There is nothing more bubbly, positive and brimming with possibility than a bride. There is something so exciting about being engaged to married--something surreal. During an engagement there is this alternate universe that seems to exist, uprooting the realities of marriage that lay ahead for the couple.
But let’s be plain: there is a huge difference between a wedding and a marriage.
Weddings are fun and full of celebration; indeed there is much to celebrate when two people are joining their lives together. But in the planning, and all that goes into the wedding’s festivities, there is a measure of realism that is lost. So many couples-and women especially, I believe are guilty of this--go into the whole thinking that they want to be “married” but they don’t think beyond the altar.
Image: VA State Park Staffvia Flickr
Thinking beyond the altar can become very overwhelming... which may account for some of this phenomenon. Of course we would rather think about where we are taking our honeymoon than the demands that might be made of us once we are legally and emotionally bound to someone through the institution of marriage. But to put it bluntly, that is just not good enough.
It’s not good enough to leave it to chance and plan a wedding without thinking about what lies ahead. What will you do the day your husband or wife shocks the hell out of you with a behavior you never saw coming? What will happen when you find yourself in uncharted territory.... how will you settle differences that are huge, glaring and unexpected? Make no mistake about it: people change over time, be it for better or worse.
The biggest thing and the most trying obstacle in my estimation is the national obsession over weddings. In this regard, I speak from experience. I wanted desperately, for many years, to be a bride. I wanted the cake, the flowers, the dress--the music. I wanted the experience of saying I got married, and I wanted to call my boyfriend “husband.” I knew I was in love, and so I thought to myself that I must want marriage, too. And it becomes harder and harder as you watch others marry.
Marriages, though, are not about flowers and expensive entrees; they aren’t about matching dresses, large cakes, and guest lists. A marriage is about hard work and compromise... I know, it sounds so very cliche. It’s what you hear about from countless couples, this compromise and hard work. And it sort of makes it sound a little unpleasant, doesn’t it?
Indeed, marriage can sometimes be quite unpleasant. There are trying times in any relationship, and relationships, too, have a way of taking on a life of their own. But on the flip side of that, it can also be the most fulfilling and beautiful thing ever. Nothing in a marriage, as those married can attest to, is quite black or white; it’s all in shades of grey.
I’m not going to lie, it’s hard to go into a marriage with eyes wide open...especially when you’ve got diamonds shining so brightly, blocking the great vision you normally have. For me, though, when I decided to get married, I knew what I was in for. I knew who my husband was and was not--we waited six and half years before we decided to commit for life. Time may truly be the best and most steadfast determination of your ability to make it in a marriage.
If you can stand the test of time, then you may be ready for marriage. Even still, for me after nearly seven years together before we said “I do”, marriage was a shocking revelation that I wasn’t fully prepared for. I was armed, though, with my convictions and my knowledge of who I married, and that has allowed the both of us to roll with the punches and weather storms together. We grow stronger in our marriage with each bump in the road we encounter, but as we age, we see that other couples haven’t fared as well as we have.
The United States has an exceptionally high divorce rate, and I find it really alarming. I can’t help but think that it might have something to do with the fact that people keep confusing weddings with marriages when they couldn't be more different. So if you find yourself contemplating nuptials with someone, perhaps you should ask yourself this: if you were unable to have a wedding at all, no celebrations or toasts or dresses or music or guests, would you still take the plunge and be legally bound to this person.... forever?
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