6 years ago tomorrow, Mike and I were married (there I am above, getting ready to meet Mike at the church :) ). It's hard to believe it's been that long. Granted, I hope that we live to be married 50 plus more years, but for a girl that barely dated before meeting Mike, 6 years seems like a long time!
It's really hard to fully describe how much Mike and my marriage mean to me. I love being married; I thrive in commitment. I never enjoyed the "dating scene." It was only when I released control over *trying* to meet someone that I did meet Mike, through mutual friends. And I was a month shy of turning 30 years old when I did finally marry. I'm not saying 30 is old! Far from it. It's just that many of my friends married much younger, and I did feel a bit left out. It was a hard, but grace-filled, time in my 20's as I struggled to figure out what God wanted for my life.
These years since I've been married have been the happiest of my life. I love my role as wife and mother, and each day I wake up happy, grateful to have this life. This husband, this son, this new life in my womb, this home, this future that we're building together. And yet, I realize that the best years of my life are probably even still yet to come, which enkindles an even greater sense of awe. I'm still looking forward to meeting this baby, and possibly more, should that be God's will, to seeing our children grow, to trips together and eventually retirement. To many, many dinners spent talking over wine, and unexpected surprises and joys.
It's all so very wonderful, and I know that I love my husband more today than I did that day 6 years ago. Each day, that love continues to grow. It's amazing to me when I think back to when we were dating - it was a special time, but marriage is so much better!
I think that because I always wanted to marry, I thought marriage would come "naturally" to me. It did not, and I don't think it does to anybody. Everything felt very natural when we married, that's not what I mean. It's just that marriage has taught me so much.
At the base of everything, Mike and I are friends. THAT is what will keep a marriage together for a half a century or more. Passion and your role as lovers are important, and it's certainly essential to nourish those physical desires as the years go by, but that won't get you through the tough times, although it can be a welcome distraction :). Through illness and aging, loss of loved ones, misadventures of our children, financial difficulties. It's the emotional bond that gets you through those things.
And your emotional bond is nurtured via the ins and outs of daily life. Cooking and cleaning, raising children, making financial decisions, making career decisions, encouraging each other in your interests. Investing time to spend together, even when a million other things call for your attention. All of this happens most fruitfully AFTER marriage for the most part, and I think some of that is lost in modern society. As a Catholic, I of course believe in the importance of the sacrament of matrimony in solidifying your bond and putting you on the right spiritual path. My role as Mike's wife is to help him get to heaven.
I think that what I have learned the most from my role as wife is that I can't control, via my own emotional needs or actions, what Mike does. I'd like him to come to Mass with us more often, but I cannot make him go, and applying pressure on him will only make it seem like a chore and make him want to go less. Everyone has to come to their own resolutions to things, based on a mutual discussion, certainly, but in the end of their own will and volition. With regard to spiritual matters, everyone has their own path, and needs to come to their own "spark" wherein they communicate with God. A person cannot force that on another person. All you can do is pray and try your best to show God's light through your own life. And like all people, I'm certain that I fail to show that light pretty frequently.
On other matters, I've learned that while you may think going into marriage that it will change the other person in ways you'd like to see, the one who will come out changed is yourself. I've found things that I could do to make being someones partner a little easier, and over the years, I've changed my routines accordingly. The other person does not need to change in order for you to be happy; you should learn and grow, try to compromise, and realize that your expectations may have to mature.
Patience is a crucial virtue. The value of *waiting*. Feel emotional about something? Give it a half hour. You're bound to feel less edgy then and better able to discuss it, as well as listen to the other person more productively. This lesson took me well over 5 years to even recognize, let alone make any headway. :)
After these 6 years, I'm so grateful for everything that I've learned, and for everything that we've been through together. We got married already fairly settled into adult life and had to figure out how to coexist with each other. We had a beautiful son 10 months after our wedding and thus immediately had to figure out how to be parents together. We struggled through the early years of parenting and how to do a good job at it. We worked together when Mike was unhappy with his career, and navigated through a few disappointing positions. We mourned when a job we both thought was ideal did not work for him as we had planned. We took a significant leap of faith and decided for Mike to quit his job and go back to school full-time to pursue civil engineering. We worked hard to create a budget to live on one income while supporting 3 people. We bought a home together. We created another life together. And this year, we're facing adding another member to our family all while completely uncertain when and where Mike will work after he finishes his degree in May, where Hank will attend school in the fall, and whether or not I will achieve tenure (and thus get to keep my job!).
None of it is easy, but it's all so very worthwhile. And I wouldn't want to do it with anyone else other than my husband. Now I'm crying. I swear, it's the pregnancy hormones! Those toilet paper commercials with the little puppy make me cry too.
I thought I'd close with the nuptial blessing that the priest recited at the end of our wedding Mass. I still look back on that day so fondly, and continue to learn from this prayer:
"My dear friends, let us turn to the Lord and pray that he will bless with his grace this woman, now married in Christ to this man, and that he will unite in love the couple he has joined in this holy bond.
Father, by your power you have made everything out of nothing. In the beginning you created the universe and made mankind in your own likeness.You gave man the constant help of woman so that man and woman should no longer be two, but one flesh, and you teach us that what you have united may never be divided.
Father, you have made the union of man and wife so holy a mystery that it symbolizes the marriage of Christ and his Church.
Father, by your plan man and woman are united, and married life has been established as the one blessing that was not forfeited by original sin or washed away in the flood. Look with love upon this woman, your daughter, now joined to her husband in marriage. She asks your blessing. Give her the grace of love and peace. May she always follow the example of the holy women whose praises are sung in the scriptures.
May her husband put his trust in her and recognize that she is his equal and the heir with him to the life of grace. May he always honor her and love her as Christ loves his bride, the Church.
Father, keep them always true to your commandments.
Keep them faithful in marriage and let them be living examples of Christian life.
Give them the strength which comes from the gospel so that they may be witnesses of Christ to others. Bless them with children and help them to be good parents. May they live to see their children’s children. And, after a happy old age, grant them fullness of life with the saints in the kingdom of heaven. We ask this through Christ our Lord."