This upcoming weekend my wife’s brother is getting married, and as the brother-in-law I’ve found that I am pretty much in the wedding sweet spot. I am close enough to the action to hear about plans being made, but far enough removed from the decision making that I can actually relax and enjoy it. As far as weddings go, I like this position, and it has given me time to think back on my own wedding and start developing an idea on what marriage is all about.
I’ve been married nearly 14 years, and can still remember being very excited about my own wedding, while also feeling unsettled with the fact that it seemed like such a grown up thing to do. I never doubted who I was marrying (she’s ridiculously amazing), but that I would actually be able to do this, to be a good husband. It was the same sort of doubt I felt several years later when I became a parent. I’ve noticed that’s how life seems to work though; always putting you on an adventure you don’t feel fully prepared to take on (which coincidentally also happens to be the plot line of all of your favorite movies).
Nearly a decade and a half later the minute details of my wedding day have been replaced in my memory by snippets of the most important parts: my wife walking up the aisle, my father-in-law crying as he handed over his daughter, a hug from a groomsman, and of course me totaling my mother-in-law’s minivan two hours before the wedding (yep, that actually happened).
As my brother-in-law and new sister-in-law’s nuptials approach, I think about what I have learned over the past 14 years and what piece of advice I could share. To be honest I feel weird giving advice as I am still trying to figure things out myself (I’m a very slow learner). So with that I figured I would share an idea that I have been working on. Something to just chew on and let simmer for a little while. Something that is taking a little while moving from my head to my heart before it can become a concrete truth.
The idea is that marriage is actually about creating a partnership in helping you be you. Maybe that sounds obvious, maybe it doesn’t. It didn’t to me for a very long time.
Collectively you are working as a unit, but the success of the unit depends on the work of the individual. Your spouse is there to enhance yourself, not to fix all your problems. On the good side you have someone along for the ride that is trying to encourage you to pursue your dreams and do the things that only you can do. On the flip side it also means that you have a lot of work to do on your own, which can either be empowering or deflating.
The empowering part is fun and exciting and needs little explanation. It’s easily felt and can be spotted surrounded in hugs, kisses, laughs, high fives, etc. The deflating part though is typically where I have struggled. Under this idea it means that when something isn’t quite working I have to point the finger back to myself (which is never fun), instead of the easier alternative of pointing it at my wife. I know, I know, this is the part where the idea needs a little time to percolate and take shape.
Over the past 14 years we’ve hit a rough patch here or there, and what I’ve noticed is that most of these patches seem to coincide with me dealing with some type of internal issue. With just me struggling to be me, and less to do with the fact that someone just ate the last piece of cheesecake (though maybe sometimes it is about the cheesecake).
I think that we are constantly experiencing new things, which forces us to constantly change, constantly evolve, (as proof, I would have never considered writing a blog post about marriage even 5 years ago). The difficult part of marriage and relationships as a whole is that everyone is kind of in a different spot in being themselves. When people feel a little off, I think they feel as though something is missing and do everything they can to fill that gap from the outside (from binge watching The Real Housewives, to changes in career, to alcohol, infidelity, and everything in between), which pretty much never solves the issue at hand. So as a spouse you then have to figure out when to give your significant other the space he/she needs and when to step in and help them get back on track, while at the same time doing the same thing for yourself. This then is the trickiness of marriage, because there is no one hard and fast rule to tell you when you to do this, or at least I haven’t discovered it yet. So like everything else you just try to wing it, and figure it out as you go along, as you learn more and more about each other. As you learn more and more about yourself.
The months and months of planning leading up to this weekend’s wedding will come and go in a blur. It will be absolutely awesome, and in the end our family will officially grow by one. I don’t know if my idea on marriage will help the newlyweds as they start their new life. Like most ideas, this one has pros and cons. It’s certainly not filled with answers for every occasion and has holes that still need to be thought through. Even after 14 years in the trenches, I’m still very much an amateur on every level, but the more I apply this idea and think about it, the more it just feels right.