My sweet sister-in-law got married last weekend. I realized only after the fact that it was the only wedding I’ve been in since my own a few years ago. The festivities, preparation, and anticipation had me thinking a lot of our wedding and, perhaps more importantly, our marriage.
Advice flows freely when you prepare to get married. Some of it’s helpful. Some of it isn’t. But I remember trying to absorb as much as possible because we wanted to “do this right.” I had my own advice to share this weekend, which, if I’m fortunate, will fall on the helpful end of the scale.
People say marriage is really hard - especially the first year. People also say the first year should be a glorious honeymoon phase. I guess it depends on who you talk to. I don’t think either was the case for us.
Our first year of marriage was hard in the way life is hard—the humbling of seeing your own selfishness and pride put on display, the pain of being touched by the brokenness of the world. But it was also beautiful in the way life is beautiful—simple, surprising, soul-swelling.
I remember during my college years my mentor telling me a story about her early marriage. Her husband was working on the railroad then and had been away for days with the train. He returned to find her exhausted from caring for their little children, who were sick with the stomach flu. Without question, he sent her to bed for some much needed rest and stayed up himself to take care of them. I remember her telling me (and I’m paraphrasing from memory here), “That’s what marriage is like sometimes—cleaning up puke in the middle of the night.” She told me to find someone who’d be up with me in those moments because that’s the sort of spirit that’s needed to make marriage work.
Scott and I have had some of those “middle of the night” moments. I’ve literally wiped vomit from the tile floor after gingerly walking him back to bed during the worst of stomach bugs. He carried me up and down the stairs at the height of my sickness a couple years ago, when I didn’t have enough energy. We’ve sobbed in each others’ arms, for our own pain and the pain of others.
I will fully admit that we’re still relatively new at this. But I’m convinced that in these moments the bond of our marriage grows stronger. Because it’s in these moments we live up to the vows we made to each other: for better, for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. These moments weave strength into our relationship for lasting love and romance to rest on.
When I walked down the aisle this weekend—draped in soft purple—my eyes still sought his first. The look on his face was much as I remembered it from the day it’d been our turn, the day I’d worn white, the day we’d bound ourselves to each other “until death do us part.” His lips were pressed together, tilting up to the corner in a crooked smile. His eyes shone—with joy, pride, love. There was so much written on his face, and though it was just as precious, it meant more to me then than it had on our own wedding day—because we’d cleaned up the puke in the middle of the night. We’d served each other, sacrificed, loved in the midst of the mess. And our love is deeper for it.