One year ago today, my husband and I were married on the Atlantic coastal beach of Isle of Palms, South Carolina. Over the past year, I have thought about that day often, remembering new details and feelings, and so thankful for all of the friends and family who made the journey to celebrate with us. There were 20 guests at our wedding and the celebration lasted five days in the sunshine. We shared amazing food and laughter, lounged on the beach, and enjoyed the company of friends and two families becoming one.
We have now been together four and a half years, but in all that time I have never been so in love as I am with him today. The most beautiful part of our relationship is the way it changes and deepens. Our relationship has been rough – not because of conflict or differences, but because of time spent apart. Over two full years living apart while I pursued an advanced degree. As impossibly painful and difficult as that was, I believe it shaped our relationship in untold ways. We learned to trust one another. We learned that we were capable of leading fulfilling independent lives, but embraced the fullness of life and how much we wanted to be together. We learned to talk to each other and to communicate. We learned to make the most of our time together and to appreciate and share each other’s interests and passions. Our marriage has truly benefited from the struggles we faced.
Our wedding was a wonderful expression of who we are. Everything was casual. I was barefoot during the ceremony. We didn’t have a wedding cake, but instead ate cheesecake and apple pie from Costco. My mom and I bought my flowers from Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. The signing of the marriage contract and the celebration was so much more a celebration of our commitment to each other and to where this relationship will take us in the future. Our celebration was like a ship’s christening ceremony – honoring the commitment we have made and sending us out into the world as one, to learn and love and fight for our love, to encounter devastating storms followed by the dawn of a clear new morning. To learn from our mistakes and from each other. I know that the vows we spoke will change in some ways, but in other ways they will remain unchanged. The basic principles on which they were spoken will continue to shape our relationship and our lives, though the emotions will deepen. Our love will change us and will be reflected in our continued commitment to each other and to our relationship.
The truth is, not very much has changed in our relationship from the outside. I have a new last name, we share bank accounts, what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine. What has changed is imperceptible on the outside. For whatever reason, our lives seem to be filled with chaos and uncertainty, but amid all that uncertainty is security. Security in our commitment to each other, security in our love, and security in the basic tenet of the respect and understanding of each other. The security of knowing that someone knows you as well or better than you know yourself; the security of having someone to discuss and plan the future with; someone who enjoys the same things as you. One of the most important things I have learned over the past year is the value of putting the other person first in your relationship. This goes both ways, and only works if both people practice this. To always put yourself first is selfish, and to always put the other person first without having your needs taken care of can leave a feeling of neglect and dissatisfaction, even resentment. However, if each individual puts the other person first in their relationship, then the needs of each individual are always put first, and both feel cared for, loved, respected, and valued.
One of the wonderful things I look forward to in the years to come is continuing to grow, together, in our relationship. In my vows, I promised to grow with and not independently of my husband. I know that I have work to do and there is much room for me to grow, but waking up next to him every morning gives me reason and courage to encourage my strengths and develop my weaknesses. I see the physical changes in both of us – the maturity in our features, a grey hair here or there, the smile lines around our eyes – but I also see the slow but steady emotional and spiritual changes, and that is what I look forward to the most. I look forward to a deepened understanding of each other; the opportunity to challenge our comfort levels with difficult decisions, and the deepening trust between us. We have so much to look forward to, and I am so excited for what the future brings.