Twenty-two years ago tomorrow night I got married. It was a long courtship (on then off then on, as it goes sometimes) and included a bout of living together just a couple of months before he cooked me dinner on New Year’s Eve and said he didn’t want to contemplate life without me and he asked me to marry him. I said “Yes!” enthusiastically, if not completely surprised.
I had wanted to elope, to quietly get married, and invite a few friends to a party. He wanted a wedding, saying, “Years from now, when we are going through hard times, I want us to be able to look back and have this memory, our wedding with our family and friends around us.” To me, those were theoretical hard times. There have been, in fact, a lot of hard times.
On that day in 1994 we were married in a ceremony at a lovely art gallery where we professed our love and commitment, we exchanged rings and said “I do!” with a kiss. We danced and smiled and had a wonderful time, and packed away as proof, is a video recording. We ate the contents of our caterer-provided basket of our going away dinner and cake after midnight with criss-crossed applesauce legs on the floor of a Ritz-Carlton Atlanta suite.
And here we are 22 years later. Wiser, so very much wiser than that hot summer day.
Twenty-two years ago we couldn’t fathom we would face our one day kids’ mortality or question their future possibilities of opportunities and happiness. When I walked down the isle I could only see my future husband waiting and not images of the same man comforting me while our son was in pain or of my to be husband restraining our son from rages. I couldn’t picture him comforting our daughter through debilitating depression and bouts of confidence issues. I could not imagine our marriage or my husband living under the stress of paying for the family’s medical expenses at a cost of more than our living expenses or finding kidney and liver donors for our kids as they lingered and suffered. I could not picture us moving our retirement plans back a few years, then more years because of the healthcare costs. On our wedding day, at the end of the isle waiting while a guitar played softly I couldn’t see the man that would help me and hurt me, I could only see the love I had for him.
If marriage were only about that walk down the isle and the love and happiness you feel that day and not made up of the other thousands of days of life that can be sadness and shock or heartache and fear, it would be easy, but that isn’t what marriage has been for us. It’s been good and hard and happy and sad, maybe in equal parts and maybe at the same time.
How is it that the hard times are bearable so you can get to the good times? Was it the vows we made that day 22 years ago? Is it patience for each other and our kindness to each other our life begs for? Or is it that the hard and seemingly unbearable stretches of painful times don’t last too long causing us to give up? Do one or both of us have something in us that makes us keep trying? Is it love and commitment or honor and tenacity? What makes us not give up? Maybe it’s a mixture of all of the above, or maybe it’s something I’ll discover in the next year or the year after that year.
As we enter our 23rd year of marriage, I hope for kindness and I hope we both use the lessons we’ve learned from the first twenty-two years of our marriage. I hope for grace and compassion when our partner needs it and I hope we give it to ourselves abundantly while we walk this journey together.
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