This date is important. It is a milestone. It helps me to reflect on where I was two years ago at this time—actually, where we were.
Two years ago, I was a bride. I was so incredibly calm that it frightened me. Did someone spike my morning coffee with a tranquilizer? Why did I not feel a quiver of anxiety, of excitement, of fear–but rather, just a deep stillness?
Let me back up for a moment. Two years ago, my fiancé at the time and I had been dating for eight years. And when I say, “date,” I mean not a single break-up, an intense committed relationship from day one. From the beginning, it felt right—almost magical, that I found him at such a young age. I didn’t know at the time that we would be together forever. I wasn’t thinking about forever. I was thinking about early decision—would I get into Duke in just a few short weeks? Would I be able to meet my fundraising goals for my non-profit? What would I wear for holiday celebrations? My thoughts were centered around my life—they all began and ended in my world. He had just entered my world; yet, so quickly he changed it.
I won’t retell all the details from day one to day 2920 to day 3650. That would entail far too much exercise for my brain. But it’s all documented in my journals, in our cards to one another, in albums of photos, in spontaneous text messages and emails. The moments are etched in my heart.
About six years after we began dating, he proposed. It was an intimate moment that captured the essence of our relationship. I was elated, but would be lying if I said I didn’t already know that I would be spending the rest of my life with him. We both knew by this point (actually way before this point) that forever was what we wanted.
After the ring became a fixture on my finger, the wedding became the next milestone. Yet, still, like the beginning of our relationship, I could only think of the wedding as something to fit within my schedule. I knew immediately that it would have to wait until after my book had been released and my first two grueling years of graduate school. I don’t remember asking him about his schedule—about the season he wanted for our wedding. Within weeks of our engagement, the date was set: October 23, 2010.
Our engagement would last about 2.5 years. During our engagement, I had the most personally trying years. I am an intensely private person so very few people know what I endured during those 2.5 years. But it was excruciating and pushed me to test my resilience in every way I knew how. I’m a fighter so I knew this time would eventually pass. But did he know that? I don’t know. Writing that brings tears to my eyes—because even though he truly saw me at my worse, he was more committed to me than ever. I didn’t understand it. It made me mad that he could love me during such a dark time. Writing that I realize it’s not rational, but it’s what I felt. I tried pushing him away. But he never left. He held a space for me that was safe and utterly freeing. He gave me reassurance, without me knowing, that the world wasn’t as bad as it felt at the time. There would always be a place where I would be loved for who I am—during the good times and the bad.
I didn’t tell many people when I left for the weekend to go home to get married. And I didn’t tell many people on the following Tuesday in class that yes, I had a great weekend: I GOT MARRIED!
It makes me sad that I didn’t get to relish the joy of that milestone. Because after I DO, I was filled with more joy than I have ever experienced in my life. And that joy remained bubbling within until I returned to life as usual on Tuesday October 26th. I was still living my life—not yet fully living as a we. If I thought the period of our engagement was difficult, I would face even more personal trials during our first year of marriage. It was not what I would have ever wished for our first year together as husband and wife. I was so engrossed in my own life that I couldn’t see the need to prioritize a marriage. We had a great relationship—why worry about something that isn’t broken? So I didn’t.
While the first year of our marriage was especially difficult for me on a personal level, and has left a permanent scar on my soul, it was a year that forced me to learn what was most important to me in life—what I needed to prioritize and honor. What I knew I needed to live a happy life.
For our first anniversary, we went to Paris together. It was the real honeymoon that we never got to experience. It was during this trip, as a couple alone, with the past year in our rearview mirror, that our relationship changed. I no longer thought solely in terms of myself, I began to think more and more as we.
I remember when 2011 ended, I cried. I was filled with happiness but also fear. At the end of 2010, I had no idea how bad 2011 would be for me and as a result how hard it would be for him. I didn’t want 2011 to repeat itself. As the crowd cheered and the clock struck midnight, my husband took me in his arms into a quiet hallway and let me cry. He knew what I was afraid of. He wanted me to know that the safe space he held for me was always there. And so I made a pledge that in 2012, I would begin to open up this space for my husband. I would no longer be the center of this relationship. He needed that safe space too.
And so our second year of marriage is coming to a close. It has been such a wonderful year for us. It’s been filled with many huge changes. Changes that needed to happen even though I resisted them for so long. My life is no longer just about me. It is about us—our moments together each day, dreaming together about our future, planning our future together as a family. This isn’t to say that our second year of marriage has been devoid of serious trials. Because it has been and still is. But rather than handle them as individuals, we’re facing challenges together, giving each other strength when the other is weak. Asking for help, from both each other and our families—no longer living as an isolated island.
This second year as husband and wife has given us the foundation we need for a strong marriage. I think it’s safe to say that no marriage is perfect. But like life, a perfect marriage would be completely sterile and utterly uninteresting. I strive for a marriage that is authentic, open to vulnerability, resilient, and challenging. The challenges make us grow both as individuals and as a couple.
To my husband, I hope that our third year of marriage is filled with even more joy than this past year. I hope that we challenge ourselves in new ways and expand our hearts in ways we never knew possible. Above all, I hope to be by your side during both ordinary and extraordinary moments. This year is about us.
top image: made by girl (love print)
p.s. our wedding vows :)