There is little that can truly, realistically prepare you for marriage.
You may have had an inspired sermon during your ceremony, one with a more progressive minister who clued you in to the roller coaster and made a snappy joke about picking socks up off the floor. Maybe you grew up together and knew each other’s families and what you were getting yourself into, or perhaps you’re the owners of old souls– wise beyond your years and richly aware of who you were and what you would be for one another. But even then: it is a contract made at the beginning of a million unknown circumstances, and difficult to believe anyone could be prepared for the fraught positions that time will inevitably move us into.
Our service was more traditional, but we did attend a series of premarital counseling sessions during which my husband’s eyes were mostly glassed over with boredom. I answered questions and shared anecdotes with zealous sincerity that I am sure annoyed everyone in the room, certain that my honesty and enthusiasm would yield maximum absorption of everything I needed to know about getting along, serving one another, giving in and holding fast, division of labor, how to talk about finances and how to be quiet when you want to scream. Etcetera etcetera.
It did not. There was, at the time, no hook to hang it on.
And then we were married. It was terrifying. I remember standing in front of a mirror in full bridal mode, searching the room for a sign, clinging desperately to borrowed and blue. But despite my hesitations, the music played and I walked down the aisle toward this man I loved but barely knew, said yes, ate some cake, and it was done.
The first two years were easy. It was like it had been. And then we decided to have children, and the roller coaster we’d avoided up to that point began to crank and churn, lift us off the ground and up to uneasy heights. But it isn’t just children that changes the altitude, it’s thirtysomething. Marriage in your late 30’s, life in your late 30’s, is noticeably different from what I’ve lived through thus far. We are all making decisions and directional shifts that seem slight but have great consequences.
Our 8th anniversary is today. We will go somewhere and have salty margaritas and probably not do much reflecting beyond the exchange of work stories, bitty funnies about the children, things done or said while one of us was out. We’ll renew our promise not to drive fancy cars or want for more than a really great vacation every year. To keep life simply and removed from that place where material things start to matter. To fight less and love more and search until we find the humor in things.
My husband lives for football. Causing him continued emotional stress is the fact that, for the last 30 years and probably the next 50 the teams he claims his own are perennial underdogs. Try as they may to bolster their rosters and improve the coaching staff, little changes from year to year with the exception of the outing of a particularly bad kicker. In 2008 his Alma mater traveled upstate for their annual, scheduled beating by a division 1 powerhouse. The “moneygame”. This is not an epic tale about the little guy winning, it is, however, a glimpse into who this man is, sitting there in the stands as only the home side of the scoreboard climbed, chewing his nails and believing in that ever elusive game changing moment. He insisted that we stay until the very last second of the game. Which we did. In the rain.
Our marriage is far from perfect; it is rife with things we knew better than to say or do. We are an only child and a youngest child, selfish and stubborn, undeniably me-oriented. We cannot help ourselves. But the inevitable challenges have somehow, miraculously, forced us further and deeper into this union. And I suppose that is what we hope for: losing seasons that become our proudest accomplishments. The foxholes we escape, by tooth and nail, bloody and beat. To be able to say: we survived. To weather this ever-changing climate, to grow and grow together. Separate but entangled in a present tense.
8 years later, I’ve grown some hooks. I’m starting to understand a little bit better about patience and service. I choose to be grateful today for this person whose nature is to see it through. I choose today to believe that while our direction may be altered by little decisions, our path is kept good and real by the disposition with which we accept failure, celebrate success, and enjoy waking up each day to this home and these children, this life; its many meaningful moments, often borne of distress and grief, that we have carved into something beautiful beyond words.
There is little that can truly, realistically prepare you for marriage. But a rainy football game might give you a hint.
Featured photo and post photos 1-3: Kathryn McCrary for The Southern C, Guide 2 Athens and Waiting on Martha