I’m not married. I’ve never been married. I don’t plan on getting married for quite some time. This is not an advice article about how to have the perfect marriage, written by someone who’s been married for several years and knows all the secrets.
This is just me trying to express the pressures I feel from society to have an incredibly extravagant wedding, to have every second of it documented, and to have every ounce of it be flawless. I’m tired of feeling like my end goal should be to have a wedding. I’m tired of feeling like my greatest accomplishment in life will be when I become a bride.
It’s not that I don’t want to get married. It’s just that I’m not even close to being ready for marriage right now. I can barely remember to buy myself toilet paper, let alone concentrate on building an entire life with another person. But I do want to get married… eventually.
The problem is that we are being conditioned to think that getting married is no longer about searching for the person you want to spend your life with. Instead, it’s about finding the person you want to throw a wedding with. And we feel a feverish need to make it happen as soon as possible, so that we can give play-by-plays to our social networks, post pictures that get an obscene amount of likes, and throw an incredible event that will have all our friends talking.
Marriage seems hard – terrifying, even. You’re supposed to commit your entire life to one person. You’re supposed to stay with them through everything. Of course it’ll be easy to stay with them through the good moments, like when you’re at your wedding and everyone is happy and cheering you on. But what about when one of you loses your job? Or someone gets into credit card debt? Or somebody’s parent dies? You can’t just walk away. This is marriage. It just doesn’t end when things get inconvenient or tough.
Although I’ve never been married myself, I’m lucky enough that I have an incredible example of what marriage should be like from my parents, who have been married for over 27 years. This is normally the part where I should talk about how my parents always did lovey-dovey things, like go on date nights and talk about how much they love each other. But in reality, my parents have never been very romantic when they talk about their relationship. As a kid, anytime I asked my mom about her wedding day, she never became doe-eyed and nostalgic. She just said “your dad was a good man and he wanted a family. We had the same values. I knew he was someone I could build a life with.” As a young child being brought up on fairytales and happily-ever-afters, I always wanted her to say something cheesier, like “He was all I ever wanted!” or “I knew he was the one from the start!” I’m glad she didn’t.
My parents taught me what real love is. Sure, it’s important to feel passionate and head-over-heels for your partner, but those are fleeting emotions. Real love is something much more solid and consistent. It’s something you feel for your partner even when they are driving you up the wall. What I learned from my parents is that the most important parts of a marriage are how you interact with each other during the really tough times.
When I think of romantic instances between my parents, the first thought that comes to mind isn’t my dad bringing home flowers or my mom writing a corny love note. Instead, I think about the time my mom moved across the world – literally, to Japan – with two young kids, because my dad was offered a great job there. She was terrified, but she knew how badly he wanted it. I think about how my dad dropped everything last year when my mom’s father got sick, and how he did everything in his power to get us all to Philadelphia in time to say good bye. The most important lessons I ever received about marriage did not come from watching my parents in their happiest moments. It was watching my parents take on their darkest moments together that showed me what you really want in a marriage – someone whose hand you can hold when everything else is collapsing around you.
As I got older, I began realizing how special my parents’ marriage was. I started trying to soak up as much marriage advice from them as possible. What I remember most is what I learned from talking with them at the dinner table, especially on visits home from college. “How do you guys still like each other?” I would ask, in-between other important questions, like “What’s the secret to keeping the spark alive?” and “Do you have any wine that is more Franzia-esque in taste?”
And what my parents told me was this: you should get married to the person you want to take on a mortgage with, not the person you think you’d have a great wedding reception with. Because let’s be real: weddings are fantastic. There’s free food, dancing, and lots of old people who are trying to act like they aren’t wasted. A wedding is the one place where you can take a tequila shot with somebody’s grandma and chase it with cream puffs you stole off of the dessert table. Weddings are happy, joyous occasions.
But they’re over after one day. After that, you’re supposed to have another 50, 60, or 70 years with the same person. Your wedding should be special, but it’s not going to be the most important day of your marriage. The most important day of your marriage is going to be some ordinary, uneventful day when something bad happens to you and your partner sticks by your side anyways. It’s easy to be in love when you’re wearing a beautiful dress and everyone around you is drinking champagne. It’s harder to be in love when something bad happens and you feel like your world is crashing down.
So find the person that’s going to hold you up on the day when you can’t hold yourself up. That will be the most important day of your marriage.