Marriage

When you’re engaged, nobody likes to talk to you about marriage.

People ask to see the ring, pictures of the dress, and whether or not it will be an open bar, but it is very rare– unless you’re my therapist – that anyone asks me how I’m feeling about my actual upcoming marriage.

To be honest, I wasn’t thinking about it much either. Here in Southern California – a place where wedding season is all year long – I got lost in the hubbub. It’s hard to retain any kind of perspective when you are on the phone with wedding coordinators who tell you there is no way you will ‘pull off a wedding’ for less than the cost of a two bedroom home in the suburbs.

There was too much to do – choosing invitations, deciding on food – that I had no real time to think about what I was actually getting into. How crazy it seemed that I was going to go to bed next to one (handsome and charming) face for the rest of my life.

It’s so easy to push aside the momentousness of that and focus on cake.

It’s so easy to push aside the momentousness of that and focus on cake.

That is, until my last visit home when I saw my college roommates. I think of these girls as a part of my heart so was thrilled when we were able to get together and – as one of them said – “plan my whole wedding.”

Armed with nachos, a steady supply of gin and tonic, and a (later regrettable) lack of sunscreen, we took my parent’s boat out on the lake for some quality girl time.

It was a perfect day and the soft lake water lapped against our boat as we talked and talked as only old friends can. Somewhere around the tenth helping of nachos our conversation drifted from wedding dresses and honeymoons to the actual institution of marriage.

Each of these women are married and for the first time since I slipped that diamond on my finger I found myself in the middle of an honest conversation about being in a marriage. About choosing someone’s good and not-so-good parts. About how marriage is saying a whole-hearted ‘yes’ to complete uncertainty.

During our conversation, I kept waiting for the anxiety to settle in but as my friends chatted I started to feel lighter. Like something was being released from my heart. Something that I hadn’t realized I’d been holding on to.

An unrealistic expectation of total marital bliss.

Throughout all the excitement of the engagement and the thrill of wedding planning I began to store up fear.

Throughout all the excitement of the engagement and the thrill of wedding planning I began to store up fear. Fear that my marriage wouldn’t be perfect and that maybe one day I might wish I were single again. That one day I would look in the mirror and not see a bride excited about her future but rather a wife who got frustrated, a mom who was tired, a woman who just wanted a night out alone.

The truth is, that’s going to happen. And that’s okay. But those thoughts didn’t jive with the happiness I felt like I should be oozing.

When you are engaged and someone asks “Are you SO EXCITED about your wedding?” It is very hard to say “Yes, but I am keeping in mind on how difficult living with the same person for the rest of my life will be.”

But finally, now in the boat, I was having an honest conversation about what real commitment was like. I could say these things out loud and be heard – really heard – by some awesome ladies who have paved the way before me. It was a refreshing break from all the glee.

The sun sunk a bit lower in the sky and I navigated the boat back to the dock feeling lighter. My marriage won’t be perfect and neither will my wedding. But I’m not afraid of admitting that. In fact, I’m glad. I would not have been able to stand up under that kind of pressure.

We said goodbye to each other that night, standing in my parent’s driveway slapping away mosquitoes. As they piled into their cars they shouted back to me.

“We can’t WAIT for your wedding! We are SO EXCITED.”

So am I.

 

This piece was originally written for the Fargo Forum.  You can find them (and me) here.

 

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