The best way I know how to describe the feeling of being newly married is how I would imagine a fish would feel being dropped from a fishbowl into the wide ocean. Wonderment, excitement, fear, and unlimited possibility come to mind. But most importantly, like an aquatic creature finally able to access the depths it was born to, I feel free.
In this first year of marriage we’ve often been asked how it feels being married now. “Do you feel any different? Not really, huh?” is a common phrasing we’ve gotten. It’s hard to put in words—part of why this post is coming a few weeks after our anniversary, rather than right at the one-year mark like I’d planned—but I do feel fundamentally different. I feel at peace, like I’ve emotionally come home to rest, and like a new adventure is starting all at once. I feel the weight of promises we made each other in front of all of our loved ones hemming me in like the most delicious weighted blanket. At the same time, I think the reason I have found marriage so incredibly freeing is because it has allowed me to see the truly endless possibilities for my future. Not freedom as in a lack of a specific path in front of me—but because I can start to see that path and know the person I will walk it with. All the dreams I’ve vaguely held my whole life have started to crystallize in this first year of marriage. The homes we’ll live in, the (many) dogs we’ll have along the way, children if we’re lucky enough, a slowly-materializing list of places in the world we want to see. Financial goals we’re working toward. Friends’ and family members’ milestones we can’t wait to celebrate with them. I know there are a lot of surprises coming our way in this lifetime, and I also know each day is a gift we are not promised. For those reasons I try to hold my future with open hands as much as possible in my heart. But if our days together are an empty journal of lined pages, stretching out and waiting to be written in, it feels beautifully freeing to at least know what the cover of that journal looks like, and carry it with me wherever I go. I’m so grateful.
You might be asking yourself: how do these words and metaphors and Big Feelings correlate with standing up with an officiant in front of our friends and family and having a big party to celebrate? What’s actually special about marriage? As a starting point, I don’t mean to suggest that people in relationships with no desire or intention to get married are somehow less-than. I have no experience with that and am not speaking to it. What I am saying is that in the context of my understanding of romantic love, promising a lifetime to Grace and her promising me the same changed everything. Even though I knew that Grace and I were ready to commit to each other and had spent ten months being engaged and preparing for marriage, there was undeniable power in our vows that day. “I give myself to you,” “all the days of my life,” “I promise,” “I bind my life to yours,” and “I honor you in the name of God” are a few snippets from our vows that represent things we had never said to one another before August 4, 2018. They are once-in-a-lifetime and life-altering, and in this first year of marriage Grace has shown me every day that she intends to live them out. My biggest goal in life is to do the same. We are imperfect people who have committed to something much bigger than ourselves, and I’m still wrapping my head around that. I think I always will be.
One lesson about marriage that has stuck with me from the past year is the realization that marriage is not about fulfilling all my needs or making my life easier. Grace and I both strongly dislike biking so this is a funny analogy, but when you’re married it’s as if you already know how to ride a bike perfectly well and are suddenly required to ride a tandem everywhere you go. A tandem bike isn’t going to go as fast at first when you’re re-learning how to ride it. If one person tips, it can take you both down. You have to work together to get where you’re going. But the kind of marriage I want to cultivate over the rest of my life with Grace isn’t about speed or dexterity or success or even flexibility. I want to take the slower path together and get frustrated and solve problems. I am confident that we will continue to find true joy, fulfillment, and contentment by learning to ride the tandem bike of life, even when it’s not smooth sailing. And I feel so lucky to have a spouse who shares in this sentiment and will be the team captain of our little family for the rest of our days.
I can’t believe we’re going into year two of marriage. My greatest hope right now is for more of the same, since this last year has been so beautiful. But I’m so excited that things will undoubtedly change, too. I know that parts of what I’ve written here will seem funny, later, kind of an “and I thought I loved you then” hindsight that I know married couples get with age. And I think just like how a little kid feels that a school year stretches f o r e v e r because it’s fractionally a larger part of their life, this first year of marriage has been sweet and slow. Other years might flip by for us like the pages of a journal left open in the breeze. I hope that I’m always able to stop at the end of another year of marriage and take stock of what I’ve learned and where I want us to go. But if I’m not, my prayer is that I just enjoy the ride when I get a chance to stop and catch my breath and remember the promises I made on August 4, 2018.