This past weekend my husband and I loaded up our car with snacks, games, books, and music and buckled our kids in their car seats for a nine-hour drive. Our boys could hardly contain their excitement to play with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmas, and grandpas. This wasn’t just any visit either. My brother-in-law was getting married, and my boys were getting a new aunt! The beginning of Uncle J and Aunt M’s ever after. We were all thrilled to share in their love and excitement. The handsome couple could certainly rival that of any fairy tale. Love radiated from them the entire day and everything about the wedding seemed picture perfect.
In all of the tradition that comes with weddings, I was reminded over and over that tying the knot comes with plenty of advice. Everyone knows the secret to a successful marriage and is eager to share it with the new couple. As I watched guests spill their wise words onto the pages of the guest book, pull the newly-weds aside to inform them of what is to come, and slip it in with their congratulations at the mic at the family dinner, I was reminded of the same advice my husband and I received years ago when we were the ones starting out.
“Never go to bed mad.”
“Go to bed mad because everything always seems better in the morning.”
“Always talk things through, don’t bottle them up inside.”
“Some things are better left unsaid.”
“Always assume the best in each other.”
“Put your spouse and his/her needs above your own.”
“Make sure to find time and do things for yourself.”
At the time those years ago I felt bombarded with news of this doomsday that inevitably would happen. We would fight. That’s what everyone said, and I hated to hear it! Here we were, newly-weds, so in love. In my little naive mind that was just NOT going to happen. Not to us, not never. I’d found my prince charming and we were headed off into the sunset of our “happily ever after” and all anyone could tell us was, “Congratulations! Now brace yourself. Things are going to get rough.” I just didn’t want to believe it.
It took about a month or two before it was clear to my husband that he didn’t marry a Rachael Ray, and maybe a week longer for me to discover my sweet husband was no “Chef Fantastico” himself. He hogged the covers at night, I fell asleep mid-sentence, and we both totally disagreed on what time the alarm needed to go off. I was always running late, he was always 15 minutes early, I asked too many questions, he didn’t ask the right ones, he drank whole milk and I was used to skim, and (worst of all) he liked vanilla ice cream flavors over the triple-ripple-fudgy-oooy-gooy-chocolate flavors I preferred. We had a few late-night discussions, a disagreement or two. Dog-gone-it, all those well-meaning, kind, thoughtful people concerned for our future were right.
During the family dinner this past weekend my mother-in-law shared a great quote with the lovely couple. “Marriage is two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other.” That first year of marriage (and every year since) happened to be just that for us. It was a year of sacrifice and learning, of compromise and forgiveness. My dear husband, after two summers of lessons (even a solo flight) and a lifetime of dreaming, postponed working to get his pilot license. I no longer took trips up the canyon to go snowboarding every weekend after class. We bought two percent milk, worked together to develop some sort of cooking skills, and agreed on vanilla ice cream with the fudgey ribbon in it. I learned to live with a cover hog and he grew to accept only hearing half of a story before I fell asleep.
Truth is we still are learning, sacrificing, and compromising. Always trying to forgive, cause both of us mess up. A lot. It might take an eternity for us to truly understand each other and get it right. Somehow in my little world of fairy tale weddings and happily ever afters back then I thought if we didn’t always see eye-to-eye, if we had disagreements, or if we got upset, we must not love each other. I’ve thankfully learned over the years that nothing could be further from the truth.
The events of Saturday were dear to my husband and me for more personal reasons than just our loved ones getting married. Nine years ago we started our “forever” in that same town. We drove by where we met. We took the kids on campus (we were young and in college back then). We walked by the building where I first saw my husband holding hands with another girl right after we met and nearly lost hope. We walked by spots we liked to study together, around the park where he first held my hand, by our first home, up the hill that we’d ride our bikes, down the field to where we played ultimate frisbee and on to where we cheered at many basketball games. We drove through the canyon where we spent many days hiking and exploring and many nights counting stars. So many memories! I wouldn’t dream of trading those wonderful times for all the late night discussions, all the silly arguments, and all the sacrifices we had to make. Those sweet moments amidst the more tough ones, that’s what marriage is all about.
We are certainly no experts. Just two very imperfect people working hard to make it last. But in our short experience, marriage has been about sacrifice, forgiveness, and unconditional love. It’s a journey that always presents new challenges, new experiences, new blessings, and surprises. Marriage is most certainly not without hard work, but I would never, ever go back. So, for what it’s worth, this is our sometimes frustrating, occasionally exasperating, unclear, trying, wonderful, sweet, worth-every-minute, happily ever after.