Things I've learned about marriage after 6 months of being engaged.
In just about six months I'll be a married woman. It's so weird to say that. We've picked out wedding invitations, my dress arrives in December and everything's coming together. I always thought planning a wedding was going to be the most stressful experience I've ever had, but it doesn't even come close. Everything is surprisingly easy. Things just fall into place. I think a lot of it has to do with how little we care about the little details. I don't care how fancy the table centerpieces are. I don't care what color the chairs or table linens are. I don't care if we have fake flowers versus real ones. I don't care, because quite frankly, nobody else cares. Weddings get so hyped up and suddenly people are dropping $30,000 for one day. Whenever I start to get a little bridezilla, I remind myself of that. It's one day. Yeah, it's "the big day." But it's just one day. What really matters is the people who are there and whether there's an open bar.
Just kidding. The open bar is nice though.
Oftentimes when people ask me how wedding planning is going, I get the feeling that somewhere deep down, they think I'm a little crazy for getting married so young. They might be right, and sometimes I think so too. I never pictured myself getting married at 23 years old. I was thinking I'd get married at 27. Ideally, I'd be 25, because that always sounded like a solid age to get married. 25 sounds like you've got your shit together. 25 sounds like you've grown out of your immaturity and flourished into a hip yuppie who can afford to go to happy hour AND buy a drink or two after the deals end. 25 sounds like you know how to cook things that aren't just scrambled eggs. THAT'S when you're ready to commit yourself to another human being forever.
But alas, I'm about two years ahead of schedule. I certainly don't have my shit together, I'm still pretty immature and I've just barely started learning how to cook things that aren't scrambled eggs. When I wrote my messy blog post, I was the furthest from feeling ready to marry anyone. Because how can you give yourself to someone while you're in that kind of condition, right? I always thought you needed to have reached your best self by the time you started a life with your husband or wife. I thought that there shouldn't be anything to change or fix. You'd just coexist with your spouse, who also was their best self at this point, in perfect harmony until death did you part.
After being engaged for six months now, I quickly realized how wrong I was about marriage. I've taken a lot away from Tim Keller's The Meaning of Marriage, which explains marriage in the context of God and Christianity. Granted, I'm still working through figuring out what Christianity is to me, but the book has been an eye-opening reference regardless.
I won't bore you with the synopsis -- you can read it if you want. I highly recommend it. But Tim Keller offers such rich perspective in what it means to make that commitment -- that covenant -- to another person. He's brutally honest about how freaking hard it is to be married. He doesn't paint a picture of marriage that makes you want to jump right into it. You marry someone, not because they're already the best version of themselves, but because you want to be the one to help them get there.
I've learned that marriage is self-sacrificial -- sacrificing your own wants and needs for the good of someone else's. And not to get preachy, but it all ties back to that Jesus guy and how he literally gave his life for a bunch of broken sinners. I think I've said this before, but we are selfish creatures by nature. We all want what's best for ourselves, whether it's choosing the right college, the right job or the right hair product. We want what's going to benefit us the most in the long run. But then you get married, and you have to think twice as hard about your decisions and actions, because they're no longer just yours. They're your spouse's, too.
I never contemplated the gravity of the covenant that is marriage. Yeah, weddings are fun as HECK and they're warm and fuzzy. But you're not just making a promise that you love that person today and tomorrow and next year. Marriage is the promise that you're going to love that person UNTIL YOU DIE. More than that, you're promising that you're going to choose to love that person until you die. That's the other thing I've learned. Love is a choice. When it's been 30 years and you're tired of each other, you have to actively decide whether or not you're going to love your spouse like you promised you would 30 years ago.
Tim Keller says:
A wedding should not be primarily a celebration of how loving you feel now -- that can safely be assumed. Rather, in a wedding you stand up before God, your family, and all the main institutions of society, and you promise to be loving, faithful and true to the other person in the future, regardless of undulating internal feelings or external circumstances.
So yeah. That's why in the Notebook, Noah is all like "It's not gonna be easy. It's gonna be really hard. And we're gonna have to work at this every day but I want to do that because I WANT YOU." He gets it. Back in high school, I thought that was the dumbest thing I'd ever heard because it should never be hard to be with someone if it's the right person. I think a lot of people have that mindset -- once there's less passion and more fighting, it's time to get out and find a relationship with more passion and less fighting. But that's never going to happen. Because there will come a point when you start to really know someone and the ugly sides claw their way to the surface. Marriage is supposed to be about getting to that point and choosing to stay and to love anyway.
Tim Keller also talks about how our culture tends to glorify romantic passion. That, if we're with the "right" person, we often expect to go on being in love forever. But if you choose to love, especially in those moments when it feels impossible to do so, then it humbles you. He says it's a lot like the love that parents have for their children. Even when they're getting nothing from their kids except dirty diapers and sleep deprivation, they still love them. You do the acts of love even (especially) when the feeling isn't necessarily there.
And that's a lot of what marriage really is, I think. It's going to be a daily decision to choose my husband over my own selfishness. It's understanding that love is and should be sacrificial. I'm not saying I know all that there is to know about marriage and that I'm more ready than most people. I'm probably not. But even though I'll be 23 when I get married, I know pretty well what I'm getting myself into. Making that promise to my best friend and making him my husband in six months is going to be the greatest thing I've ever done.
It's going to take a long time before "husband" doesn't sound weird to me, though.