Anniversary reflections: It was never about the dress

Well, we're at mile 14. It's been a hell of a trip, I'm not going to lie.
We said "I do" on a cold Midwestern Saturday many Octobers ago. We had known each other five years, which seemed like forever. But thinking back, we really didn't know each other quite yet. All the real knowing came in those years following. I knew nothing about marriage. All I knew that day was this: I was marrying a handsome, smart guy that I was head over heels for – and I had on a killer dress.
I had the "something old, new, borrowed and blue..." but nobody hit me with the real TRUTHS of marriage.

It was never about the dress
Ok, 14 years is nothing spectacular, but it's enough time to have realized someone should have told me it's not about the poufy dress, it's not about that botched bouquet that came from the florist that made me want to cry. It wasn't about the songs they played at the reception or the pictures that had to be taken at every angle, and it certainly wasn't about that obnoxious four-tier, Italian wedding cake we served that cost almost as much as a Catholic grade school tuition for a year.

Nope, I know now more than ever, that a marriage means infinitely more  that true tears and love would come well after that day.

Marriage means staying when it seems there is no hope for reconciliation – when leaving would be the 'easier' option. It means forgiveness in the face of dishonesty and heartbreak.
It means having the dignity to show respect when the other has disrespected you.
It means empathy where there were devastating losses and words of love where your partner is disheartened and doubtful of the future.
It means several different marriage counselors over the course of a decade trying to get that communication thing right.
It means apologizing when you are wrong (luckily my husband knows I'm never wrong).
It means laughter when you are completely out of other emotions  like when you're a new mother so engorged with breastmilk and your baby won't latch and the pump won't work and you beg husband to intervene (don't ask).
It's believing in your partner when he/she doesn't.
The cake was good but didn't last
It means having love for your partner in the face of weight gain or weight loss (ok, we all know the latter wasn't on my end).
It's about mustering up enough energy to love and care for four children, getting through one more page of impossible homework, or wiping one more poopy butt and still having enough in you to get through bathtime and teethbrushing. It's about having patience with each other during middle-of-the-night feedings with cranky newborns or months-long 2 a.m. nightmares when someone has seen too many Scooby Doo episodes.

It's about resisting the urge to pretend you don't know your partner when she cheers at the soccer games.

It's about coping with and encouraging an anxious child, who you believe is the epitome of brilliance, but he doubts his abilities.
It's about sharing complete devastation and being a comfort when that cancer phone call comes.
It means caretaking and kindness  characteristics that you may think you lack – when dealing with your partner's sickness and despair.
It's about holding it together when feeding tubes and medicines make you want to cry. It's about knowing that the same healthy, beautiful and funloving person you fell in love with all those years ago is still inside of the person who stands in front of you today. It's feeling a love much stronger now than the butterflies you felt on your first date and deeper than the passion you felt on your wedding night (or maybe not because you might have drank too much to realize it, but who's counting amaretto sours here anyway?)
It's the joy in knowing you can't love anybody or anything more  until you look into the eyes of a child you created together.
It's knowing that those vows you took are truly what you are living today  despite all the bumps and detours and minor crashes along the way  that you both are in this trip together, in sickness and in health, good times and bad, all the days of your life.

That is what I know about marriage, and that is all that matters.

This blog was re-posted in November 2017 here at


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