Ten years ago today, I married a man. Well, barely. I mean, he was technically a man and I was technically a woman…but mostly I was a girl and he was a boy. We weren’t so young that getting married seemed crazy, but we were young enough to have no idea what we were doing. When we married, I had just turned 23. I had been out of collage for one year. We had been living together for almost three years, so getting married didn’t seem like a huge change. For us, the bigger challenge was ahead, as we became parents to our beautiful baby girl. Becoming a parent was a way bigger life adjustment than getting married, or so we thought. At the time, getting married felt like the official merging of bank accounts. Not because I didn’t love him and he didn’t love me, but because we are of a generation where “getting married” isn’t the stamp of relationship approval. Many of our friends lived with boyfriends or girlfriends and never had plans to marry. That felt normal and simple. While we were excited to get married, it was never a “must” for us, so it didn’t feel as life altering as it might have otherwise.
I remember my wedding day for it’s simplicity and ease. I’m so grateful for that. I planned much of the affair alone, but my friends and family stepped up in a big way in the week before our big day. They arranged flowers and created playlists and made tribute videos to surprise us. They DJ’d and MC’d. My sister ordered my bridal gown for me and I tried it on in her bedroom about a week before the big day. It was perfect. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my family and friends held me up when I couldn’t do it all. This is something I have spent my whole life attempting to repay them for.
I think back on my wedding day and barely recognize those people at the front of the room. But we were happy. We really, truly were. Up until I woke up that day, I wasn’t sure if I would be. I questioned our decision to get married at all. I worried that people would talk and gossip because we were pregnant (sidenote: they did, we survived). At the time I was a co-dependent, scared little girl, and I was terrified that my sweet husband was only marrying me because he “had” to. I bring this up not because I’m unhappy today…but because I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I wish I could go whisper in that bride’s ear that it was all going to turn out okay in the end, but I believe in the journey. The hard, fun, dirty, honest journey of marriage would not have been possible without that particular beginning, at least for me.
I think one of the conundrums of marriage is that you commit to being with one person for the rest of your life, but as humans, we change on a daily basis. We grow and learn and adapt, sometimes quickly and sometimes it’s so subtle you don’t notice until it’s too late. That is certainly true in my life. I am not the same person I was when I was 23. At 23, I was proud, sarcastic, quirky, strange, stubborn and afraid 90% of the time. Outwardly I was confident and smart, but inside I felt like a total fraud. Actually, I can’t believe Trent agreed to marry me, because I was sort of a mess! There was also a lot of good in 23-year-old me. I was kind, I was a good friend, I took care of everyone around me, and I made people laugh. I also had a 23-year-old butt, which was probably pretty alluring.
But in 10 years, I have changed. My butt certainly isn’t a 23-year-old butt anymore. I still try to be kind and make people laugh, but these days I attempt more often to let people take care of themselves instead of being superwoman. I still have a sarcastic streak, but the constant feeling of fear deep in my gut has subsided. I am growing and changing and learning on a daily basis, and while most of the changes are positive, it’s true that I’m not the girl I was when we got married.
This is why marriage is a miracle. For me, marriage has been a 10-year-long class in the study of being human. And for once, this perfectionist is not a straight A student! I screw up a lot. A LOT. Marriage has taught me humility. It has taught me that no one is really ever “right.” Most discussions/debates/arguments happen on a spectrum, and while Trent and I may fall on opposite ends sometimes, we work the best when we find our way to the middle. This doesn’t mean we give up what we believe in, it just means we are trying to remember we love each other despite our differences. In fact, these days I’m finding our differences one of the most alluring things about us as a couple. I used to think for a couple to be a team, they had to agree. Now I’m learning that the most successful teams are comprised of people who bring different talents and ideas to the table, but respect each other enough to listen.
A few years ago, when Trent and I were in a really rough spot, I was worried we weren’t going to make it. I tried to envision my life without him, and it wasn’t pretty. Not to say it wasn’t possible. It is. That’s one of the biggest things that propelled us back together. I am not the kind of girl who believes that a man should save me or that soul mates can’t live without each other. I realized I could survive without him in my life. But I simply didn’t want to.
I had to reach a place where I took my marriage, like so many other things in my life, one day at a time. I’d wake up in the morning and make a tangible decision to do my best to love my husband today. Maybe it sounds sad that I had to make that decision, but I find it to be glorious. I wasn’t loving him because I had to or because it was expected. I was choosing, deliberately, to love him no matter what. If we argued, if I was upset or if he was upset, I made a point to still love him. I reminded myself that most often people aren’t trying to hurt each other on purpose, but rather they are just trying to be heard.
Sounds simple, right? It wasn’t. There were times where it was difficult. But slowly, day after day of waking up with the intent to love, I found myself loving without trying. I found a natural rhythm in looking at my husband and seeing all that was good in him, instead of looking for flaws. I learned to accept who he was, instead of who I thought he should be. And with this came acceptance of myself. Because as we all know, when we are looking for issues or problems in others, the truth is we are ashamed of those issues within our own hearts. Once I accepted myself for who I am, it became so much easier to love and, in turn, be loved.
Life is not perfect today. I don’t wake up smiling with rainbows and butterflies above my head. Life is lovely, but it’s not without challenges. The difference today is the intent is pure. I love my husband. He is smart and kind and easy on the eyes. He is the hardest worker I know. He cares about people and wants them to succeed. He is fascinated with science and the workings of the universe. He is a Doctor Who fan. He has grown into the very best father. He’s not perfect, and he screws up, but there is no one I’d rather take on the weirdness of life with.
Ten years later, I could not have guessed where this journey has taken me. If I could take one lesson away, it would be to choose love no matter what. The biggest and best developments in all areas of my life have come from the ability to choose love on a daily basis, and I owe that ability to my husband. I love him, just as he is. And I love me, just as I am. Life goes on, the world turns, things change…but having this partnership in my life has made me a better person. Love wins.
Thanks to all the photographers who have captured our family throughout the years, including Nicole Coleman and Christina Gepner, who provided some of the images used in the post above.