This is What Marriage is Like Three Years After We Said “I Do”

man and woman embracing while looking at the ocean

I write this post from deep in the middle of the hardest time we have so far been through in our marriage. That may seem an odd time to choose to reflect on how our wedding might have shaped our marriage, and an unlikely position from which to reassure those newly considering the prospect of tying their lives together, but hear me out, because it’s not. I have never been more grateful for our marriage, and by extension, our wedding, than in the last year, so the timing feels ideal.

Our primary wedding day was a tidal wave of joy. It lifted us up to heights of emotional experience that I had not previously encountered, carried us along on the shoulders of our dear ones who had gathered with us from all around the world to show their support for our union, and left us washed up on the shores of married life, intangibly but inexorably changed. I am not a religious person, but our wedding ceremony was definitely a spiritual experience—we were blessed by the sheer overwhelming force of love surrounding us that day in a way that we had not, could not have expected. I know that a wedding does not feel this way for everyone, and why should it—our weddings are surely as individual as ourselves—but I am a sensitive person, and that state of rapture which marked the beginning of our marriage has served as a welcome template for countering distress on the most ordinary of our days since.

Popular wisdom tells us that the first year of marriage is the hardest. Based on our experience of the last three years, I beg to differ. Our first year of married life was magical. The first few months were a long, slow comedown from the transcendental high of our wedding day, and the rest an extended honeymoon in which we played at this novel game of being husband and wife. All felt new, all was delightful, still bathed in the afterglow of the intense emotion radiating out from the day on which it began.

Year number two felt rather different, as we bedded down into the mundane but gritty reality of our marriage. It was a year in which big decisions were made and future plans laid involving careers, joint finances and expanding our family. It certainly had challenges of its own, including moving house, and parental illness, but also felt full of possibility—the same possibility bred and realised on our wedding day. As we made our plans and coped with the derailments of those that life occasionally threw at us, I came to more fully understand that within this marriage, as on our wedding day, we can make anything happen. No small revelation, that one.

But it was this year that I really gained an appreciation for the saying, ‘begin as you mean to go on’ as it applied to our marriage, and became truly thankful for those no less distant feelings of bliss that could be called upon to lift me up again when life was seriously hammering me down.

Without that emotional safety net, it would have been all too easy to despair, or dismiss our third year of marriage as ‘that really shitty one in which things just didn’t happen for us’, instead of seeing it as the valuable fire that it was, forging us into braver, truer versions of ourselves. (Although, it really has been shitty.) In the last year, there has been impending unemployment, infertility, and geographical separation, among others. Contending with any one of those in a year would have been a big enough deal, so all of them at once? Trying times, let me tell you. It was without doubt the hardest year that we have been through in all our years together, but with the help of loving friends and family, we withstood it with grace and love, emerging strengthened, and almost as full of laughter as we were at the very beginning. A little more wary (and weary) perhaps, certainly more worn, but still as joyful as we were when we giddily wound our way home at the close of our wedding day.

So there it is: joy. Despite having endured our most difficult year, the primary emotion that comes to mind when I think of our marriage is still joy; the most common sound to echo round my heart in response, laughter. That near-spiritual bliss still exists in its most pure and unadulterated form. Because, as my beloved helpfully reminded me after a storm of tears following yet another disappointment, nothing has essentially changed since that first exhilarating day. Our external circumstances may look rather different, but at its heart our marriage is still just him and me—to be sure, him and me lifted up and carried along on the shoulders of our loved ones, who remain as supportive now as they were then—and for him and me, as wonderfully demonstrated on our wedding day, that joy runs deep. As it was at the beginning, so it is now, and so it shall hopefully be till the end—immeasurably joyous.

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