I remember beaming at my own wedding almost ten years ago, like I couldn’t smile broadly enough. But that day there was so much we didn’t know yet, we couldn’t have. That night I remember reading lovingly-written cards that mentioned the hard times inherent in marriage. Arrogantly, ignorantly I scoffed, “Why do people mention this stuff on your wedding day?” Now I write the cards that probably annoy brides.
Back then, I didn’t know the security I'd feel when those arms held me, not only in newly-wedded bliss, but through scarcity, sadness, loss and fear. I didn’t know that on other nights, with our backs turned, beside each other in our bed could be the loneliest place in the world.
I remember the realization that I couldn’t just flee to my apartment when we fought. The permanence of marriage is a salve, but it can also feel like a sentence.
I didn’t know the pride and closeness I would feel watching him parent our children, or raising a little boy with his eyes.
I couldn’t have known that I didn’t actually know him yet. It would be years before I realized that I chose to marry a man I hardly knew. When a friend, married 25 years, told me a story about her husband that started, “You know, the more I get to know him…” I laughed. I didn’t understand we are ever pulling back layers, always discovering something new, always learning each other.
I thought I knew that he wouldn’t stay the same—that neither of us would. We are always finding the balance of letting go and pulling near, of giving each other space to become. We are learning not to hold each other to the people we were on that beautiful day in May, but to let each other grow.
I didn’t know how intense the daily care and feeding of a marriage could be. When people said marriage takes work, I assumed it meant occasional struggle, and while that is sometimes true, that’s not all of it. It’s also carving out space and demanding priority status for our love.
I didn’t know how often it would feel like us against the world—the two of us, hands clasped—battling enemies real, perceived and invisible.
I underestimated how hard it would be, how sanctifying it is, yes. Sometimes I miss those days when we first fell in love, when we smiled so brightly in the pictures, but there’s something else I didn’t know.
I didn’t know about how life—even a really good, full, happy life—can crowd out love. I didn’t know we would crawl back to each other thousands of times, arms outstretched across the covers in the darkness. I didn’t know the joy of finding each other over and over again, or that choosing to fall in love with the same man throughout the years would be so much more precious than the first time around.
Here's to a lifetime of reaching and finding, choosing and falling. Our smiles might seem dimmer now, more knowing, but we're still just getting started. We're still learning what those promises meant, and that they are so much more beautiful than we could have known then.