Why marriage?

I attended a beautiful wedding this weekend of two dear friends who instead of having a traditional dance party after the ceremony opted for a talent show instead. My talents are ages 11 and (almost) 9 and they represented themselves in a performance so I had to come up with something on my own. Here are a few words I scribbled down on the drive to Donnely, which I ended up liking enough to transcribe from my messy journal writing to here. 

I used to think that marriage is a sham. Partially because I was young and contrary, but mostly because I hadn’t yet found my own place in this world so I couldn’t imagine carving out space for someone else. So instead of filling my head with ideas about companionship I filled it with ideas about myself–who I am, the mother I want to be, and figuring out my likes and dislikes. When I met my (now) husband he never tried to dissuade me from any of these ideas. He nurtured each one, almost as if his own, and gave me even more stories and support to help formulate my vision of who I am.

But why marriage? When the time came and the question was asked I gave an enthusiastic YES but there was a real part of me that continued to ask this question. Does marriage matter? I knew I loved him profoundly. I knew he cared about me deeply. But marriage? Why the papers? Why the dotted line? Why the shared taxes?!! Being one to never back down from a challenge I said yes without knowing the answer myself, but hoped I would formulate a response along the way.

Only a few years in to marriage myself I probably haven’t gained the authority to preach about the topic, but I can tell you this:

Even three miles in to an ultramarathon the time spent running has been worth it.

Marriage is a dance between me and we. Sometimes it paralyzes and sometimes it frees. It is the ultimate compromise. 

Even though I feared letting go of my identity it wasn’t the type of loss I imagined. It is true, you have to clear space in both your head and your life for your marriage. It is also true that you have to add another person to your decision making process– a person who might have completely different decision making methods than you do. What is not true is that you have to lose yourself completely. In my experience it is quite the opposite. You find yourself, a better version of you that has to share, cooperate, and show concern for someone else every single day.

The shift in your headspace doesn’t happen all at once, but it does creep in sometimes in the most insistent ways.  In my few short years of marriage I’ve had to undergo far too many surgeries. Nothing major, no real concern about the outcome, but still every time I go under anesthesia I have this feeling of a weight on my chest and a fear of never waking up. The process of coming out of it is always hazy, but each time the first thing the nurse says to me is “You’ve been asking for your husband and we’ll get him back here very soon.”

I wish that making room for him was always this effortless and easy. You only need to ask him how many pictures of salmon I’ve allowed in our new house (zero) to understand that I still have a long way to go in understanding how to share space–both mental and physical. And even though his name, and wanting him to be near me, comes easy in my most vulnerable moments, I believe it comes from the small daily compromises that we both make. I think I want him there when things are rough because we get a lot of practice of making it through rough things. The tug and push of our daily negotiations serve a purpose.

Although I’m only a few years in, I think I’ll always be able to say this about my marriage:

I’m glad I danced the dance. I’m appreciative of the miles we’ve already made it through. I’m forever shaped by taking a risk on the question ‘why marriage?’ I know you will be too.

So, Jackie and Dan, continue to let your wild hearts be yours, but always work at letting the first words from your lips be theirs, and know that what you are doing matters. At least to me. Happy wedding!

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