Wedding Graduates Return: The Marriage We Do Want

This week, as we’re exploring the ideas of history and memory, obviously we had to have a Wedding Graduates Return post (one of the staff’s very favorite things… please send them our way). Jessie echoes exactly how I feel about growing into my marriage and finding the way it has, in fact, changed us. Here are Jessie and Steve, from the wedding they didn’t want, to the marriage they very much do.

Two years ago, I wrote a post called The Wedding They Didn’t Want. The wedding turned out more perfect than we imagined (mostly because we never really had any expectations). What we did have expectations for was our marriage.

Steve and I had been living together for a year and a half when we got married. We moved in together only three months into dating (when you know, you know). So, from the very early stages of our relationship we not only lived together (in a tiny one bedroom apartment), we worked together too. Twenty-four seven, quite literally.

With things stable in our lives, a marriage wasn’t a fairytale ending to us. It just made sense. Having the same last name and the ability to do things on the other’s behalf would make our lives so much easier. Other than that, we believed nothing would change. Our expectation was that we were “locking in” the wonderful life we had.

But, what we didn’t realize until we said our vows is the overwhelming emotion that would come from pledging our lives to one another. He’s a part of me and I’m a part of him. We aren’t two people living together and sharing love. We turned into two people sharing life, every little detail of it.

Our first two years have been wonderful but difficult. I’ve gone through a lot of health issues. Through that, I learned so much about the kind of man I married. I thought I loved and respected Steve completely before, but his calming presence and support through some of the darkest times of my life made me realize that I’d gotten luckier than I even knew.

Sometimes I try to imagine what he’ll look like when we’re old, how his face will light up when he holds our future child, the smile he’ll have when he walks through the front door of our first house. Before we were married, I saw my partner. Now, I also see my future.

And that is the kind of marriage we want.

Photos by: Milestone Photography 

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  • Shiri

    Oh, beautiful. Thank you for this. And congrats on building a marriage you love.

  • “Sometimes I try to imagine what he’ll look like when we’re old, how his face will light up when he holds our future child, the smile he’ll have when he walks through the front door of our first house. Before we were married, I saw my partner. Now, I also see my future.”

    This is beautiful. I often look at our parents and grandparents and try to envision how we’ll look when we’re old and grey, but know that we’ll still be side-by-side, holding each other’s wrinkled hand. The future is scary, but also so full of happiness and love.

  • Elaine

    Yup, I’m crying at work. Thanks for a beautiful Monday morning post!

  • So beautiful and perfect. Thanks so much for posting this.

  • Amber

    Even as a married person, I don’t know what marriage, wife and husband mean (and I don’t really like using those last two words) so it’s not like I have this shiz figured out (does it even need figuring out?!?) but I couldn’t help but wonder: If you were still “just” living together and had those health problems, wouldn’t he have acted just like he did as a married person? I don’t see why being married has to factor into that equation. Someone who is going to abandon you will do it married or not, so it’s more the person he is rather than being married.

    “We turned into two people sharing life, every little detail of it.”
    Were you not sharing a life before you got married? Doesn’t a marriage start before you’re legally married? You’ve got to have time before being married to even get to that point. I think it all should count.

    • 1. I think “it’s more the person he is” is what she’s saying; she’s psyched she married this awesome dude.

      2. It’s not that living together in a committed relationship doesn’t count, it’s that it’s just different.

      If you live together & consider yourself married even if it’s not legal then fine, you’re married. But living together, even when you know marriage is down the road is different than being married. At some point, there’s an impasse – or as Meg has said, an invisible door you can’t see til you’re through. It’s hard to put your finger on the change, but it’s there, it’s serious, and it can take a while to see it.

      • Amber

        So people who consider themselves married don’t have an invisible door? What if people who consider themselves married get actually married, do they now have an invisible door? Why does going through a legal process/ceremony create this magical door? If someone can be unmarried, but feel married and not have to “change” then why can’t someone be married and not have to “change?”

        This just feels like another one of those things where women are held up to this expectation that you must feel differently after you get married, you must change and if someone say that’s not what happened to me, they’re told “you’ll see.”

        • Sara

          Amber, I see your point, but I read this less as “this is what married people everywhere should feel like” and more as “this was the unexpected and awesome result of our specific marriage.” So being married doesn’t have to mean that parts of a relationship count more than they did before, but in the writer’s case marriage makes a big difference. After getting married I experienced some of both – things like arguing and future planning seemed a little less fraught, but at the same time I was relieved to wake up the day after our wedding and realize we were the same people. But I guess it’s different for different people!

          And Jessie: Beautiful. Thank you!

        • Hi Amber!

          I totally get what you’re saying. I never thought marriage would change a thing, which is why the things I wrote about really took me by surprise. He would have, of course, been there for me no matter what (married or unmarried), but that experience made me proud to have chosen him as my life partner and to have pledged my life to him.

          I wrote before that I didn’t really care about the wedding & it was more of a “this will make life simpler” thing for us. But, surprising as it was to me, seeing our friends and family support us as we took our vows was wonderful.

          I don’t think anyone needs marriage to experience what we have, but for me, the marriage makes it all a little more spectacular. Marriage was never a goal of mine, but for me (not for everyone), it has been challenging and life changing in a way that living together was not.

        • I *hate* when people say “you’ll see” and that’s not what I was going for there. I love Ruchi’s point on alternate universes. There’s some eloquence in her, Sara, and Jessie’s replies that I’m not even going to try to equal right now as I approach “that 2:30 feeling.”

        • meg

          Remember all of these posts are written from the authors own personal experience, and we’ve had lots of wedding graduate returns posts where the authors said for them, nothing changed.

          For me, for example, a whole lot changed. I can (and have) written essays trying to put words around it, but in the end: it just did. Our marriage did not start before we were legally married, living together or no. It started on that day, and the change has slowly unfolded over the years, and will continue to unfold, I’m sure. That doesn’t happen for everyone, but it does happen for some people.

          My actual phrase about being married being like going through an invisible door (you can’t see it till the other side), actually was said in the context of the way your families often treat you as a family after a wedding, in a way they didn’t before, and how that can be painful for moms (AKA, you were just their daughter, now you’re a daughter and also a spouse). Again, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes it’s a bad thing, but that was the context I was speaking in.

          The bottom line is we change our whole lives. For some of us that ceremony (legal or not) creates some unexpected change. For others, there never is a change, or it comes at a different point. There is no value judgement there, just different truths.

          • Kirsten

            Meg (or whoever), do you have a link/title to any of the other posts about how marriage changes things? This is exactly what the S.O. and I have been talking about lately. I know there have been some great discussions about it on this site, but my searching hasn’t uncovered them. Bummed that the “when marriage does change things” tag only shows this post, because it’s such a fascinating topic!

          • MDBethann

            I definitely feel like people treat us differently since we got married a few months ago. But in those few months, I don’t feel like the way we relate to each other has changed too much (since we lived together for awhile before our wedding), but the way we relate to the world certainly has changed. I definitely like Meg’s “invisible door” analogy for the way the world sees you. For us, in some ways, nothing changed, but in others – at least to the world – everything changed.

    • I think Amber what makes your question hard to answer is that no one can test it. You can’t, in one universe, have a couple that gets married, and in a parallel universe, have the same couple not get married and then see how they both play out. And I think it can be hard to disentangle how marriage affects you as a couple versus other things such as time, huge life events, career transitions, etc, etc, etc.

      That being said, I think it is really hard to make generalizations about what marriage means and how it matters. On the other hand, I think it is possible to make specific realizations about what marriage means for you and your partner. For me, since we’ve been married, we’ve also dealt with some tough stuff, and I honestly don’t think we’ve dealt with it that differently than before we got married. All that love, caring, nurturing goodness was there before.

      But I do have moments where, normally in very ordinary instances like when my husband and I are joking around in the car, or going for a nice walk or something where I think, “Wow. This is so awesome. We get to joke around like this forever.”

      I never thought that way before we were married. And while I don’t think other unmarried couples couldn’t think that way, I know I never could have. For me, marriage was the commitment I needed to make to know that this was for forever. And while I fully respect that not everyone needs that piece of paper to know it’s forever, and that further, for some people thinking “we get to joke around like this forever,” would not even be desirable, for me this is a wonderful little aspect of being married. That’s what marriage means for me. Being secure in the knowledge that I get to joke around with my husband forever.

      • Entirely what I’m trying to communicate. :)

      • meg

        Also, this is why I think generalizations are usually not very powerful. I’d rather run two posts back to back with opposite points of view, than one post that says “Different things can happen to different people.” I think the universal is always in the particular.

        Also, to Ruchi’s point, I know many couples who had that sense of forever without being married (or still do). We didn’t, we knew that for us personally, if we wanted that sense of forever we were going to do it with vows. I just didn’t know how big that change was going to be. And three years later, it’s even bigger than it was right after. Who knew? Not me.

      • Yes, yes and more yes, Ruchi. I am marrying for the second time in just a few weeks and after the dissolution of what I thought was forever, I have to say that marriage and the feeling that I derived from being part of the institution is unparalleled. Something changed within me upon entering and exiting that magical door, and as I look forward to re-entering said door, (sans the blissful ignorance of my former life’s self) I imagine a different beauty, magic and awesome awaits. Do we have that now, as partners? We have a remarkable something, but trust I’d not take this leap of faith again if I didn’t have “that feeling” to look forward to.

      • MEI

        The unbearable lightness of being [married].

  • I’m getting married very soon, and I’m going in with a very similar feeling of “locking in” that choice and that awesome life forever. We knew early on that us together was right, and the further we move along our relationship and the more challenges we face together the more sure we are. Which has given us a bit of an expectation that marriage isn’t really going to change things for us a whole lot.

    Except it could absolutely be a change. It’s awesome to hear from someone who had a similar expectation going into the wedding and hearing how the change, if it occurs, has the potential to just increase the awesomeness.

  • Jessie, congratulations and thanks for sharing your beautiful story, all the best to you both and healing vibes your way.

  • Jessie’s Necklace as a bride is BEAUTIFUL! love it!

  • Joanna

    “Sometimes I try to imagine what he’ll look like when we’re old, how his face will light up when he holds our future child, the smile he’ll have when he walks through the front door of our first house. Before we were married, I saw my partner. Now, I also see my future.”

    I’m in what APW would call the pre-engaged state and this really resonated with me. I knew my SO was “the one” when I started being able to picture little things like him waiting for me at the end of the aisle and coming home to him at the end of the day. I was able to picture him in my future until I couldn’t imagine a future without him, and it’s an amazing feeling.

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful story :)