Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought I would forego the flowery Happy Valentine’s Day post and instead take a moment to write a letter to my nieces who are either at the beginning or end of their wedding planning journey.
Dear Katie and Sara,
I want you to know that what I’m about to say isn’t meant to discourage you in any way. And I want you both to be exuberantly happy in your upcoming marriages. But before you walk down the aisle, I want to share a few things I, your not so old and fuddy duddy Aunt, has learned in my almost four years of marriage. And yes, I realize that four years doesn’t make me an expert or anything, but think of it as your future self offering advice to your bride self right now. OK? Ok.
Girls let’s talk. Right now you’re probably frazzled by all those wedding details, but let’s talk marriage details. Love is amazing isn’t it? It’s that feeling when your heart flutters and you have butterflies in your stomach and that guy you’ve chosen, that amazing guy, can do no wrong. I can practically see the stars twinkling in your eyes. All those overwhelming feelings, that urge to put your whole self into this amazing thing and this amazing man, that’s love right? Well, no.
Sorry. It’s the truth though. Those feelings (and urges…ahem) are an illusion. One day, a few years down the road the honeymoon will be over and those feelings that seem so overwhelming and all consuming right now will take a back seat to things like paying bills, what to eat for dinner, how to get all those errands run and how to move forward in your chosen careers. You might even look at your spouse for a brief moment and think “man, I miss those early days where what I was feeling was so big and exciting”, but that’s an illusion too. The butterflies and heart pounding are nothing compared to what awaits you.
Love and marriage are a daily re-commitment to help your spouse, to love them even when they annoy the crap out of you (yes, it will happen), and to be the best you you can be…because they need you at your best.
Keep in mind though that being the best you doesn’t include perfection. (And even more importantly, apply that same logic to the love of your life…he’s not perfect and he never will be and nothing you do will change that).
Love…is being your own independent you. Have your own goals and dreams and hobbies and time by yourself. If the sun rises and sets in your spouse you will begin to resent him for it. Live as though you can live without him, but choose to live with him. If you don’t like what he’s watching on TV, don’t pout and sigh loudly, get up off the sofa and find something to do that makes you happy.
Love…is knowing that you can’t, and shouldn’t, try and change him. All those annoying little things he does while you’re dating are only going to continue to annoy you when you’re married. And guess what? You’ll find new things that will stand on your last nerve. But you’ll also find a thousand new reasons to love him. Focus on those. Let things go. This marriage isn’t all about you, and I can promise you that there are things you do that drive him just as crazy (and not in the good way).
Love…is not an end game. That big fluffy wedding you’re planning is nice and a special moment, but it’s not the end of a chase, or even the goal. Don’t be obsessed with the wedding and realize that marriage isn’t your end goal. Marriage is a beginning and it’s not a magic pill that will make everything in your life perfect. Marriage does not instantly make you happy. It doesn’t wipe out past failures. It doesn’t heal your heart. It makes life more complicated. It’s supposed to. It’s a challenge for sure, but if you do it right, even the “worse” part of for better or worse is going to be pretty awesome in hindsight.
Love…is not wearing your heart on your sleeve. If there was ever a time to put your big girl panties on (and not the skimpy sexy ones either, we’re talking granny panties here) marriage is it. Don’t assume that what he’s doing is meant to upset you. Do your best to cultivate calm. Argue fairly, don’t bring up past hurts. Don’t bolt when he’s made you angry. Stay, stick it out. Getting married is done on a feeling, staying married is a choice. Trust me on this.
Love…is keeping your marital problems to yourself. Every couple has problems. You argue, you’ll fight. You’ll probably wonder why on earth you ever thought marriage was a good idea. (That last one is a moment of weakness, I promise.) DON’T share those things with your family and friends. See, while you may just be venting your frustrations, you are forever changing your families’ view of your spouse. He could be the nicest guy in the world (and he probably is) but when you do nothing but complain about him, we hold on to that. We see him only how you present him. And think about what that does to him. Would you want him saying similar things to his family about you? I didn’t think so.
Over all girls, I want you to love yourself. It’s so, so easy to find your identity in another person, but that doesn’t last. Know who you are, love yourself enough first. Strive to be confident in your own skin. Never rely on him solely to fill you up. That’s not fair to him, or you.
Good luck in your impending marriages. Adam and I will be there to cheer you on, on your big day, but we also reserve the right to kick your butt if needed. 😉