On Saying “I Do”

Lies Our Parents Told Us, Relationships , , , ,

I walked down the alter at 23 years old.

70+ people were there to support us,

but one single question perched on their lips.

“Will this couple be another statistic?”

60% of marriages between people aged 20-25

end in divorce.

But my mom and her mom married even younger

(and stayed together),

so this must mean I’m immune,

and we’ve been together for almost 5 years already,

I thought.

I was different, I thought. *We* were different.

But we were not.

 

And I have a hard time *still*

admitting that I am and was *just* like everyone else,

with big dreams and idealistic notions.

I thought love prevailed,

love was enough.

I thought forever meant forever,

no matter what.

 

I convinced myself my lack of experience was a benefit,

that I wasn’t jaded by failing love,

that I had nothing to compare the relationship to

and so the relationship could continue to be

the “best I’ve ever had.”

 

I’ve thought a lot about why young love

and specifically young marriage

fails

again

and

again

and

again.

 

(Of course, being realistic,

most love fails

again and again and again.)

So maybe it comes down to

*believing* that love is enough,

*believing* the ideal

of a static relationship,

of nothing changing,

of love remaining solid and grounding,

of love being everything you need

all wrapped into a package

of a single human being

made for you.

 

Once you’ve been divorced, though,

you realize that the spoon-fed concept

of marriage

is impossible to live up to.

Forever (especially between 20-25)

is a very very long time away.

And things will change between the day of “I do”

and the interminable future.

A lot of things.

It’s impossible for them not to.

And when those things change,

sometimes it’s best that you figure it out

alone,

not held back by another human

who may or may not change with you,

grow with you.

It may not be their time, their place,

or their growth.

 

The reality is

that as life changes,

love also changes.

It may become ever more enduring,

more solid

like the fairytales and movies tell us…

but more likely,

it will ebb and flow.

Some days,

it will be ever-present,

like the moon and the stars.

Some days,

it will be hard to find in your heart,

though you know it to have been there

– at some point.

Some days,

it will be different than it ever has been.

 

And the reality is that as life changes,

*you* change

inherently, inevitably,

sometimes temporarily,

sometimes permanently.

 

Sometimes, the things you *knew* you wanted

with all your heart

months or years ago

don’t feel like what stokes your flames anymore.

And you will want to remain the same

– because that is safe, because that is what you committed to –

but it will feel like fitting a round peg

in a square hole

and years from then,

you might look back,

and realize that made you unhappy

(but it was too scary to admit).

 

The reality is that as life changes,

the human that has vowed you “forever”

will change too.

Sometimes, they don’t see

how their love of you

sometimes clips your wings

in ways that feel extremely uncomfortable,

which sometimes creates resentment,

and sometimes leads to you

being smaller – for them.

Or – maybe your love of them

will make them smaller “for you.”

 

The thing is

that you love this person right now

because they make you feel bigger,

more you, more full.

But as we have something to lose,

more and more invested,

more and more dreams about the “forever” we’ve committed to,

it is easy to fall into the trap

of “doing things for love”

that aren’t at all loving the most important human in this relationship

– you.

 

And slowly, gradually, little by little,

the person you love and the person they love

disappears.

The love is about a memory of someone

who no longer exists.

 

Long-lasting *happy* relationships require

seeing that each person

continues to be

fully and gloriously

who they are

despite the relationship

and *because* of the changes.

The relationship, in fact,

needs to sacrifice at times

to put the individuals

above itself.

 

“Saving the marriage,”

unfortunately,

often too closely resembles

sacrificing the people in the marriage.

That’s because marriage often

leads to a feeling

that your life and your partner’s life

is now “our life.”

Forevermore,

you believe

you are guaranteed a friend, a lover,

a babysitter, a +1.

The “you” and the “me”

has entirely gone away.

 

But marriage does not save us

from ourselves

or from the typical grind and struggle of life.

It does not guarantee security

or our dreams be reality.

And if you have no individual lives

apart,

then your life together will mean less and less

as the days wear on.

 

If you’re being successful at

saving the “you,”

you will both have other close friends,

other experiences,

other perspectives,

and sometimes, you will be alone.

 

I’m not saying young love

can’t survive.

I am saying that young love

any love, really –

must be aware of its likely short-lived

(or at least evolving) existence.

It needs to be tested – regularly.

Not in longevity

(though it does require years to prove)

or even *resilience* to change

as much as whether change

leads to growth,

an opening instead of a closing,

a new and evolving depth

instead of “back to square one.”

 

It needs to answer

fear

with letting go

to not become

a statistic

like all the rest.

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