Hello. I hope this letter finds you well, but I’m sure it does, because you’re a young man who wants to get married and settle down with someone for the rest of his life. That’s a wonderful place to be! In many ways, I envy you. You see, I was married once, to a man who was young, and then we both got a little older, and ten years later, we were no longer married. It was a very sad thing for a very long time, but now I feel good about it, because it’s better for us to be apart than to be together.
But we’re not talking about me; we’re talking about you.
You are young. The world is very big and very promising, and the women you fall in love with are easy to picture becoming brides. They’re beautiful, not a wrinkle on them, and one day they’ll wear all white and you will see them come down the aisle. Then you’ll have a nice honeymoon, go home to your perfect little Young Married Couple Home, and — what? What exactly happens after all that? What does marriage really mean, when you aren’t two crazy young people who want to have a big party to celebrate your love?
I’ll tell you what happens. Life.
Life is a really strange thing in a marriage, because you continue to think as though you were one person who can operate entirely by themselves, even though you’re really a team. Your brain never really accepts the idea that you are half of a whole, and everything you do has a direct and important effect on the other person. The way you spend money, the way you socialize, the way you sleep on the Tempur Pedic mattress — all of this affects another human being, the woman you have chosen to spend your life with, the one wearing the white dress on that special day without a wrinkle on her face.
But she won’t always be wearing a white dress. She will get older, and her breasts will hang a bit lower, and her eyes will look tired some mornings. She will yell for silly reasons (you left crumbs in the butter again?), and sometimes, when you touch her, she will roll away from you and mumble about not being in the mood. She’ll wear a ratty t shirt to bed where she used to wear a sheer nightie, and she won’t care what you think when she gets up in the middle of the night to fix herself a big snack. She will be neither the Madonna nor the Whore, she won’t be perfect in any way — she will be herself. She will slowly let herself become the person she is when she’s alone, because she won’t be afraid of hiding it.
And you won’t realize it, but you will do the exact same thing. Your stomach will grow a little rounder, and your hair will start much higher on your head. You’ll forget to call from the bar when you’re with your friends, and you’ll say things you don’t mean when you get home a little drunk. You’ll forget about her pleasure sometimes when making love, and wear drawstring sweatpants when it’s cold outside because all you want to do is sit on the couch and watch some TV. Some days, you’ll be so, so tired, and you’ll eat some of the ingredients she bought to make a special meal while standing in front of the refrigerator. You will be neither the Prince Charming nor the Playboy, you won’t be perfect in any way — you’ll be yourself.
So if you want to get married to a woman, don’t think about the white dress. Don’t think about the two of you today — her with no wrinkles around her eyes, you with a full head of hair. Don’t think about the perfect few moments on the honeymoon where you both look fabulous in pictures. Think about the two of you with awful colds, stuck in bed coughing on each other, too sick to take care of the other one. Think about the two of you having a dumb argument in an airport terminal when all the two of you want to do is get on a plane and go to sleep. Think about boring nights at home, one person tapping away on their computer, the other finishing a movie. Think about all of that, and remember that you’ll be a team. It won’t just be the two of you being strange and imperfect and utterly yourselves individually — it will be the both of you, together. Forever connected, forever impacting each other, forever disappointing if you don’t remember to treat them like they are special.
Now, do you still want to marry her?
If your answer is “yes,” then do it. Do it and never look back. But always remember that the woman in the white dress will one day be the woman in the t-shirt and leggings, and that doesn’t make her boring — it just makes her human.