A young couple who is close to my heart tied the knot this past weekend, and I was blessed to attend their wedding and stand up as a groomsman on their big night. It was certainly an honor to be part of their joy.
The occasion started me to thinking about marriage: in my first decade of being married, I have learned more than I ever might have guessed before entering into said sacred union. Warning: The following is not going to be as snarky or humorous as many readers might want it to be. It’s from the heart – my apologies in advance.
First and foremost, I have learned that happiness is not something your spouse can deliver to you in a pretty package. You bring your happiness and positivity, and when your spouse does the same, the two of you can pick one another up in the darker times.
The day we take our vows, many of us are young enough that we cannot truly understand what forever means. If you learn to do forever the right way, then it seems that life is too short; if you don’t, and if you care more about yourself than your spouse, then forever is too long. The longevity of marriages hinges upon this important point.
A man I respect, one who I met very early in life, was married to his wife for 80 years, 8 months and 8 days – that’s no fib: that’s the truth. His sole piece of advice on marital success that he offered in a national radio interview upon the passing of his wife resonates with me to this day –
‘Don’t get married until you learn to love someone more than you love yourself.’ That’s poetry, folks.
If it’s her life and my life for too long, we grow apart. When my wife and I live our life, then we grow together. I’m guarded at times, wishing not to expose my spouse to the stresses, frustrations and worries of my day-to-day life: but when I lock her out, I hurt us both.
No one goes into marriage planning for it to fail, but there aren’t enough folks who enter into it with a real plan to succeed.
Departing from the philosophical side, my practical advice for any newlyweds would be for then to be considerate. Give a little. When you don’t get your way once in a while, just be quiet and keep loving her. When he doesn’t understand you like he should, give him another chance or two. He’ll figure it out.
There’s no right or wrong way to squeeze a toothpaste tube. Nobody’s scrambled eggs will taste exactly like the ones you make. I have never yet seen a functional home where the shoes were all put into closets. Toilet seats that are down can be raised; ones that are up can be lowered. Don’t fight about the things that don’t matter.
As far as the big things – money, faith, kids – you’re going to fight sometimes: it’s just part of life. But keep your arguments isolated to moments and remember that forever must by definition (and necessity) outlast any squabble.
Ignore your instincts to take every little moment and make it mean something more. Trust that the force that drew you to your spouse can (and will) draw you together time and time again over the years.
In ten years, I have learned just how unsatisfying it can be to win the fight, knowing that the price I paid was another precious moment with my best friend in this world. I have apologized first and felt like a fool; I’ve apologized last and felt like a jerk. If you can do it wrong, I have done it wrong.
The one thing I’ve done right over these first few years together is this: I have believed in us. It would be my advice to these friends, if they were to ask for my two cents’ worth: believe first, then get your evidence later. Start from a point of faith, and then use your daily life to prove what you already know.
Matt Pearl owns and operates newspapers in King City, Albany and Grant City.