I didn't think about our vows much before reciting the script at City Hall. I said the words I was told to say — "in sickness and in health" — obediently on cue, but did I understand what they meant? To live with more sickness than health? More poor times than rich? More worse times than better?
At the time, I was making a choice. A choice to be a family — to stay a family — for our unborn son. To make whatever sacrifices I needed to make for our unit to be strong and solid. (That, and I love this man tremendously.)
Even though our vows were mercilessly tested during the past six years, I never regretted my decision to get married. Because maybe the only way to truly understand those vows is to live through them.
I don't know anyone who has a perfect marriage or relationship. We all have our stuff. On the outside, everything can look shiny and smiley, but open up to a married friend. Peek behind her closed doors, past the strategically disguised skeletons, and you'll see some STUFF. Different, but all challenging.
And so I started thinking about that grand fallacy we were fed as kids: Happily Ever After. As if one day something will happen — we'll meet The One, we'll reach a goal, we'll put on a white dress and walk down an aisle — and then BLAM. Happily ever after. A stagnant stream of bliss and contentment. THE END.
It doesn't take long into adulthood for us to see the absurdity in this, and the patronizing way we peddle it to kids. Why set ourselves up for such disappointment? Such illogical ideals? THAT'S NOT HOW LIFE WORKS, KIDS.
And thank goodness it doesn't. An endless, monotonous Happily Ever After sounds terribly boring.
We don't read the book for the ending, do we? The part of the movie where they ride off into the sunset, white veil trailing behind, isn't the most compelling. The story is about the struggle, the conflict, the unexpected plot twists. That's when the characters grow and the readers learn. That's why we read the damn book to begin with.
No matter what the fairy tales told us...
You are not entitled to a perfect marriage, or an easy marriage. It doesn't exist. Cohabiting and coexisting with another human is universally hard, but it teaches us important things — things like sacrifice, interconnectedness, and forgiveness of our basic human failings. Marriage is a learning experience, not an ending.
You are not entitled to a perfectly planned life. Eventually your life will get rocked off its course, and it'll probably be the best thing that ever happened to you (even when it doesn't feel that way).
You are not entitled to a Happily Ever After. But you are entitled to an interesting story.