you need only blindly reach over next to you and your person is there. That’s romantic as hell, really. It’s just not all that pretty and it’s not a great photo op. Because darkness.
And if that is not the promise that you BOTH are making. If you haven’t said what marriage means to you and truly listened to what marriage means to your intended, then you need to have that conversation. If you can’t, or one of you won’t, or the answers don’t match, then you SHOULD NOT GET MARRIED.
Unless, of course, you're one of those friends who just did.
Happy happy wedding! Dum dum dadum, Dum dum dadum.
Climbing down from my soapbox now, wishing you a happy life, slipping an extra Lettuce Entertain You gift card in with your gravy boat for being such a good sport.
Cheers! Bliss to you!
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