Saturday, September 6, 2008

So Much More Than A White Dress

Dear Gerry and Trina,

Dan and I have been trying to think of something to say about marriage to the two of you. Basically, you couldn't find two bigger proponants of the institution than us. We have been married for four years, which isn't that long, but four years is as long as you spend in high school, or getting a college degree (or a third of a college degree, in some cases.) It's not an insignificant amount of time. In that four years, we've moved halfway across the country, we've gotten new jobs, we've lost family members, made new friends, rediscovered old ones, encountered crushing disappointment, had a baby, watched him start to grow up. And we've done it side by side, which is what marriage is about. We haven't always seen things eye-to-eye, but the point is that you will continue to have moments of significance throughout your life, and this other person will be there to bear witness.

In four years of marriage, we've learned some things. In lieu of our wedding present, which still isn't finished (but to be fair I'm making significant headway), we have the following pieces of marriage related advice for you. Like all advice, it is at least 38% bullshit and possibly not at all applicable to your marriage, but it's what we've learned.

One is to never go grocery shopping when you're hungry. You'll blow your budget completely. This is actually a good lesson for anybody. A corollary of this rule is that, although you're newlyweds and perpetually on your honeymoon and you can barely go to the bathroom without each other at this point, it is really best to grocery shop alone. I spend so much less money when I grocery shop alone, it's ridiculous. I don't know why that is.

A marriage is like an inside joke. Once a lot of other people become privy to the joke, it is not as funny.

Another thing that we've learned is to never try to move furniture or hang artwork after 9 p.m. It is a sure recipe for a knock-down, drag-out fight. No matter how good a mood you start out in, no matter how firmly in agreement you are about the right thing to do, three hours later you will both be sweaty, furious, not a single step closer to having things arranged how you want them, and quite sure that you've married the only person on earth who can screw up the use of a laser level.
Your spouse is family you choose. This information is more important than you think.

Sometimes you feel like this person's conjoined twin, sometimes you will need a little space. Sometimes you will feel like you will never run out of things to say to each other, and sometimes you will worry that you will never have anything to say to each other again. Sometimes you will feel like everything is worth it all the time, and sometimes you will feel you've never been happier than when you were living alone. In every case, you are both right and wrong, simultaneously.

Don't assume that your spouse can read your mind, but if you're trying to hide something, keep in mind that this person knows you better than anyone has ever known you, and part of the reason you married them is their brain. You are probably getting away with much less than you think you are.

Your marriage is not a static thing--you will go through cycles of being close to each other and needing distance, talking a lot and leaving things unsaid, getting along famously and bickering a lot. There is a level of comfort in getting the distance that you need and knowing that you can come back, knowing that you can argue with your spouse without them holding a grudge.

Don't hold grudges.

Respect each other's privacy, space, needs, dignity, foibles, pet peeves, and opinions. You can safely assume that someone who loves you will willingly make sacrifices for your happiness and safety from time to time, but you didn't marry a martyr. Neither did they.

In my experience, relationships fail because women expect men to change, and they don't; and men expect women not to change, and they do. Accepting your partner for who they are, or aren't, is a key to living happily with another person.

An excellent way to end a fight with your wife is to suggest that she might feel better after a nap. Then make it possible for her to take one. Likewise, an excellent way to end a fight with your husband is to suggest that he might feel better after a snack. Then make it possible for him to have one.

Pick your battles, and learn when not to talk.

Whatever challenge, opportunity, disappointment, disaster, or hardship comes your way, remember that you are on the same side. You chose each other for a reason. You are each other's advocate, partner, and best friend, and those things are even more important than the mere formal title of husband and wife. You were those things before you stood up in front of your friends and family and took vows, and, at least in my mind, they are just as sacred, just as significant, and just as permanent as the vows you took.

Don't worry. Marriage is easier than it looks. Anyone who tells you how "marriage is a lot of really hard work" may potentially be doing something wrong. I have found being married to be a hell of a lot less work and complication than being single ever was.

I love quotes. This is part of what our friend Kurt read at our wedding, and I found it to be profound then, and still true now:

"Marriage hath in it less of beauty but more of safety, than the single life; it
hath more care, but less danger, it is more merry, and more sad; it is fuller of
sorrows, and fuller of joys; it lies under more burdens, but it is supported by
all the strengths of love and charity, and those burdens are delightful." --
Bishop Jeremy Taylor
Dan and I wish you both the best of luck. We hope you find marriage as otherworldly as we have, and we are thinking of you this weekend.

Love,

Molly and Dan

2 comments:

Treen said...

As if I hadn't cried enough this week...

We love you guys, thank you for that. We're home and I promise to write all about it and post tons of pictures as soon as we sleep for about 72 hours straight.

p.s. My dad has turned into some maniac that went from warning me of the hazards of parenting early into a marriage to the guy that asks me consistently when I'm going to have a little cousin for Lia to play with. Apparently being nearly a year old makes her near baby retirement and we need a new, less vintage one. HELP.

Gerry said...

Honestly I want to thank you for that also. I really wish you could have been there, but there will be plenty to tell and plenty of pictures to see very soon. I cried like a baby when she came down the aisle, but more on that later.
Love you guys,
Ger