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Three Years Ago Today…


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

Three Years Ago Today... | A Practical Wedding

I recently came across a polaroid from our wedding. It was taken on expired film, so it has the hazy glow of the memory of a warm summer’s day. It was one of the last shots taken of the party, and David and I are walking through the crowd of onlookers, being sent off into married life. My dress swirling around my ankles, my bouquet is tightly clutched in my hand, and I’m smiling. David is holding my hand, and doing a little half wave.

I remember when I saw the polaroid right after the wedding. Because of its faded haze, it looked like a memory from long ago. And while I was still basking in the glow of that intense, imperfect day, I thought to myself, “Someday, this is probably how our wedding will feel.” And now, just three years later, that picture looks exactly like my internal vision of our wedding. Like a hazy glow, a memory of warmth, held close to our hearts.

But what struck me about that polaroid when I picked it up last week is the fact that, at that second, we were walking into our marriage. As a couple that had been together five years, I knew that something intense had happened that day, but I wasn’t convinced that our marriage was different than the foundation of our relationship that we’d laid, year upon year.

Last week, when we were having a conversation about wedding guests, and the need (or not) to have people in attendance that fully supported your marriage, I said that I wanted to know that the community that had surrounded me at my wedding backed my marriage to the hilt. And someone responded that they didn’t know about that, but they always backed their friends to the hilt. While I totally understood that sentiment (David and I have had enough friends divorce that we’ve done things like hand them large sums of cash to see them through), I realized that wasn’t what I needed.

Somewhere along the line, my marriage became its own entity. Something separate from my individual self. Something that needs care and nurturing. Something that supports me in my darkest hours.

And this summer, there have been a lot of dark hours. It’s been one of those summers where the waves keep coming, and at some point all you can do is try to ride them out, hoping that they will slow to little lapping gushes at your feet. Add to that the fact that society is deeply invested in pregnant women being happy, regardless of what’s going on for them. Happy. Excited. All the time. And when you’re not, you can be made to feel like you’ve let the whole team down.

If you’d asked me a few years ago, or probably even six months ago, what would happen to our relationship in a summer of discontent, I would have told you it would suffer. But what I’ve learned is that my marriage is its own entity. Bigger than either part. A whole. A life preserver in the storm. It traces its roots back to that hazy warm day, walking together into whatever came next.

To echo Lily, I learned this summer that (while being a feminist) I can say, my marriage is the most important thing.

My marriage is the most important thing.

Happy three years, David.

Photo of our wedding by One Love Photo, all rights reserved, please do not repost

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • Laura G

    My partner and I have been together almost 5 years and will be getting married next summer. Whether our relationship will change from that act is a big unanswered question for me. We’re marrying for several reasons, including wanting the promise from our community that they’ll support the relationship in future hard times, but we feel like we’ve already made the commitments to each other that many people we talk to associate with marriage. And because we chose to use the word partner to describe our relationship, and have for some time, most of our friends and family told us upon our ‘engagement’ that they already consider us married. We plan to continue to use the word partner to describe each other.)

    • meg

      You may not know for years, is the real truth. All of that was true for us as well, and here we are.

  • http://laurenmcglynnphotography.com Lauren

    Happy Anniversary Meg & David!

    I”m glad that you are happy together, but I’m sorry that you have been sad this summer. Obviously I don’t know why you’ve been sad – but I think it’s pretty crazy to think that a pregnant woman should ONLY be happy about being pregnant, or while being pregnant. Brining another person into the world is huge – it’s just as huge if not huger than getting married, and it’s tough because you have to make sacrifices and compromises and what the hell is happening with your body and it’s harder to sleep and HORMONES and why does everyone think that they get to give you their opinion? It’s a huge change, and here you are making a giant commitment to a little person that you don’t even know yet. To expect that something that monumental wouldn’t be fraught with ambiguity is crazy pants in my opinion.

    So happy anniversary & I hope that you are taking good care of your self and not letting society get you down. x

  • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

    Happy Anniversary!

    It always gives me a little happy feeling deep in my belly whenever you talk about your marriage like this – something so strong and sure and wonderful. I’m so glad to hear that your marriage is remaining strong, even through the season hasn’t been super positive for you.

  • Ambi

    This is really touching. Sometimes it isn’t the big posts that scream and yell about something huge (birth, death, marriage, divorce, happiness, etc.) that end up hitting you over the head with profound emotion. I hope that, years from now, I am also able to look inward in the midst of a hurricane and say that my marriage is the most important thing. I think, honestly, that gets to the root of what I worry about when I have my engagement-stage meltdowns about “if he is doing this now, will he be doing it forever and am I signing on to be frustrated and unhappy?!” – the core seed of doubt is about whether we can both make and keep our marriage as the most important thing, and my alarm bells go off when I see him act in a way that makes me wonder about that. I should say here that he has not done anything that would really give me any reason to feel this way – it is just the small stuff, the not doing the dishes although he knows I’m upset by it, the working late and then going meet his buddies for a drink when I was in the mood for a quiet movie night at home with him, the fact that we are both exhausted and overwhelmed by life right now, and I know it is only going to get worse as our lives, and careers, and family all grow. I know we love each other, and I know we’re good together, but I do worry that we both have the types of personalities that could allow us to let life get in the way, to let our situations burn us out and break our spirits a bit, and that eventually we may lose sight of keeping our marriage as the most important thing. I had never been able to articulate it before, but that is honestly my fear. So thank you, Meg. I have a newfound resource in fighting this possible outcome because now at least I know what it is I’m afraid of.

  • KB

    Happy anniversary, guys :-) And, in case we don’t say it enough, thanks to BOTH of you for being willing to open a little window into your relationship, the good and the not-so-good stuff, to help guide the rest of us out here in cyberspace. I hope that this ends up being the summer where, although you had to work a little harder, you can look back and see that the work was satisfying and productive – and that you are totally entitled to your feelings, no matter what they are, and no one can tell you otherwise.

  • Jashshea

    That’s my fave picture of your wedding!

    Is it weird I have a favorite? If so, sorry, but it’s a great picture.

    ETA: I read the words now – Wow. What a lovely way to think of marriage. Happy Anniversary and here’s to better days ahead.

  • Karen

    This was wonderfully sweet and poignant. Thank you for being yourself with us. Even though you don’t know most of us personally, please know that we are always rooting for you. Congratulations on three years of marriage and eight years of being together.

    To quote Rainer Maria Rilke: “For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of our tasks; the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.”

    • meg

      <3

  • http://minnesota-chic.com PA

    Somewhere along the line, my marriage became its own entity….Something that supports me in my darkest hours.

    One of my deepest struggles has been the fear of exposing my relationship to the trials of life – as if it always needs sheltering. Thank you for reminding me that a marriage is its own entity, sometimes needing care and shelter, and sometimes being strengthened by adversity. Something from which to draw strength.

    Happy Anniversary!

    And, regarding the happiness while pregnant thing? Your book is what taught me that, “is it okay to feel ___ when I’m ____?” is a foolish question. Yes. It is okay. I wish you contentment, not because you SHOULD be contented, but because I hope the turmoil stills a little bit!

    • Ambi

      The fear of exposing my relationship to the trials of life – Yes! This is exactly what I was trying to say above. It is so strange to me that I have taken strength from the fact that my boyfriend and I have gotten through so much together over the years and yet I feel afraid that, once we are married, life will end up taking its toll on us and things will become insurmountably difficult. It is kind of nice to know that someone else also has this fear.

      • http://minnesota-chic.com PA

        Oh, absolutely. I am trying desperately to outgrow the idea that time spent with your partner should all be perfect, and weathering storms together is absolutely okay. I know this seems intuitive to many people, but I realized that I was really struggling with it a while back…

        And yes, it’s always comforting to know there are more people feeling that way!

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

      I second the wishing contentment! Going through trials here too, and thank goodness for my marriage – it really is an anchor.

  • Stacy

    Happy Anniversary Meg.

    Its interesting timing that today I was also listing to the Slate Double X podcast and they were discussing Jessica Grose’s recent articles about prenatal depression. While obviously I don’t know your particular situation is was an interesting read and another voice about the social exceptions of pregnancy.

    From the article “You’re supposed to glow while pregnant, not spiral into darkness.”

    This is a link to the podcast which also has a link to the articles. http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/doublex_gabfest/2012/08/prenatal_depression_ryan_lochte_and_other_hot_olympic_bodies_and_a_georgia_teenager_s_cosmetic_surgery_on_this_week_s_doublex_gabfest_.html

  • http://theroadto92912.blogspot.com Molly

    Happy anniversary!

    I really needed this post today. The mister and I are going through some moving-in/unemployment bumps, and I think that looking at our relationship as a separate entity will be really helpful to me in getting past the fights we keep having. Any other tips for navigating our brand-new roommate status while I’m unemployed and basically a stay-at-home fiancée? (sorry for the slight threadjack)

    • Alexandra

      I don’t know that I really have tips, but well, I wanted to offer up some support nonetheless. I found being a stay-at-home girlfriend really hard, even more so because I often felt like we put our life on hold simply because I was unemployed. (Ie, we didn’t actually get engaged until after I got a job, because my boy didn’t think we could afford a wedding. We were staying in my parent’s basement, largely because we didn’t know where I’d end up working to look for houses. Etc…) So, sending you some e-hugs, unemployment bumps suck.

      But as to actual advice… Read the archives here? Even this post from yesterday is a good place to start: http://apracticalwedding.com/2012/08/redefining-career-success-in-marriage/ but there is so much wonderful stuff in this site that I’m really sad I never found this blog while I was a stay-at-home girlfriend. I might have been less miserable.

    • Taylor B

      Tip #1: Hang in there!
      My partner and I have lived together for more than 5 years, including 3 while I was in grad school and not working. But me being home fulltime this summer looking for my first post-graduation job has been a challenge. What has worked for me is continuing to reach out to friends and family and seeking support, even when I’m embarrassed and feeling needy. This has helped me keep my focus on managing my unemployment and worry, and prevented too much bleeding over into worry about “us.” We have had rocky phases in the past, including a move to a tiny apartment that had me thinking we would never survive together, but we kept separating out the content of the disagreements (all move-related) from our feelings about each other and that really, really helped.

      I feel for you, dealing with both sets of experience at once! Take care of yourself. I would say don’t feel pressure about unpacking all at once, or spending 10 hours a day on the job search. Go easy on yourself. Take time to take care of yourself, give yourself time for fun, time with friends. And months ago, I read this advice in a father’s toast (on this site, I think?) that has been such a comfort, and useful guidance: “Do more than your share, and don’t keep count.” My partner was a phenomenal support while I was in school, and I have truly found joy in preparing dinner, doing the laundry, and planning activities that he loves. It has helped me feel like a partner, supporting his full time work schedule even though I’m not working yet, repaying all the millions of ways he took care of me while I commuted 4 hours a day to grad school. Most important, though, it reminds me that our relationship is, like Meg says, bigger than the two of us, and separate. It is growing with all the nurturing we are giving it this summer.

      Take care, and keep reaching out!

      • Laura

        Taylor, I hadn’t even read your comment when I used the *exact* same quote from a previous post in my comment (below)! Amazing! This line has truly become my mantra. Brilliant, brilliant.

    • Laura

      Ahh I can so relate! In our almost-five years together, my partner and I have each gone through (multiple) periods of being unemployed, in grad school, and working 80-hour weeks. And almost never at the same time. Add to this a year of 3000-mile long distance, two cross-country moves, and finally making the cohabitation leap… Quite the roller-coaster.

      So, I guess, my tip would be… Even though, ideally, you will both reach a homeostasis with the security of long-term stability (although, this does sound kind of boring, now that I’ve written it), I guarantee you that, over the course of your togetherness, there will be lots of give-and-take role reversals, and that, in the end, it will probably balance out.

      For instance, if you are doing more of the ’round-the-house stuff right now, there will probably come a time when he’ll have to handle more of that side. Similarly, right now your stress level might be high worrying about your employment future, but, at some point, even if you are both working, there will come a time when his work-related stress level outreaches yours.

      And the whole trick, in my experience, is to pick up the emotional and day-to-day slack for your partner whenever that’s what they need from you, knowing that, in the future, they will do the same for you without batting an eye.

      There’s a quote from a beautiful previous APW post (oh man, I can’t seem to find the exact one) that rings in my head every time I feel like the scale of our relationship isn’t tipped in my favor – “Do more than your fair share and *don’t keep track.*” This. Totally, forever, this.

      And… if you’ve finally convinced yourself of the karmic, cyclical nature of things and the going is still tough between you, I suppose I recommend thoughtful, loving communication to your partner about how the situation (remember – it’s the *situation*, not your partner, making you feel this way) is affecting you.

      Hm, and, I guess, a final, somewhat tangential word of advice about unemployment: Exercise. Put on your running shoes and head out the door, or grab your yoga mat and pop in a DVD, or whatever makes you feel good (and doesn’t cost extra cash). Every day. Because, well, endorphins. And, more importantly, at the end of the day, if you’ve accomplished nothing else, you’ve done that.

      • Taylor B

        After writing my comment above, I left the house to take my in-laws’ dog on a long walk and realized I’d forgotten to include exercise in my tips! Walking, running, yoga, push-ups, hiking – these have saved me this summer! Endorphins, plus PRIDE when you feel yourself getting physically stronger (I had a pretty low baseline!). This has been incredibly helpful this summer. Thanks for reminding me Laura!

    • Audrey

      When I was an unemployed stay at home girlfriend I found that doing some temping work really helped me have a little more structure to my day (while still having other days to work on my job search or whatever else I wanted to get done).

      Bonus: having something to put on your resume during that time can be useful.

  • April

    I super duper LOVE that photo of the two of you. Happy Anniversary, darlings! XOXO Here’s to marriage and to “the road”- be it ever so bumpy, and for all that is yet to come.

  • Laura

    First, happy anniv, Meg&David. Mazel tov, guys!

    Second, it took me a long time to come around to the idea that marriage could be meaningful for my partner and I. But, when I did, it was in part because I saw that marriage could the like this, be the transcendent life preserver, the “most important thing”, and I knew I wanted that element in my life and in our life. The Marriage Gestalt.

  • http://www.koruwedding.com Koru Kate {Koru Wedding}

    Happy 3rd Anniversary & Cheers to many, many more! May your marriage always carry you through the sad & happy times~

  • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

    Happy anniversary. I hope you both are doing it justice and enjoying yourselves.

  • Mara

    Lovely post, Meg. My boyfriend and I are getting married next week, and then trying to get pregnant right away. On our walk yesterday, we talked about how our culture seems to view pregnant women as vessels rather than as people who also happen to be pregnant. He said, “It’s like they don’t even exist as their own person anymore — they’re just baby machines for everyone to look at and touch.” Thinking of you both as you weather the storm, and very glad you have such a life-preserving marriage.

  • http://nighttraintodetroit.com amy

    happy anniversary. I cried.

  • http://livinglnf.blogspot.com Jo

    Oh God, Meg, HUG. Hug hug hug. From an internet stranger that might actually be weird, so really I’m just sending you warmth and light and hoping the people around you are hugging you tight. :) Because yes. Why do we have to be happy all the time, esp. during those Big Moments? And why do the waves of rough stuff come? No matter, the point is, as you eloquently said, that we have our life preservers ready to go. And thank the sweet lord for that. I personally wouldn’t have made it this far without mine. And treasuring my marriage in return is the least I can do to show my gratitude, and in all fairness, to prepare for whatever is coming next.

    Anyway, good luck to you and David. I hope the waves start to become sweet and slow very very soon.

  • http://www.invertigodance.org Laura Karlin

    We had a reading at our wedding, an Apache prayer, that included this line:

    “Now you are two persons,
    but there are three lives before you;
    her life, his life, and your life together.”

    It describes how we feel about it beautifully, and seems to be what you’re talking about, Meg. While we are whole people in our own right, we share this newly articulated family life.

    Or maybe I just like it because, really, in my head I’m picturing a middle school Venn Diagram.

    (and of course pronouns can be switched to suit whatever genders are getting hitched!)

    • Laura

      I love this! It’s… well, perfect.

      Also, hello, Venn Diagrams are badass. They’re a totally sophisticated way of thinking about relationships. Not middle-school at all!

      • http://www.invertigodance.org Laura Karlin

        A fellow Venn Diagram-loving Laura. . . amazing!

        I think this reading summed up why we got married after 6 years together. It felt significant because it affirmed this third life to ourselves and our community – one which is as important as our separate lives, possibly more important.

        And I got to wear a pretty green dress and spend a weekend with people I love. . . so. . . that went in Venn Diagram circle of AWESOME.

  • Diane

    This idea that pregnant women should be happy all the time? Poppycock! (I love that word.) THAT is insanity, and I say this as a psychiatrist. Last time I checked, pregnancy involved massive hormonal shifts, your body doing new, strange and often uncomfortable things that you never really anticipated. Your relationships inevitably change or at least are on the brink of doing so. Some women I’ve seen talk about a feeling of almost being “eaten up” or “consumed” by the pregnancy and feel that their personhood is about to be engulfed by their impending motherhood. I think it’s disrespectful of the hugeness of motherhood to assign a single emotion (i.e. Happy) to such a complex process. Meg, consider this a feel-whatever-the-hell-you-actually-feel fist bump.

    • Marcela

      Yes, eaten up. It’s the Chronos myth in reverse.

      • KB

        I wonder if it’s also left over from the time when women didn’t sweat, they “glistened” or, at worst, “perspired.” An acquaintence of mine tried to tell me that I’d have to quit cussing when I got pregnant or else I’d be a bad influence on the baby – to which I said, “&*$# that!” I’m cursing until that kid starts imitating me – and probably even after!

        • Diane

          Love it! My mom decided to cut back on the cursing when my brother, around the age of 1, ran out of juice or something in a bottle, shook the bottle, then threw it on the floor and said, “GOB dammit!” Suffice it to say that we all, uh, speak fluent French and are non the worse for it.

        • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

          My father in law tells a story about his daughter, than about 3, coming in to the room and saying something along the lines of, “I can’t sleep, goddammit.” He still thinks it’s hilarious. I can’t really argue, and fully admit my baby daughter will learn cursing at home. I’m not really that worried. As long as we eventually teach her time and place, it will be fine enough. Just words, after all!

        • Ambi

          Just to add to the funny stories about kids cussing (one of my favorite topics EVER!), my friends have a little girl who, when she was about 3, was over at her grandparents’ house and her grandfather was trying to put her winter coat on her so she could go out and play. He kept trying and trying to get the zipper to work until, all of a sudden, she sighed really big and said, “Granddaddy, the motherfucker ain’t gonna zip!” – her parents had some explaining to do when they picked her up! :)

        • Marcela

          My grandmother taught me how to curse and she organized competitions between her grandchildren to see who knew more bad words ;)

  • http://weskislow.com meghan

    Congratulations, Meg and David.

  • Victwa

    It’s unclear from your post if there are other sadness-inducing events happening in your life and you happen to be pregnant while these things are happening, or if you are just feeling sadness and the world around you does not look kindly upon pregnant women being sad/down (no matter what the reason). Either way, I send you the biggest vibes of “F-U world! I’m doing motherhood the way that works for ME!!!” It’s so, so hard and there are so many expectations thrown at you.

    It sounds like David is WITH YOU in all this, and to me, this is the most important thing. (I suppose that’s really marriage in a short sentence– being WITH someone through it all.) Happy Anniversary.

    • http://livinglnf.blogspot.com Jo

      Couldn’t agree more.
      :) Engraved on the inside of our wedding rings is “With You Always.”

    • MissT

      I super duper second the: “F-U world! I’m doing motherhood the way that works for ME!!!” In fact, one of the reasons this old married lady of two years with a 6 month old keeps coming back to APW is because so much of the wisdom about marriage, family, feminism, choices, supportive communities, shame blasting, and did I mention feminist communities coming together to support people making the decisions that work for them and their baby family (with or without actual baby) applies to all of life. And that includes the choices we make around children – which I think APW has done a great job on, too. I am so sorry that this is a hard time for you, Meg, but I want to give you a big hug and a bigger thank you from me for doing the work that you do. Because this community has supported me in my journey and rough spots – and helps me focus on what my marriage needs not the judgmental “society/thems.” And my marriage is totally the most important thing.

  • Class of 1980

    Three years? Already?

    Well then, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!

  • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

    I’ve said that I had an easy pregnancy and really liked being pregnant, and it’s the true. It’s also true that my anxiety spiked at about 5 months and didn’t ever calm down, and one of the reasons I loved being pregnant was that it meant I didn’t have a baby yet, and my life was “not yet ruined”. Then, surprising absolutely no one, I suffered through 4 months of PPD. So, not the darkest season of my relationship with David (which is crazy in it’s own right) but a tough one. It was hard for both of us, when he’d leave for work with me sitting on the bed crying, and come home to find me on the couch crying.

    But through it all, though? Our marriage? Is the ROCK that kept everything okay. That kept me sane. That managed to make me smile. That made it okay to not love the baby because he could do it for both of us. The bedrock safety of US made everything else bearable, until things improved.

    (If you ever want to talk about this stuff, you know where to find me…)

    Also, happy anniversary!

  • first milk

    Happy day, love. Happy, happy day.

  • http://www.wrightremedy.blogspot.com Addie

    If you’ve been married for three years then I’ve been reading for…a long ass time! So many happy anniversaries to you.

    And as a massage therapist who specializes in prenatal massage, I see a ton of women in various stages of pregnancy. Not one of them has been happy the whole time. Frankly, most just want it to be over already. The rest just want a nap. One of my clients used to cry almost every session. One would talk about anything but the baby so she was garuanteed at least one baby free hour a week. Most said our sessions were the only time they felt truly comfortable the whole pregnancy. So um yeah, feel however you want.

  • http://bigBANGstudio.blogspot.com bigBANG studio

    Amen to that, baby. xo.

  • sasha

    I think you in particular, but all of us who exist here, (even those who read every day but comment infrequently…) are lucky to have the support of a community that is rooting for that marriage and there to support the separate entity that is the marriage (or marriage-to-be). And I also think it is why teh reclaiming wife posts are so important to those of us who aren’t there yet, and are on the other side. It makes me wonder how there are wedding blogs that do NOT talk about married life, because isn’t that the whole point?

    So thank you for supporting all of us, and know that we are all out here as strangers supporting you.

    Happy Anniversary.

  • http://proofitgood.tumblr.com Rizubunny

    My boss told me, before my wife and I got married, that we were creating a new thing that was made up of us, but wasn’t either of us, and that at times we would need to do things that weren’t necessarily what we would do for either of *us* individually, but were the best thing for our marriage. One of the wisest things I’ve ever heard.

    • Abby Mae

      That’s just what I needed to hear today. Thanks.

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