On First Anniversaries & Forever

You guys are normally a very good influence on me, with your kind comments and thoughtful emails. But recently, things went a little south (my fault, not yours). Since we’ve been discussion cold feet and divorce and wedding anxiety on the blog, I’ve started getting a lot of emails of the freaked out variety. More specifically, they are emails that detail the reasons why you might be freaked out about marriage. Lines of thought include, “Forever is terrifying,” and “Think of all the things that can go wrong in a lifetime together,” and “What if we don’t get along in 30 years,” and the more general, “Oh my God I’m scared.”

I didn’t have cold feet pre-wedding, but sometime right before our first anniversary these emails reached critical mass in my brain. Suddenly I started looking around thinking, “Well, sh*t. Forever IS a long time, and oh my God what if we DON’T get along in 30 years?!” Lucky David, right? So when we woke up the morning of our anniversary and David said, “Do you think it will be just like this on our 50th, but we’ll just be creakier?” I thought, “OHMYGOD! This goes on for another 49 years????” Logically, 49 years like this last year would be fantastic news, but freaking out does not respond well to logic. Needless to say, I’d picked a fight with David before breakfast.

We did not, however, have a horrible anniversary.

Sometime during that afternoon, as the freaking out reached it’s peak, I had a realization. It was this: my marriage isn’t for forever, my marriage is for today. Which is to say, of course we freak out when we ponder questions like, “How long is forever?” and “What if we don’t get along in 30 years?” Those questions freak us out because A) They don’t have an answer, no matter how long you think about them, and B) There is nothing we can do to solve the problems they pose. They are, in a sense, totally useless (but terrifying) questions.

What we can do is look around our life and figure out how our marriage is doing today. If it’s good, it’s good. Stop freaking out and breathe it in. But if, for example, you’ve been freaking out all day about the nature of forever, it’s quite possible that you’ve also been an asshole all day, and your marriage, achem, might need a little care right this very second.

Which, on the evening of our anniversary, we gave it.

So, perhaps more useful than my revelation, I give you my easy recipe for a fantastic anniversary. We had our fantastic anniversary in Rome, which was borderline ridiculous (though the kind of ridiculous I’ll take), but it turns out we could have had it anywhere.

My Recipe:

  • One bottle of prosecco
  • One ipod wedding playlist to listen to
  • Slow Dancing or hand holding to your romantic wedding song (ours was not our first dance song, actually)
  • Then dancing around the room like a lunatic to the fast songs
  • Electric slides encouraged
  • One nice dinner (out or in)
  • One bottle of wine
  • One nice slow walk home (trashed)

And that, my friends, is how we took our marriage one day at a time on August 9, 2010, on a very hot night in Rome. After a pretty imperfect day, it was exactly right.

Featured Sponsored Content

  • I had cold feet up until a couple of weeks before the wedding. I was terrified that I would hurt him, screw it up or make him hate me. I too pick fights on occasion just to see if he’s still present and committed. He always is. (Trust me, I know it ain’t right and I’m working on it.) But his love for me allows me to have faith in myself. I don’t know what will happen in 5, 10 or 50 years… but right now (and it’s weird only thinking about right now) he’s my husband, my life and I love him to pieces. For me, the love I have for him is worth the risk.

  • The Mr and I have an understanding that relationships in general, and what will be our marriage specifically, will take work. That is the nature of the beast. We ended up needing to have one of those scary conversations a few weeks back, which ran along the lines of “Are we doing the right thing? Do we really want to be together?” But the point was we HAD THE CONVERSATION.

    To my way of thinking, it’s when you stop wanting to work on your relationship/marriage that it’s time to let it go. That may be one year down the road, ten years, of never, if you’re lucky. Just being willing to talk and work it out, and things will end up the way they are supposed to end up.


    • Lauren

      First-time commenter…here we go!

      I think what you said is really essential: “WE HAD THE CONVERSATION.” I am not engaged, but in a serious relationship that is definitely heading that way soon. My partner is the steady, “he’s my rock” type, and I am prone to bi-monthly freak-outs where I re-evaluate everything and look for signs of trouble in our relationship. I am a psychologist/social worker with many divorces in my family, which does not help end the analyzing : ) It would make sense that in these times, I would put my best effort into our relationship to calm my fears, but instead I do what many have mentioned- pick fights, constantly question, and generally drive my partner crazy.

      We have had a few of the serious “what are we doing” conversations, and in those moments things seem so scary and forever seems impossible. But afterwards, we take a deep breath and realize that we CAN have tense, brutally honest conversations and STILL continue to love each other. If we keep talking like that and remembering that even when you feel that “OMG are we right together??” feeling, it will pass and you get to fall in love all over again! : )

      I LOVE the idea of focusing on loving your partner today and tomorrow.

      • Hi Lauren. I’m a psychotherapist, too, and my brain gets me into waaay too much trouble. Seriously. For obsessive analyzers and worriers, having cold feet is pure torture.

        That’s why I love this comment from Meg: “my marriage isn’t for forever, my marriage is for today.” Yes, there are a million things to worry about. There are a million things that can go wrong. But if you’re an anxious person like me and you try to take on those thoughts without a healthy dose of awareness and mindfulness of what’s happening TODAY, you’ll simply lose. You’ll lose your sanity and maybe even your partner.

        I’ve found that the checks and balances approach helps with cold feet. I take a particular worry and check it against the reality of now. Then I might check it again in prayer. And then I check it one last time against my partner, who is just freakin’ amazing at restoring balance in our relationship.

        • Wow, Kim. All these months of reading your blog, and I never realized you were a psychotherapist. Now your cold feet analytics make so much sense! We Type A’s often live too much in our heads.

          • Also, Sarah, no surprise. You’d never pick up on my profession because I come off as too psycho for psychology. ;)

        • Sometimes (well, usually) your greatest strength is your biggest weakness! People with high anxiety, for example, tend to be really talented and accomplished because their worries are a great motivation to strive for excellence. But it’s no fun gettin’ there. ;)

          (Not that I’m super talented or accomplished or anything, but you know what I mean.)

          • Jessica

            high anxiety as a motivator, my life suddenly makes sense. ;)

    • meg

      I always think this is really interesting, this “relationships take hard work” adage. I’ve said before that someone said something really wise to me in my 20’s about relationships which was, “When it’s right, it gets easy.” And while that statement dosen’t preclude hard work, I’ve just never felt like my relationship was work. I mean, it has BAD days and SCREAMING fights, but it usually just feels there, and easy.

      Which is not to make people who do find relationships hard work freak out (I could eat my words at some point anyway). I’m just playing devils advocate for and adage I don’t find personally true, when look beyond the surface.

      • Erin

        I agree. I’d like to say that relationships take care and cultivation, like you suggested in the post above (“it’s quite possible that you’ve also been an asshole all day, and your marriage, achem, might need a little care right this very second”), or little kindnesses or even big kindnesses. But these things don’t feel like hard work to me. They don’t leave me exhausted or sore; they add to my happiness and contentment and satisfaction. Fights, bad days, yeah… they exhaust me. But those aren’t the main effort of taking care of our marriage. They’re incidental to life.

      • ddayporter

        yeah I guess it depends on how people define “work.” I am generally a pretty lazy person. left to my own devices, I would go days without doing laundry or tidying up the living room or organizing my shoes (or showering??). when I think about the work that goes into our relationship, I think about making myself pay attention to those things because I know my husband cares about all that a bit more than i do and I don’t want him doing more than he feels is fair. a lot of the time I am really bad at this kind of work, and then it takes more work to make up for it.

        Another thing is keeping our finances above water. in our current situation it’s just a constant concern, deciding where and when we can spend our pennies. that sometimes feels like work, and makes life a bit more difficult.

        The above probably isn’t what most people are talking about when they say relationships take work. But no relationship is an island and all these things affect how we relate to one another, and they make it feel like relationships are hard work, when really the actual relationship isn’t hard at all.

        I think Erin just said a lot more succinctly what I was attempting to get at.

        • Maybe ‘hard work’ isn’t the right sentiment. More like ‘constant vigilance’. (even that has more of a negative connotation than I’m aiming for)

          • This makes me think of Professor Moody from Harry Potter. Maybe we should think of his little magic eye watching us all the time. Ha ha ha. (Geek alert)

          • meg

            Ok, I DEFINITELY don’t think my relationship needs constant vigilance (Thank goodness. That sounds like a lot of energy.) I mostly think I just need to show up, pay attention, and be present. I think that’s what I’m saying in this post. It’s easy to make things complicated when I don’t show up, and instead hang out in my crazy brain. When I do show up it’s pretty simple.

            And DDAY – yes, agreed. A relationship does make you better at money and chores a lot of the time, but I think like a commenter above said, those fall into ‘incidental to life’ in my mind. Thought it’s part of showing up and paying attention, to some extent. It’s easier to not bother to show up and pay attention when you’re on your own (or it is for me). The thing about marriage is I owe my partner my best self. I suppose THAT takes work, but it’s my work – my relationship isn’t the work part, it’s the support part. It’s what ALLOWS me to do the work with more ease.

            Mmmm. Rambling.

        • Sarah

          Oh Rachel, we are far more alike than I’d realized…

      • I’ve never fully understood what people mean when they say that it “takes work.” I think it takes time and attention, but work? Not the word I’d use. I don’t know if this gets bandied about so much because it’s true for most people, or simply because now it’s become rote. You almost never read a relationship interview or article in a magazine without the “it takes work” like surfacing.

        Grad school was work. Cleaning our bathroom takes work. Setting up for the wedding was work.

        But our relationship requires… vulnerability, which yes, can be really effing difficult sometimes. Being open about my fears and wishes, and listening open-mindedly to his. It requires thinking of how he might feel, instead of only considering how something affects me. Cheering him on and reassuring him “everything will be okay,” even when I don’t know that it will. It requires prioritizing our physical connection: kisses and hugs and back rubs and fooling around–and remembering to kiss first, check the mail second. It requires apologizing when I’ve done something stupid, and forgiving him when he makes mistakes. It’s assuming that he means well, picking battles. Getting him tissues and chicken soup when he isn’t feeling well and listening to him vent about work. It’s buying birthday cards for his parents, and making sure my family doesn’t drive him crazy or smother us with love. It’s telling him how handsome he is, how lucky I am to be with him.

        But none of this feels like work (right now. Maybe someday it will???). When I’m tired and worn out from my job, sometimes it’s harder to keep all this in mind… but it still feels easy. My relationship has so far been a kind of sanctuary… the Life Stuff, that’s the hard work for me.

        • I’ve been in a relationship that required (and felt like) work, and I agree that a relationship that feels right takes effort, but it does not feel like work.

          • I too have been in a relationship that took work. Everyday I had to remind myself, demand of myself that I loved him, until I realized that I actually didn’t. Now that I have a husband (one year married, nine years together) it isn’t hard work.
            And those arguments that we get into, where I freak out and start worrying too much, they aren’t the same now that we are married. Now, more than ever before, I know that we are both in this for the effort and the love and the long haul. We have to work together on all the difficult stuff, and that isn’t working on our relationship as much as it’s working on how our lives will continue to function together. It’s easy to love him because we’ve made this decision to be together and be honest with each other. It’s the rest of life that is difficult, but my G makes it easier because he is my rock and quells my worrying when I’m worrying too much.
            I like thinking about today and today and today for fifty years. That doesn’t discount that there is a future, but it focuses the energy on loving today, everyday.
            As always, thanks Meg.

      • fleda

        The “a relationship is work” line appeals to me primarily as a much-needed antidote to the naive “happily-ever-after” fairy-tale line, which, oddly enough, still seems frighteningly omnipresent in our culture. But if one understands “work” to mean drudgery, neither line is really accurate! Once again, it comes down to semantics and the associations we have with certain words.

        A thought: we use “work” to talk about making art (“she’s working on a large canvas at the moment” or “I’m working on my third novel, a thriller set in eighteenth-century London”) and “working” on a relationship seems to me akin to that kind of labor.

        • meg

          I think your right about work being the counter-point to fairy tale. But as you say that, it makes me wonder about how that’s tied into our cultural noise. Speaking for the US, we still have a very puritanical work ethic – live to work. We’re *really* not a work to live culture (I realize with sadness every time I’m in Europe). So, we have this myth that work is what make things virtuous. So I think it makes a lot of sense that we say “relationships are work,” because that makes them virtuous.

          I wonder if the French say relationships are about pleasure? Or if the Italians say relationships are about family or food? I think what I’m saying is we’re allowed to re-focus our relationships on something other than work. That’s ok.

          What if I said for a month or two that my relationship was about pleasure? How would my actions and focus change? Hum. Off to pour David and I some wine… ;)

          • Erin

            Ooooooooo… Relationship about pleasure? Brilliant idea. I now have APW homework ;)

          • I think the best relationships are about all those things, but you have to expect a certain balance of work, pleasure, family, food (mmm ok so the food will ALWAYS be there). And I agree that as Americans, I think we sometimes use platitudes like “relationships take work” a little too often. Relationships mean trying a little harder to be, as you said, your best self, but I think if you are with the right person, you are going to want to be a better person. And if you really want to do something, can you really call it work? I don’t know because, well, I’m not married yet (10 days – OMG!), but I will keep APW readers posted if I figure it out. I know as far as what I’m vowing to do, it includes a lot of patience, kindness, gratitude and opening of the heart. If anyone thinks I’ve left something off this list – please let me know, I’m running out of time!!! :)

          • p.s. Congrats on the successful anniversary – it sounds AMAZING.

      • I think my relationship is both the easiest and insanely hard work. It’s the easiest and most obvious relationship I’ve ever been a part of. Without expending much effort apart from being ourselves, we make each other better and life is right with him. But. Beyond the everyday maintenance and respect (cleaning, cooking, finances, jobs, time for each other) which we’ve both adjusted to accommodate for the other (which is definitely work), there are really hard parts. Parts where we realize it’s easy to get complacent and take each other for granted and you have to pull back and reassess and rebuild. Parts where we have to stretch ourselves to just get through the day on our own, let alone nurturing each other. And parts where life comes barreling down and brings out the worst and the best in each of us. Months in the hospital or without jobs or even worse.

        I think your point is 100% right – focusing on today keeps us sane and keeps the relationship good. And good relationships don’t require a hard slog to make the day-to-day feel great. But dang if life doesn’t really make great relationships really really really hard for long stretches of time. That’s when it’s sometimes hardest to be good to each other and when we can really poison things if we’re not careful. And that’s when it can be hard work with the promise wonderful lifelong payoff.

        • And having said all that, celebrating today is exactly what keeps us going and keeps my neuroticism in check. Dinners out, mini-adventures, big adventures, wine, dancing and general evening giggles… that’s what makes all the hard work worthwhile and makes the day-to-day easy. It absolutely brings us back to what is important and right about us.

          • @Becca: “celebrating today is exactly what keeps us going and keeps my neuroticism in check”

            YES. Because my neuroticism, once it gets going, starts what we affectionately and groaningly call “the spiral” – worries on top of worries, what ifs that can’t be solved. And by now, he knows this is when I need some distraction, a reminder that tomorrow may be looming scarily, but today, everything is still all right.

        • I was talking to my mom the other day, who has been married for 30 plus years to my dad. They met as teenagers and have always had, what I imagined to be, the perfect marriage.

          But we were talking about my upcoming wedding and I was bitching about the whole “You have to be 110% perfect for each other and 110% sure” messages I was getting from (mostly divorced) friends about our relationship. I told her that as an anxious, socially-weird girl, I’ve never felt even 85 percent sure about any relationship I’d taken part in, but that I just felt like it makes sense for me and my fiance to get married. There’s something that makes it feel like the right thing to do. That if I walked away tomorrow, I could somehow rationalize it, but I just did not *want* to. I feel like I’m making the best choice for me, the whole “not forever, but today” sort of thing.

          This is the kicker- my mother, who I’d always held to an unimaginable standard for the perfect relationship- admitted in this conversation that she and my father lived “as roommates, without benefits” (her words) for almost two years when my father was self-medicating for HIS anxiety.

          Two *years* of being roommates. In what I had always thought was the best couple in the world.

          The point is, this didn’t shake my faith in my upcoming wedding. In fact, it cemented it. I will never have an answer for “Is my guy the ONE person in the world who can make me happiest?” And even if he is, even if that’s somehow empirically true (and really statistically and practically speaking, how could it be?), we could still have times like my parents did where they couldn’t let each other go, but they were struggling to hold it together. If they can, anyone can. And you get through it, and you keep going until you can’t love anymore. Like the poster above said, if you’re lucky, that never happens. But even for some of those people who claimed they WERE 110% sure, it could still happen.

          I am making a choice in marrying my husband-to-be. I am choosing to love him. I accept the vagaries of this choice, the challenges, and the possible future heartbreak. Because when I think of the alternatives, the consequences of leaving someone I really do love, with whom I’ve shared so much and continue to cherish as a partner against the world’s many dilemmas, I can’t do anything else.

          A life together is still life- warts and all. It’s just better if you have someone who’s in your corner, hopefully for most of it.

          • I had a very similar conversation with my own mother. And, like with you, it cemented my commitment to my upcoming marriage. I know my partner makes me happyhappyhappy and makes me a better person, but I also know it’s going to be hard and take a lot of work to make it through those two (or whatever) years that, in all likelihood, WILL happen. That’s just the way life is. But once we get through those bad years, I’ll have something amazing to keep me going through the rest.

      • Pamela

        When I was in the middle of a really bad relationship someone told me something similar – that good relationships are easy relationships. I pondered that for a long time – I’m still pondering it, actually, because of the messages that good relationships take work. I think what I’ve realized is that it *is* work, but it’s work I really love, so I don’t notice that it’s work.

        It’s like if you want to be a writer. Yes, you’ll spend hours and hours on your novel, picking just the right word, the right phrase, etc. It’s definately work because you have to spend time on it and think about it and change things around and play with it, but it’s not aggrivating, bang-your-head-against-a-brick-wall-and-get-nowhere work, even if you do get frustrated with yourself sometimes.Similarly, if you’re in a job that’s just not right for you, you’ll spend your days frustrated and angry and wondering why you’re not getting anywhere, and even the good things that happen are poisoned by your general discontent.

        I think relationships are similar. For me now, in a helathy, good relationship, the “work” I/we have to do feels easy – it just feels like a conversation. Sometimes it’s an emotional conversation, sure, but I don’t agonize over every word that comes out of my mouth or worry that if I say the wrong thing he’s going to run for the hills. Even if we’re mad at each other, or snippy, there’s a undercurrent of love and respect and affection and good humor that we both know is there and that we can tap into. It’s not about who’s “right” or “wrong” – it’s about working together on what we’re trying to do or figure out.

        • Englyn

          Yes, yes, yes. It takes work. It’s not hard work, it’s satisfying work. Like *insert here whatever you do for fun* work. Painting or sewing or restoring cars or grinding your way to 1 gazillion XP or climbing up mountains or whatever you do.

      • Alyssa

        Ooo, ooo! I saw this today on Positively Present blog in a post titled “30 lessons i learned from love: part II” (I’d post the link, but I think WorkPress eats comments with links. Plus, y’all can google.)

        Love requires effort, but it should never seem too hard.

        Like most who have been in love, I know that I love is hard work. It starts off easy and carefree until reality sets in and then there you find that there are just two people who are alike in some ways and different in others and who have to find ways to interact with and love one another in spite of their differences. Love is work. But, I’ve learned, the work you have to do for the one you love shouldn’t be a complete drain on you, making you question or wonder if all of the stress and strain is worth it. No, the kind of work you do for love should come naturally and should be worth it. When I look back at the work I’ve put into my current relationship, I don’t begrudge any of it for a second because I believe that any effort I’ve put in has been returned to me. Love will be hard, but it should never be too hard. I’ve discovered that, if you’re hurt more than you’re happy, you’re not with the right one.

        • meg


          (For me anyway).

  • fleda

    Meg, thank you for this wonderful post. I really believe that this is the kind of thinking (and eating, and dancing, and drinking) that leads people to live happy lives. As one of the worry-prone ladies who expressed her worry in the comment section last week, I want to say thanks for modeling a very healthy alternative logic. David is a lucky guy! (Also: what a GREAT photo.)

  • Jessie

    Hi Everyone – thought I’d finally stop just reading posts and actually comment!

    My fiance and I are definitely the type to over-think and over-analyse everything – marriage being no exception. We had massive freak outs before we got engaged, which have toned down to the occasional day of questioning at the moment (thank goodness!). The three biggest things that have helped us are:
    1 – promising to love him for today and tomorrow. And repeating that each day. (Really helps when forever feels too long!)
    2 – remembering that we’re both committed to making it work. I have trouble with the idea of everything being rosy, happy and easy but somehow the less cheery thought of my marriage taking effort but still being rewarding makes me much more comfortable. Probably the pessimist/realist in me! (And talking to him about it, as Paige said)
    3 – talking to other married couples. My fiance and I are opposite in so many areas that it was really nice to hang out with some couples of different ages and personalities and realise that they are actually happy, and this thing can actually work out well!
    Huge sympathies for anyone freaking out right now – I hope some of these things might help you as much as they have me!

    • Love your #3, Jessie. So very true.

      I believe there is such a thing as joy through osmosis (hanging out with down-to-earth and happy married couples). There also a thing called fear through osmosis (getting freaked out by other couples’ marital issues and doubts). And I think fear through osmosis is what happened here on APW, according to Meg’s post. (And oops, it’s partially my fault! That’s not what I thought would happen when I submitted the cold feet post.)

      Now that I’m married and the cold feet are (mostly) behind me, I’ve realized that my fears had more to do with me than any deficiency of my guy or our relationship. I look at my cold feet now and think about what they tell me about myself instead of giving too much power to the content of my fears. As a person with high anxiety, this is a coping mechanism that has been helpful.

  • I got married 25 days ago (31st of july was very special for us!) and I didn’t have cold feet about our wedding. Did I have stress? Yes. Was there much freaking out? Yes. Did we shout at each other and blame the other for the weird feelings and weird happenings? Yes. But did we make it up and apologise and try to make things better afterwards? Also yes. We realised, during the course of our 2 year engagement, that it is the communication we learnt that was important, and the things we learnt about each other, and about our relationship, that our relationship is stronger than the sum of its parts. We learnt that we’re better together, that we manage things better when we talk, and that we should only discuss finances over email (don’t ask why, it just works better).
    We then spent 3 weeks travelling in Rome and Croatia, and had the most insanely hectic honeymoon-that-wasn’t-a-honeymoon at all, which was totally exhausting and totally perfect for us.
    And I can thank you for the fact that our families didn’t destroy us, and our engagement didn’t break us. You and the strong ladies on this blog made our wedding journey so much easier to manage. Every time I was freaking out about something, you’d come up with something to make me feel better. And for that, thank you.

    ps. Wasn’t Rome absolutely amazing? I was totally, completely overwhelmed by it! Hope you enjoyed it, we did!

    • meg

      Ha. No. I did not like Rome.

      • Really? Why not? Never been there but I’ve always wanted to go. Is it too tourist-y, like, the Times Square of Italy or something?

        • Because I loved Rome, I told my sister she had to visit when she went to Italy – and she HATED the experience. I felt that way about Sienna, which she adored.

          I think it was partly the weather and partly our travelling companions. And she stayed in aparticularly icky hostel, whereas I was in a pretty charming, albeit rundown hotel.

          (am curious to hear what you didn’t like, Meg).

        • RKELZ

          Meg needs a sarcastic font?

          • maybe just privacy?…or it would take too long to type out? I was in Rome about 4 years ago. I loved Rome as much as I hated it. Loved: the amazing food and history and seeing my old friend who moved there. Hated: rats, vocal men on the street, ring worm. Heh heh.

      • meg

        We were there at a bad time of year. Unbelievably hot, and by the end whole parts of the city looked like a ghost town. There were good parts and bad parts and *since you asked:*

        The good: Amazing hotel, fantastic food, amazing hidden hipster neighborhoods, really friendly people
        The bad: Oddly overwhelming even for a decade long New Yorker, no trees, the tourist area is horrific and the pretty stuff you think of when you think Rome is in the horrific area, I’m not big on antiquities, dude they need more trees there, threatening flashers, and August. Rome is not good in August.

        I just didn’t click with the city the way I normally click with cities. S’ok. I clicked with other parts of Italy.

        • I lived in Rome for 10 months and felt like I just started to know my way around the place – spending a day or two there would be super overwelming, I think. And, yes, it’s socially dead and meteorologically brutal in August.

          You should go back in March some time… or not. There’s plenty of Italy that’s beautifully not Rome and it sounds like you got to enjoy those places, too.

        • ka

          Oh man, Meg, I so feel you on hating Rome. I had 2 horrific visits there (I’m not *that* spoiled, I just wound up going to Italy over other places and studied abroad in Florence)—awful monsoon rains, food poisoning that had me vomiting all over the Vatican & Trevi Fountain–sooo embarrassing, the tourists, the crowds, yuck, yuck, yuck. Hated it. And then bizarrely, the 3rd time I went all the little things that I had previously clung to in the midst of the yuck: the palm trees, the sweet bargain shopping, Insalata Ricca, Bernini, etc. came together into this magical place that combined of all my loves: LA, NY and Italy. (Now if only that would happen to my other most hated city: San Francisco. Hahaha, don’t kill me for saying that, I get why people love it, I have just always had a bad time there, it’s like jinxed.)

          Also, and I haven’t been through all the comments yet so I’m probably being grossly repetitive, but thank you so much for sharing this post with us. Being a newbie here, it’s encouraging to get to see how you are a real live person, who can get just as freaked out as the rest of us. Especially because I have had my share of mid-vacation meltdowns, and just hearing that I’m not alone in over-analyzing my relationship in the midst of something that I feel *should* be romantic/happy time, has lifted an incredible weight off. I’m so inspired by your ability to get out of your head and jump back in to your marriage. Sounds like my ideal kind of anniversary (well, without the grumpy first part–though with me that might well be part of the package). Congratulations and thank you!

  • shorty j

    lord, I feel the pain of the terrified folks. I think what really hit me personally was realizing that there is no way I could ever possibly prepare for this! (in my case, it was moving in together, since we’re not married and won’t be any time soon.) Like, NOTHING in my life that I could think of has given me the specific skill set to share my very small living space with another human. And since I’m a control freak, the idea that I was voluntarily putting myself into a situation I basically knew nothing about firsthand, that I couldn’t control, and that I couldn’t really prepare for scared the everloving crap out of me. It still kinda does, haha.

    But what’s helped me to calm down a lot is the realization that not being able to prepare for something can sometimes be a bonus. Because there is no one “right” way to do a relationship, being unprepared means we get to figure it out as we go along.

  • This post is quite, quite wonderful.

  • caitlin

    My new mantra: if it’s good, it’s good.

    The anniversary recipe sounds fantastic– we actually had our first dance as a married on our honeymoon, in our pajamas after watching Sleepless in Seattle (which we both had never seen!), to “When I Fall In Love” by Celine Dion and Clive Griffin, which plays during the credits. It was perfect.

    • Ummm… that first dance sounds pretty amazing Caitlin!

  • Rachel

    thank you thank you. Instead of worrying about the absolutely unknowable future days, I am going to focus on how amazing today is going for me and the hubs. I have been preaching this for a long time, but now I will start practicing for real. No more excuses about how “I’m a planner” and “I must know what’s coming” and blah blah. Today, my fiance is rearranging our entire living room, rewiring all our electronic equipment and taking care of our home on his day off. Tonight he’ll give me kisses and tell me how sexy I am. How lucky am I?!


  • Rose

    Another kind of alternative logic if you are freaking out about forever – what are you going to do about it now? The options are ending things or carrying on and hoping/working on it working out in the end. We had to apply this logic early on in our relationship (which was officially against office policy). When the thought of ending things seems completely impossible, then the only other course of action is to stick it out (and end up married 4 years later :). Obviously, if you are very happy in the now of your marriage, then it’s a bit of a no-brainer question, but I find thinking something through all the way to the end can help silence the freaking out voices (even if you have to do it multiple times a day).

  • ddayporter

    thanks Meg. I don’t think I can ever get enough reminders that the way to do marriage, and life in general, is to do it TODAY. every day. with all our excited planning for the future, we can’t forget to save a little fun/excitement/Living for right now. excuse me while I go sign up for that class I’ve been thinking about taking…………..

  • YAAAAAAAAAY MEG! THANK YOU! This is just what everybody needs to remember when they’re in the middle of FREAKING the F out. :) I tend to steer my mind away from the ‘forever thoughts’ and focus on today (because my hubs does the same and keeps me in check from my ‘crazy’). So this is nice to see as a reminder to all those thinking a little TOO hard about things. :)

    Our first anniversary was spent buying ourselves bikes so we could finally enjoy our fine city. Then we took a day-long ride down the bike path along Lake Michigan to be tourists for change. :)

    • OH… and we watched our wedding video while having a picnic on our living room floor. That video made me grin from ear to ear (even though the wind is blowing & you can’t hear crap during the ceremony…) lol. :)

  • Sarah M

    I had my freak out period in the first 4 months of our 13 month engagement. Since then, I’ve been rather zen about the whole thing. I’m not sure if it’s naive to hope that the freakouts won’t creep up on me in this final month (1 MONTH! TODAY!) but I’m really, really hoping they don’t.

    All those big “what if” questions just drive you crazy. I’m doing my best to not think too much about them because I’ll just make myself insane. When I feel the crazies creeping in I just remind myself that we’ve built a solid foundation and the best we can do is keep working at it and building the best life we can together.

    Also…ONE MONTH!! TODAY!!

  • Amy

    I’m getting married in 11 days. As scary as spending the next 50 years together may be, the idea of NOT spending the rest of my years with the love of my life is so much worse.

    • Me, too, Amy!!! I said that exact same thing to myself just yesterday!!!

      Best of luck and have a great wedding day!!

    • peanut

      I totally agree…we’re getting married in 24 days (yay!), and all of my freakouts/nightmares have been about catastrophes that will result in me living the rest of my life in misery without him. We’ve talked at length about marriage and our parents’ marriages specifically, about the ups and downs and strained parts and possible pitfalls, we’ve come up with some strategies to alleviate any problems that we think may arise (communication, therapy), and we both expect that while things won’t always be perfect we will make it through. Having been in really really difficult relationships, this one is super easy – yes, we fight, but they’re “easy” fights that are short and always resolved at the end. It may sound naive, but for whatever reason my anxieties on this aspect of my life is pretty much nonexistent.

  • Thank you for this!

    Every once in a while, I get stuck in the “forever is impossible” (or at least impossibly difficult) mindframe. But you’re right– we really have to live in the moment, even if we’re 5- or 10-year plan people (and my fiancee and I definitely are those people).

    We’re having a Buddhist ceremony, and I JUST NOW REALIZED that there’s a reason for it (besides the fact that we go to the temple for services): being present and appreciating the moment is what it’s all about– in life, and in marriage.

  • Jennifer

    All very wise and thoughtful. I’m not having cold feed about the wedding, but hoo boy did I have cold feet about our mortgage/house purchase. And I won’t be surprised if I end up needing to refer back to this in the coming year, as I am very capable of having such freakouts.

    But. All I have had in my head since reading this post 2+ hours ago, the whole commute in to work, because of the “Forever IS a long time” part, is a Prince song that is probably a quarter of a century old (yikes).

    “Electric word life, it means forever and that’s a mighty long time. But I’m here to tell you, there’s something else…”

    etc. etc. Any Boston folks who saw a rain-bedraggled woman seat dancing to the Prince song in her head this morning, that was me.

    • I really, REALLY admire you for having the energy/inclination to DANCE after four days of this weather. All it makes me want to do is throw myself in the Charles.

      • Erin

        Haha. It’s been raining for 4 days here too, but b/c we’re burbish, I’ve been enjoying seeing nature perk up after no rain for 2 months.

        Now, if I still had to bike or bus through this rain, like I did when I lived in Philly? Forget it. I’d be crabby too.

      • Meredith

        This 4 days of rain is starting to get to me, too. I liked it in the beginning because it was finally chili out and I could drink tea and watch a movie and snuggle on the couch. But now I really just don’t want to get soaked everytime I walk outside.

      • Jennifer

        I’m getting married in…17 days. I find myself dancing a lot these days!

    • Stacie

      I didn’t have anxiety/cold feet about our home purchase until after the fact. The papers were signed and we were sitting at lunch grinning at each other afterward when I suddenly had a massive, out-of-the blue, “what have we done” panic attack.

      I was never in any doubt that buying it was the right thing to do (and the year since has proven it–I love my house and I love living with my fiance in it every single day), but it’s so easy to get caught up in the rush of things that you don’t catch up emotionally til sometime after.

      I’ve already warned A not to pay any attention to me if the same thing happens after the wedding…

  • Living in the moment is the most important thing we can do in our lives. If you’re freaking out about forever being a really long time, consider the alternative — what if something were to happen to one of you tomorrow? Forever starts feeling much, much shorter that way. (I’ve probably unintentionally given people another reason to freak out now).

    If you live in the moment, it doesn’t matter how long forever is — you’re making the most of what you have.

  • Beautiful, and perfect. Thank you for this Meg. This post is absolutely getting bookmarked for rereading on the freakout days.

  • amysee

    I’ve been thinking a lot about “knowing vs. Faith” since that great anxiet post the other day, and what I’ve been thinking applies here as well, I believe. None of us have perfect information. None of us can see the future to know that what we “just know is right” really will be right forever.

    I was at a wedding once were there was an Episcopal sermon worked in, and I surprised myself by liking it a lot (I’ve never been much for mainline Protestant stuff, in spite of or maybe because of growing up around it). The minister spoke about how while in the movies you hear “I do,” in the cermony you say “I will,” because love is a verb. We aren’t vowing to feel love every day, we’re choosing to DO it every day, even when things get the kind of frustrating/sad/imperfect we fear today. We enter into marriage with faith in ourselves and our partner and our decision, and the knowledge that we are committed to “doing love” every day.

    At least, that’s what’s working for me right now. :)

  • Vmed

    “But if, for example, you’ve been freaking out all day about the nature of forever, it’s quite possible that you’ve also been an asshole all day, and your marriage, achem, might need a little care right this very second.”

    Oh, exactly.

  • perfect.

  • I highly recommend that everyone in the world read Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning”. And, borrowing from him, and lots of cliches, the most important moment is the one you are in right now (though I would still strongly suggest enrolling in a 401K ;) ).

    Hugs to you, Meg, for this post.

  • I’ve been irritating my fiancee…in cold feet anxiety I’ve asked him like 12 times in the past week why he wants to marry me. Finally, the other night he said, “Am I giving you the wrong answer every time you ask me this or something?” I had to laugh, because I hadn’t realized how repetitive I was being. I told him I just needed reassurance right now…that I was scared about our wedding day and marriage in general. He was instantly not irritated anymore. He sat down with me, put his arm around me and comforted me. I felt so much better.

    Lesson: Don’t ask your fiancee the same question over and over again like you’re looking for the “right” answer. Just tell him how you’re feeling.

    Wow did I ever roll my eyes at myself over that one.

  • april

    RAD-TASTIC post this morning, Ms. Meg. Really and truly. As the one year anniversary is creeping up for the mister and I (good grief – has it REALLY been A YEAR!?!?! – and what a year, oh boy), I have all these swirling thoughts about marriage and relationships and family and commitment that – when I really let the crazy take hold – end up with me internally screaming: “Sweet baby Jaysus – we’re gonna do this forEVER? YIKES.” Because I’m neurotic like that. And the mister? He’s fabulous through and through. I’m just a loon somemtimes.

    And then your lovely words just smacked me upside my over-worrying head. I don’t need to fret over forever, because right now actually feels pretty effing great. And that’s what I’m gonna focus on. Each day instead of *gulp* the.next.50.years. ;) Thank you!

    p.s. LOVE the grinning, cheery photo of you two adorable kids. Holy moly you look happy.
    p.p.s You didn’t like ROME??!!?! :-( It had to have been the weather… Go again sometime in early Spring – it’s divine.

  • kat

    phew, I needed to read this today! I’m getting hitched in less than two months, and I’m starting to get all this jittery nervous energy and have been picking fights and getting ticked off left and right lately.

    “If it’s good, it’s good. Stop freaking out and breathe it in.” Just going to repeat that to myself a bit everyday.

    thanks, meg!

  • I am happy to read this post today. I needed to read that you picked a fight with David and had a wonderful anniversary anyway.

    Just last night (and a bit this morning), we were mad about something. I’m not sure what. Maybe I took him for granted, or he took me for granted, or (more likely) we both did something insensitive that set the other off. When these things happen, I can’t help but pause to think, “Do I really want this for the rest of my life?” In my case, I also ask myself, “Is this going to turn into just more of what I left when I left my first marriage?”

    At some point, though, I have come to realize that yes, forever is a long time, but it’s also not long enough. Forever would be much, much longer if I didn’t have him around, even when he’s crabby and I’m crabby and we’re crabby at one another. I would rather stick my tongue out at him as he walks away in a snark so that we can make up later than not have him around at all.

    I read a lot of anti-fairytale sentiments here, but I have said before, and will say again, that the fairytale is all in how you tell the story. Our story sounds like a fairytale of love, loss, redemption. But it doesn’t tell you that our “happily ever after” (and make no mistake, it is a happily ever after story) involves dirty laundry, arguments, the occasional pout and cold shoulder, and a lot of making up, saying sorry, forgiving, forgetting and moving on.

  • Joselle

    This is so wise: “My marriage isn’t for forever, my marriage is for today.”

    You can take out the word marriage and insert anything else. One day at a time is the only sane way to live. It is, though, very, very hard for me.

    • Mmm, very very very good point, Joselle. Right now, learning to live one day at a time of our move/my grad program is teaching us to live one day at a time of our marriage. Interesting how it can work like that.

  • Class of 1980

    I think life itself gives us cold feet.

    When I think of any aspect of the future, it’s filled with terrifying possibilities that I don’t want to happen. It’s not just relationships.

  • Alyssa

    You two are too adorable. Stop it right now. No one should be that cute and happy.

    Knowing that it’s forever gives me the warm and fuzzies. THINKING about it being forever, and the exact details of what that entails, gives me hives. (“Seriously. He’s going to be that thing he does FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE???”)

    So I try not to think about it.

    Which is kinda like having my marriage be for today, right? Kinda? Sorta? Not really?

    Anyway, really great post and really great attitude, Meg.

    But seriously, stop being so cute.

    • meg

      We were really trashed, if it makes you feel better ;) We’d essentally had a bottle of wine each. And we were in Rome. So.

      • Alyssa

        NO, because when you guys are drunk on a bottle of wine, you’re cute. When I’M drink on wine, I just all Soccer Mom Drunk, where you think you’re SO sexy when really you look like you’ve had a stroke…


    • caitlin

      “Knowing that it’s forever gives me the warm and fuzzies. THINKING about it being forever, and the exact details of what that entails, gives me hives.”

      I’m literally laughing out loud because that TOTALLY clicked with me. you are hilarious. :)

  • Jessica

    I really agree with the “My marriage isn’t for forever, my marriage is for today.” I was just lying around with the hubby-to-be yesterday and told him we should just take 2 minutes to sit and listen to the silence since it won’t always be that quiet in our house. It’s moments like these that make me so happy to have him to enjoy life with and being married is our promise to each other to continue to share those moments. Congrats Meg on your first anniversary!

  • Jason and I both have the day off today – thanks for the reminder to spend some of it snuggling and dancing around in our living room. :)

  • Tricia

    I too was freaking out about cold feet before my wedding. We’ve been together for nearly 8 years. We’ve seen ups & downs through together, and we’ve had a lot of growing up together. But. I kept worrying what if we didn’t like each other in 30 years. What if we get tired of each other. What if we grow apart. What if, what if, what if. Until I realized no one could answer the what ifs for me. There is no way to see the answer to those questions without living them. And what if everything is even better than today 30 years from now? So what is the point about losing your mind over them?

    My point is, I agree marriage is a choice you make every day. And, while I agree marriage should be forever, if 30 years from now we don’t love each other, we will deal with that then. Thats the best anyone can do I think. But today, and for the past 8 years, we love each other and our love has grown stronger than I ever thought it would.

    And surprisingly, after the wedding, my thoughts shifted from “what if” to “we will” as in, we will be together for the rest of our lives, in a quiet confidence I had never felt before.

  • Carreg

    So true.

    Um, feel I should add something instead of just agreeing… When I was learning to dance, I was told that when it gets easy, you’ve got it right. Not that you can switch your brain off and ignore the steps and figures, but it flows. Hooray for dancing as a metaphor for everything.

  • Fab

    How lovely of you to share this, Meg. No one would have faulted you if you’d kept your anniversary private, but sharing was a real gift. Thank you!

    • meg

      Oh, I kept most of it private. After two and a half (ah!) years at this, I’m very good at the selective revel.

  • Just want to say Bravo Meg and THANK YOU for this lovely reminder. You are so wise!

    • meg

      Wise. Sometimes. Eventuallyyyyyy…. after I’ve worked being freaked out and a b*tch out of my system.

  • I didn’t have cold feet per se, but a few weeks leading up to the wedding were filled with dreams that we split up or he died or I was married to someone else or so other ridiculous thing. I would wake up with the heaviest heart. I needed to crawl as closely to him as I could and that awful feeling would slowly fade. I think that experience, in part, made me feel even more sure that he was the one for me. Have not had the dreams since the wedding.

  • You guys are so stinkin’ cute! (The photo and the celebration.)

  • Heather

    My gut check for whether things are happy in the moment is the split second after you see the name of a person on the cell phone when they’re calling. Am I happy to get a chance to talk to him when his name pops up? or am I really disappointed that it’s him calling, and I just don’t want to pick up the phone? Otherwise, I totally over-analyze my gut checks to be whatever I want it to be. But that phone one has worked every time, and if I had listened to it more closely, I might have ditched some guys earlier than I did…

  • Once again, Meg is reading my thoughts and writing posts directed at quelling my fears. Must find tinfoil hat…

  • Agate

    That was a lovely post. Thanks.

    I used to say, “I’m a mathematician; forever doesn’t happen.” At the time I said this what I meant was that things end, and worrying was not usually helpful.

    However, since having met someone I would spend forever; I have changed my mind. It is not that forever doesn’t happen, but that we have a little bit of forever everyday.

    • Englyn

      Awwwww. <3

  • Maggie

    I have not had cold feet one bit but my wedding is still a year plus away…so you never know. However, this post is wonderful – thank you! Take life one day at a time, I love it. A rather good philsophy to have!

  • Meg I love what you said further up in a comment: “I mostly think I just need to show up, pay attention, and be present. I think that’s what I’m saying in this post. It’s easy to make things complicated when I don’t show up, and instead hang out in my crazy brain. When I do show up it’s pretty simple.”

    I need to learn this. I’ve been suffering a lot from anxiety attacks this first ten months of marriage which took me completely by surprise – my husband too – and it’s easy to let my mind run off into crazy land with the what if questions that are unanswerable and useless, while my husband is going “hey, where did you go? come back to earth please? I’m right here”.

    I’m slowly learning to be more present.

  • Emily

    I’m a bit late on commenting because, not even being “pre-engaged” (if that’s really a thing), I don’t want to be the crazy girlfriend reading wedding blogs every day. So I just clump them together….oh well.

    But I just want to say how much I appreciate the “reclaiming wife” posts, and especially this one. My boyfriend and I have expressed that we want to get married one day, and to each other, if things keep going as amazingly as they are. But I often get those “BUT THAT’S FOREVER” freak-outs, too. And reading stuff like this from people who are a little further along than I am, and hearing that things AREN’T always perfect every second, that really helps me. But then reading things people say about love and commitment and thinking “That’s just like us!” makes me believe that we really are on the right path right now.

    So thank you for these, even from someone who’s not all the way there yet.

  • Claire

    “Do you take this man forever? I don’t know about forever, but I’ll take him everyday.”
    – Lyrics from The Winds, by Danny Schmidt