As a feature writer for a bridal magazine for many years, I interviewed couples about their romance and wrote catchy cutlines for the glossy photographs of their weddings. I described intricate, handmade invitations, extravagant wedding favours, 10-layer cakes that were culinary masterpieces and couture gowns worth thousands of dollars. The only part missing from the story was their relationship following the wedding. How would this romance play out, I wondered after the last piece of cake was consumed, the gifts were packed away and the gown had been sanitized and stored. What would happen to this couple after the wedding fuss died down and normal life took over?
I’m no expert in the field of marriage, but with 22 years’ experience, I hope I’ve learned a few things about harmonious co-existence. Here’s the stuff I wish I could’ve told those young couples as they dreamily described their perfect weddings:
1. Forget the candlelight dinners and moonlit beach walks. Real romance and enduring love can’t be measured by visits to expensive restaurants, over-the-top gifts or exotic travels. Rather, they make their presence known in life’s most ordinary or difficult moments, when your spirits need a boost from someone who truly cares. Look for real love in consoling words when you’re feeling destitute, in steadfast companionship when others have betrayed you and in a hand clasping yours when loss surrounds you and life looks grim. Measure it in the small pleasures of eating an ordinary meal together, in the comforting weight of a loving partner beside you in bed and in the anticipation of seeing each other after a day’s separation. If you have this, you have magic.
2. Don’t despair when times get rough. Even the most picture-perfect marriages are fraught with moments of exasperation. There will be fights, big and small, and there will be days when bad vibes linger between you like a heavy, damp mist. That’s OK. What’s not OK is walking away in despair, giving up and seeking solace elsewhere. A good marriage requires patience and perseverance, sticking through the hard times and working carefully and slowly through the challenges that arise. And trust me on this: there will be challenges – many more than you can imagine when you gaze lovingly at each other beneath the huppah.
3. Your children will teach you this: it’s possible to love someone without always liking everything about them. There will be times when you’ll learn things you won’t like about your partner. Maybe you’ll get less attention than you think you deserve, or less help in the kitchen than you need. Maybe he or she will exaggerate a story or roll into bed beside you with smelly armpits. You don’t have to like everything about someone to be committed to loving him or her. A lasting marriage is about accepting your partner, warts and all, because we all carry those warts, some visibly, some less so. The only difference among us is the question of who hides them better.
4. Relationships evolve, so don’t expect yours to stay the same. As the years roll by, time will change both of you in different ways. Careers will come and go, some friendships will fall by the wayside and the physique you once took for granted will wrinkle and dimple in ways you won’t adore. As you change, your relationship and your significant other will change, too, and to survive those changes, you will have to adapt. But if the core values you share remain intact, there’s a good chance your marriage will, too.
5. Be sure that you are marrying a friend, first and foremost – a person you can trust when you’re at your most vulnerable and someone with whom you can share your passwords, knowing full well they will never violate your privacy. A friendship like this requires daily nurturing to keep it healthy and sustain it through the storms that will arrive at your doorstep. But if you both feed and care for it, you stand a good chance of weathering those storms and emerging into the light, together.