Dan and I were the first of our group of cohorts to get married. I was 23. He was 24.
We were young. Plenty of people liked to inform me of this fact, as if I didn’t know.
Between the two of us, we’d been to exactly three weddings. Dan, for his aunt and cousin. Me for my aunt. Years and years ago.
So, really, we had no wedding experience.
And most said not enough life experience.
But Dan and I were (are) old souls. We met as undergrads at the University of Virginia while working for the school’s independent newspaper, The Cavalier Daily. He was the Operations Manager and I was the News Editor. As News Editor, I got to the office earlier and stayed later than any other editor. So we spent a lot of time together. A lot.
We talked about our families, how funny it was we both had these much-younger-than-us sisters. How he and I both loved diet Coke and Law and Order. The night he found me trying to quietly hide my tears when my mom called down to the newsroom to tell me my sick dog wasn’t going to make it much longer.
Over countless dining hall dinners and trips to the local Harris Teeter, we became not only boyfriend and girlfriend but best friends.
After we graduated we both moved back home to Northern Virginia, spent the next nine months working our first jobs and wishing we were back at U.Va. instead, and decided to get married.
On June 28, 2008, Dan and I pledged our love for each other on a sweltering summer afternoon. After our ceremony we stopped at the local 7-11 for water and slurpees. And I knew I made the best choice.
While everyone had an opinion on how I should get married, no one offered up their feelings on how to stay married. And for me (a total non bride, if there ever was), that first year we spent together mattered more than all the tulle on Earth.
It’s not enough to be in love, I don’t think. Love is part of it, as love is for any relationship. But I don’t think love is enough to sustain a marriage for years and years. If all you needed was love, well that would be easy.
But marriage is hard. Marriage is work. Everyday. Not some of the time, when you feel like it. But everyday.
And some of that work is fun work. Planning a trip together. Date nights. Even just running errands to Target.
And some of that work is tough work. Having a baby. Buying a house. Deciding how to spend and save money.
Marriage is as much about fun and sex and love as it is about having those tough conversations that neither of you really wants to talk about.
As a newlywed, at first I wanted to shy away from those hard-to-talk-about things. Maybe we can just shove that giant issue under our bed with all that stemware we received as gifts and have no room for.
But the tricky thing about those issues is they keep rearing their ugly heads.
Several of our friends just got engaged and several more are getting married this year. I have zero opinions on their wedding. They should have the wedding they so desire. And I cannot wait to honor them on their day.
On marriage, though, I have one piece of wisdom they can choose to accept or reject.
Oh, it’s so much easier to be mean and say NO I WANT TO DO IT MY WAY/I ASKED YOU TO UNLOAD THE DISHWASHER AND YOU NEVER DO ANYTHING AROUND HERE. Yes, that is the easy way. I’ve done things that way a time or two. And I can save you the trouble of wondering how that goes. People’s feelings are hurt and words better left unsaid are exchanged.
To be kind is, at first, the harder way. Since marriage, by definition, requires two people (whoever they may be), then two people have to work something out, together. That’s where stuff gets tricky. But when I want to get mad and just have it my way, I pause, breathe, and think kindness. Be kind. Talk kindly.
I love being married. I love being married to Dan. Because I love him. But, to me, it’s more than that. Our marriage is more than love. It’s about a promise I made to him to kindly work it out.