We said "I do" on a cold South Bend Saturday in October, 2002. We had known each other five years, which seemed like forever. But thinking back, we really, truly didn't KNOW each other quite yet. All the real knowing came in those years following.
All I knew that day was this: I was marrying a handsome, smart guy that I was head over heels for – and I had on a killer dress.
I had the 'something old, new, borrowed and blue...' but nobody hit me with the real TRUTHS of marriage.
|It was never about the dress|
Marriage means staying when it seems there is no hope for reconciliation – when leaving would be the 'easier' option. It means forgiveness in the face of dishonesty and heartbreak.
It means having the dignity to show respect when the other has disrespected you.
It means empathy where there were devastating losses and words of love where your partner is disheartened and doubtful of the future.
It means several different marriage counselors over the course of 14 years trying to get that communication thing right.
It means apologizing when you are wrong (luckily my husband knows I'm never wrong).
It means laughter when you are completely out of other emotions – like when you're a new mother so engorged with breastmilk and your baby won't latch and the pump won't work and you beg husband to intervene (don't ask).
It's believing in your partner when he/she doesn't.
|The cake was good but didn't last|
It's about mustering up enough energy to love and care for four children, getting through one more page of impossible homework, or wiping one more poopy butt and still having enough in you to get through bathtime and teethbrushing. It's about having patience with each other during middle-of-the-night feedings with cranky newborns or months-long 2 a.m. nightmares when someone has seen too many Scooby Doos.
It's about resisting the urge to pretend you don't know your partner when she cheers at the soccer games.
It's about coping with and encouraging an anxious child, who you believe is the epitome of brilliance, but he doubts his abilities.
It's about sharing complete devastation and being a comfort when that cancer phone call comes.
It means caretaking and kindness – characteristics that you may think you lack – when dealing with your partner's sickness and despair.
It's about holding it together when feeding tubes and medicines make you want to cry. It's about knowing that the same healthy, beautiful and funloving person you fell in love with all those years ago is still inside of the person who stands in front of you today. It's feeling a love much stronger now than the butterflies you felt on your first date and deeper than the passion you felt on your wedding night (or maybe not because you might have drank too much to realize it, but who's counting amaretto sours here anyway?)
It's the joy in knowing you can't love anybody or anything more – until you look into the eyes of a child you created together.
It's knowing that those vows you took are truly what you are living today – despite all the bumps and detours and minor crashes along the way – that you both are in this trip together, in sickness and in health, good times and bad, all the days of your life.
That is what I know about marriage, and it is the only thing that matters.