Yesterday was my wedding anniversary. Seventeen years ago, on a Sunday afternoon, I married my long-distance college sweetheart. He would later tell me that he was so nervous (in a good way) that he felt his knees were going to buckle from underneath him. I, on the other hand, was all smiles - partly out of nerves, but mostly out of excitement because the moment was here. The moment so many girls dream about from the time they are little: the white dress, the diamond ring, the prince waiting at the end of the aisle, the fairy tale.
Looking back, I was so young and naive. Barely twenty-five years old, I walked down that aisle to meet my prince not fully appreciating at the time we were beginning a life together. A life that I would later learn had no rules. A life that we would create every day together.
The night before the wedding, I spent my last night as a single girl with my little twelve-year-old cousin who was a junior bridesmaid in the wedding. I cannot recall how that came to be but over the years, we would later laugh about it. It is such a sweet, fond memory full of innocence that I will always treasure. The night before I would check the major life box from single to married, I had an adolescent sleepover with my cousin who was thirteen years my junior.
Fast forward seventeen years and that little cousin who eagerly and unsuspectedly bore witness to one of the most defining moments of my life, is getting married at the end of the week. Ironically, my twelve-year-old daughter is now a junior bridesmaid in her wedding, experiencing and feeling all the same excitement that my cousin must have felt seventeen years ago.
I was touched beyond words, when my little cousin asked if my daughter and I would spend her last night as a single girl with her for old times sake. My cousin then went on to casually ask me what has been the hardest part of marriage so far. I paused because, for once, I did not have a simple answer. Over the last seventeen years, I learned that marriage was anything but black and white.
To answer her question, I have decided to share these following seventeen wishes or pieces of advice, representing the seventeen years I have been married, not in any particular order:
- Just love: Above everything else, make love your number one emotion. Keep an open heart. Be brave. Be honest. Be true. Give more than you take. Love hardest when it hurts the most.
- Money will not be the thing that makes you happy: Money cannot buy love or happiness. It’s true that money can make life easier and provide you with opportunity, but never let it be the thing that defines you. If you are lucky enough to have it, share it. Find your happiness within yourself, for that is what you will take with you in the end.
- Give a hug, take a hug: My best friend gave me this wise advice. When all else fails, just offer a hug. No argument is ever too big or too small for this. Trust me, it will always make it better.
- Hold hands: Holding hands is a wonderful way to express affection to one another. Reach out to your loved one often and hold tight. I would also add cuddles to this category. Cuddles and snuggles are very important.
- Make time to connect: Life will get in the way. Kids, jobs, etc. Always find time to connect. Get away for an overnight trip at least once a year, and schedule date night at least once a month: dinner, movie, coffee. It does not matter where or what. Just find the time together and remember to turn your devices off.
- Get caught in the rain: You cannot expect every day to be sunny. The rain always comes. Sometimes it catches you off-guard, sometimes it feels like it will never go away, sometimes it passes quicker than a mountain storm. Remember, rain is magical. Appreciate it. Honor it. Ultimately, everything is shinier after a storm.
- Marriage is hard work. This is one my twenty-something-year-old self would have never believed. I always thought it would be easy. When you find love, it is magic. The fairy tale can exist, I have learned, but it is not automatic; you create it every day. You have to work at it every day. Even the very best relationships require daily investment. The more you put into your relationship the more you will receive back. Guaranteed.
- Leave love notes: There is nothing better giving and/or receiving little notes or presents. The unexpected ones are the best. Hide them in pockets. Leave them on windshields. Send funny snaps. Be playful. Nothing fancy. The simpler the better. Always find the time to remind your loved one that you are thinking about them.
- Cook together: This is one that I have not mastered, but I heard is important. The more time you spend in the kitchen together, whether its cooking or doing dishes or eating, the more connected you will feel.
- Always acknowledge the effort. Let go of any preconceived ideas you have about the way you want to it to be. When your spouse makes an effort, embrace it for what it is and let it in. Remember that the effort is showing you that he loves you. Hold onto that and not whether its the right restaurant, or the right gift, or the right anything for that matter. His effort is a reflection of his love for you and that is the most important thing.
- Do not sweat the little things: I know this sounds cliche but its true. There will be lots of little things that bug you over the years. For me, its the sound of dental flossing. It drives me absolutely crazy. Let go of all of that little stuff. If your newlywed husband accidentally breaks one of your favorite wedding gifts when he is waving hello to you one night after work, do not get upset. It’s not worth it. Let it go and find happiness in the fact that he was super excited to see you instead. Items can be replaced. Feelings are much harder to repair.
- Bad stuff will happen: It’s inevitable. There will be struggle and heartache and bad times that cross your path - you will not escape it. It happens to every couple. When the big stuff comes, tackle it together with an open heart and a forgiving mind.
- The beauty lies in the cracks: I have found that the most beautiful things are found in life’s imperfections. Nobody is perfect, including yourself. Embrace and honor all of your loved ones strengths and weaknesses.
- Love yourself: Until you truly love yourself, you will not be able to completely love your spouse. Honor and love yourself and then be a mirror of that love and give it back freely.
- Love with reckless abandon: Love big. Love hard. Love with everything you have. Do not be afraid to tell your loved one how you feel. Your heart will only grow bigger and more full. There can never be too much love.
- Enjoy the “sorbet” together: On my wedding day, I was so busy mingling with the guests that I did not have time to enjoy the sorbet (in between meals) with my husband. He always talks about how he ate the sorbet alone that day. Breaks my heart to think about it, so take a moment and find the time to eat the “sorbet” together.
- Create your own love story. Love is unique and special. Finding it is not an easy thing. You are blessed beyond measure already. Be present. Enjoy the moments. Have fun. Do not take things too seriously. Connect with the feelings of love you have and carry that forward always.
Please take all of this advice with a grain of salt. Ultimately, everybody is going to share their thoughts on marriage and life and love. I am no expert. All I can tell you is that I have been the happiest when I have loved the biggest. All of the other good stuff will follow, I promise.
—To my beautiful cousin, Christine, my wedding wish for you is this: may your “in love” feeling last as long as it possibly can, may you have more laughter than tears, may your love develop into a profoundly deep and beautiful friendship, may all your dreams for the future come true (including having a dog named Goose, and no more than two children, and if, for whatever reason, life throws you a curveball and you end up with four kids like me, may you embrace all of the unexpected surprises along the way), and lastly may you grow old and still find time to hold hands and cuddle and laugh together.
Looking forward to our sleepover this week, and when my daughter(s) gets married, I hope you have a little girl so that they can spend the night before their weddings together and that we can continue this beautiful tradition for years to come. Cheers.