Today is me and Matthew's three year wedding anniversary... we met almost exactly one year before our wedding, so we've been together now about four years. Four years! I know some of you lifers say pashaaww, that's nothing. But to me, it's something. It's now the longest relationship I've been in, which is pretty neat.
I get a lot of visitors to our love story, and a lot of emails thanking me for writing it. The other day I reread the thing in its entirety, and while it brought back some lovely memories and totally made me smile, I couldn't help but think how very incomplete the story is. How much has happened since. How much we've learned, changed, grown, and are still growing. And I feel like it's time I set the record straight on how I feel about marriage. Or mine, anyway.
When you're in a relationship - married or just dating - and especially if you're having some routine problems like most people do at some point, it's easy to look at other couples, or read blogs about other couples, and feel inferior. You start to hear this little voice inside that's saying "they seem happier than you do. more compatible. her husband is totally more handy than yours. more fashionable. more agreeable. more successful. they probably make a ton of money. they probably have sex five times a week. I bet they don't argue about the dumb shit we do. I bet she's a better wife, and never complains. I bet he's a better husband, and treats her like a queen." And so on and so forth.
And you know what? Maybe some of those things are true. Maybe they really are the perfect couple, and maybe they really are happier than you, at this moment in time. I guess I can't really speak for all those other hypothetical perfect couples. But I can speak for us. And let me tell you, marriage can get rough sometimes. You know all that stuff I said in our love story about the law of attraction? Totally still true, but it gets more difficult to implement that law when life starts chucking lemons at you, when the day in and day out gets real monotonous, when you have health issues, work issues, financial problems, the stress of continuing education (hello, law school!), family drama, personal problems, or when you find you disagree on major issues or the direction of your lives. What do you do then?
I'm chuckling to myself, because Matthew and I have been through it all these past few years. Only a few people know the full story. Just last year we were hanging on by a thread... there was lots of anger and tears and marriage counseling and tweaking this and tweaking that, and I'm only writing this now because I'm confident we've come out on the other side. (oh, and you thought you knew everything about us by reading this blog? proof that blogs are just a peek, right here!)
But what is the point in telling you all this? Have we discovered the perfect formula for a successful marriage? I wish we did, folks, I wish we did. I wanted to express to you, though, that it's OK if your story doesn't look like a fairytale. Ours started out pretty blissful, but fairytales leave off at happily ever after, don't they? They never really get into the real stuff about cohabiting with someone, about traveling through life with them and taking the hard punches together, making babies together and the stresses that entails, changing together as humans often do, and continuing to love despite that change. So many marriages end in divorce because people are too quick to peace out when they get to the part about marriage is hard work. They think, "yeah, but not this kind of hard work. This is grounds for divorce, for sure." But the truth is that the hard work will look different for everyone. Maybe it will be harder hard work for some than for others, depending on circumstances. But as long as you still have real love for each other and are willing to accept a person as they are, you have what you need. The work part comes in changing yourself, almost 100% of the time. That much I have learned to be true.
I'm not advocating dysfunctional relationships. I'm not saying you should ever stay in one that makes you miserable and drags you down. Life is too short for that. But I remember when we were going through some of our hardest periods last year, and I would ask Matthew if he still loved me. Every time, he would choke up and say yes, without hesitation. And I knew he was worth it, and I knew I wanted us, and I knew he wanted us. When your hearts are in the right place, you find a way to make it. Gold is only purified by fire... remember that.
The following excerpt was read at our wedding. Ironic that I chose this piece. I love it more today than I ever loved it before.
When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth….
But if in your fear you would only seek love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover you nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing floor,
Into a seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course…
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.
~ from The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran
Our first dance was to this song... still one of my favorites. :)