I had no idea that marriage would be like this.
As a kid, I never dreamed up a wedding or fantasized about my future husband. As an adolescent, the idea of marriage could not have felt further off. I didn’t plan on it, quite honestly, because through college, I was never in a serious enough (or any) relationship. To my post-college self, the idea of marriage felt dusty and stifling.
When my husband and I met in 2001, we were babies. Just a year out of college and both self-involved in totally different ways. He was recovering from a recent breakup, and I was just starting a giddy love affair with New York City. Our relationship, when it began 14 years ago, was just what we both needed.
We had one of those colorful, swirly, intoxicating affairs in the city that never sleeps. I thought that nothing could be better than what we had.
But within the year, he moved home to Boston, and in an era before text messaging and video chatting, we maintained a long distance relationship…for four years. We logged hours on Peter Pan buses, exchanged thousands of emails and ended most nights with a sleepy farewell by phone. After spending our twenties living separately and in our relationship across state lines, we reached a tipping point. I was leaving my job and changing careers (again) and I wanted this relationship to be long-term. It was time to forge something together in the same zip code.
If I asked my 23-year-old self what I expected from my relationship or from marriage, she would have laughed, ignorant to the possibility of marriage, distrustful of its permanence. I hadn’t yet become so many things and to my 23-year-old self, the prospect of not knowing my self deeply enough to have a long term relationship probably frightened me.
But marriage seemed like the next logical step. So, when we finally moved in together, I was hardly surprised that we were engaged and married within a year. I doubted married life would be radically different from dating life, even if we were in the same place. I was wrong.
It was better.
When I think about the things that are truly good in my life, the things for which I have deep, unending gratitude, my marriage is right there at the center.
I don’t know why it’s good. As I wrote and edited and finessed this reflection on my marriage, I thought I had it all figured out. But truthfully, I don’t. Our marriage just works. We try to be flexible, we make important things precious but not sacred, and we trust each other. We are endlessly curious about each other–even after 14 years together, we’re continuously finding out something new. We don’t mind being silly or trying new things. There is no saccharine romance or excessive public displays of affection, but every night, we hold hands as we fall asleep. And there is always dancing.
I do know that the nature of all of our relationships changes over time, and in relationships we change, too. This is what scares me most about marriage–we cannot predict what will happen that spurns those changes. In these 9 years, we have lived 9 lives. In the course of this relationship, I have been many things on my own–a graduate student (twice), a sociologist (still), a financial analyst, a professor–and because of my marriage, I have been several things with my husband–a wife, a homeowner, a parent. And though we may grow and change, we often become more like ourselves, a distilled version of the people we once were.
Though lots of things about me are the same, my 23-year-old self would hardly recognize my 37-year-old self. In this life, I’m not just becoming a distilled version of who I once was–my marriage to this husband is shaping me into the person I hope to be.