“These are the hands of your best friend that are holding yours, willing and trusting, on your wedding day,
pledging love and commitment to you for all of the days of your life together.”
I find marriage to be wayyyy harder than motherhood.
As a young girl, I never pictured my wedding. I admit I probably tried on boys’ last names just so I could practice my cursive and dotting my I’s with little hearts, but the wedding itself? Never. I wasn’t even sure I ever really wanted to get married. I did always think I would be in a long-term relationship, just maybe not a legal one.
I always knew I wanted to be a mother, though. Shortly before I met my mister, I even announced to my parents that I was planning to visit a sperm bank and go the single-parent route. The motherhood thing feels natural to me. Of course I’m not a perfect mother (there’s no such thing) but I’m a confident one. Looking back at myself in high school, I never would have guessed I’d be one of those women who is so completely happy and satisfied just being Mama.
“These are the hands that will hold you tightly, as together you face the difficulties that come to every marriage.
These are the hands that will comfort you in sickness and console you in grief.”
When my mister and I met, we moved quickly. We’d both been in long-term relationships before and so we knew what we didn’t want. Our first date was in July, he moved in with me in September, we got engaged in December. Our new life started out just as quickly: We bought our first house ever and welcomed two sons during our first three years of marriage. With home ownership and parenthood came a host of new stressors. I have a limited amount of energy and that was quickly used up by the kids. And work. And the house. The relationship took a back burner.
“These are the hands that will work along side of yours, as together you work to build your future and fulfill your dreams.”
By the time my mister and I found each other, we were well into our thirties (for me) and forties (for him) and set in our ways. Trust me, I am well aware that I am not a peach to live with. I am bossy. I am a perfectionist. I am the queen of sarcasm and eye-rolling, heavy sighs and quick judgments. I’ve got quite a temper and can shriek profanities with the best of them. Being married to me is by no means a cakewalk, I’m sure.
” These are the hands that will love and cherish you through the years to come, as you work to create your new life together.”
I went into my marriage with some expectations. I don’t think I ever articulated those expectations to my mister before our wedding, though. I’m not sure I had even thought through them completely myself. It’s been five and a half years since we said “I do” and we’re only just now starting to talk about this stuff.
I expected my mister and I to be partners in life. When I say “partners,” do I really mean that I want us to be equal partners? In theory, yes, but in reality, maybe not. For us to be equals, I have to give up the notion that “Mama knows best,” or its flip-side, “Dada don’t know shit.” I have to clamp down on Judgy McJudgerson, tone down the body language and let my mister do things his own way. Scratch that, I have to stop saying I’m going to “let” him do anything. When you decide to commit to someone for the rest of your life, you aren’t really thinking about who’s going to buy the groceries and who’s going to unload the dishwasher. It’s decidedly un-sexy. It’s shocking, though, how much you come to care about this crap and how, if you let it, it will become symbolic of your relationship. If he can’t do [X little thing] “right” (i.e. your way) how can he possibly do [Y bigger thing]? And if he really loved you, wouldn’t he try harder to do X?? Sounds like it’s time to go back and define what “partnership” means to both of us.
I expected “loyalty,” that my mister would always put me first and I would always put him first. Now that we have kids, that doesn’t really work anymore. I put the kids first, always. My mister and I may both understand that intellectually, but that doesn’t always mean it feels great. (If it’s any consolation to him, I put myself dead last so at least he’s ahead of someone, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue.) It’s also difficult to balance loyalty to each other with obligations to extended families. When you link your life with someone else’s, you link yourself with their people, too, like it or not. Couples deal with this in different ways and with varying levels of success, but it’s hard.
“May your hands always be held by each other.
May they have the strength to hold on during times of stress and hardship.
May they be tender and gentle as they nurture each of you in your love. “
A few years ago, my mister and I were out on a rare date night. We held hands (as we always do) while we walked across the parking lot. Inside the restaurant, an elderly man came over to our table. “My wife and I saw you two holding hands walking in here and we just had to tell you how great that is. Most people today don’t do that. Don’t ever stop.”
I realized then that I don’t ever want to stop holding my mister’s hand. I want to be that elderly couple who sees themselves in other couples in love. I want our kids to be grossed out by our displays of affection and never once question our love for each other. I want them to see us fight and make up, all without ever doubting that we are in this for the long haul.
” May these hands continue to build a relationship rich in caring, compassion and grace.
May you see and use your four hands to heal, to protect, to shelter and to guide.”
I love my kids automatically and unconditionally. I love them even on the days when I don’t really like them. I choose to be with my husband, though. I choose to be with him even on the days when I don’t particularly like him. That’s why it takes work. Yeah, it’s hard.
These are the vows that my mister and I took when we married. They were a pledge and a promise and most of all, a choice. I chose him and he chose me. Every day, I make the conscious decision to share my life with this man. The fact that I choose him over and over again is the greatest honor I can bestow.
Wedding photos credit A Candid Image. All other photo credits JSeiderer.