On Four Years of Marriage

On Four Years of Marriage

Today is our fourth wedding anniversary.

I know, four years is just a baby in marriage terms. But it’s worth reflecting on, I think. Especially since so few of my fellow millennials¬†seem to be interested in marriage these days.

If you know me in real life, or if you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that my life isn’t perfect. But there is one thing that has stood out above all else:

These four years¬†have been, hands down, the best of my life.¬†God blessed James and I with the most beautiful marriage, and it’s only getting better with time.

I’m aware that not everyone has this experience. God gave me a tremendous blessing that I don’t deserve. I won’t pretend to speak for anyone else’s experience here. I simply want to share a little bit about what this blessing has been for me, especially since the majority of this blog is primarily focused on the lack of one particular blessing (namely, a womb).

So, without further ado and caveats, here we go:

Four years ago, we entered into this life with the expectation that we would continue to grow and to change. We imagined that our lives wouldn’t be easy, but that we would grow together, love and support each other, come what may.

We knew from the get-go that this was beyond human ability. But we also trusted that, from that day forward, God would give us all the grace we needed to make it work. “Christ abundantly blesses this love.”

What we didn’t know yet, on that day, was how far above and beyond God would take us.

I know that in the grand scheme of things, four years of marriage is nothing. We’re basically newlyweds, right? Speaking of being newlyweds…

People said that newlywed feeling would wear off. I’m still waiting for that to happen.

People said I would wake up one day and wonder who the heck I married and why. I’m still waiting for that to happen.

People said that the first year would be the hardest. Or that marriage, in general, would be extremely hard.

What I’ve seen is this ‚Äď LIFE is hard. Marriage is a vehicle that makes life better. And like any vehicle, it occasionally needs tune-ups and repairs. Maybe it gets a few dings and scrapes. Maybe it gets in a wreck at some point. But you spend those hours in the garage applying enough sweat and elbow grease, and you get that baby shining.

And you remember that you can’t do it alone. It’s not a one-person job. It’s not even a two-person job. It’s a you + me + God-person job. God’s in charge, and you two just do your best to listen to his direction.

You’re always going to change. I’m not the same person I was four years ago, and neither is James. And we’re certainly not the same two college students who met on a dating site nine years ago. And that is wonderful, because with God’s help, we’re growing together into a life that our 20 and 22-year-old selves would be thrilled to catch a glimpse of ‚Äď which brings me to my next point.

People, especially pious people, like to say that marriage is about “self-donation”, “service”, “life-giving love”‚Ķ all of those things are true, of course. But I’m going to channel my inner Flannery O’Connor and tell you, in practical terms, what this really means:

Marriage is a life-long activity of continually helping another person get their sh*t together.

You do this for each other, on both spiritual, emotional and literal(physical) levels. And maybe you spend a little too much time in the weeds, helping your spouse find their wallet for the umpteenth night in a row, and you get a little frustrated. But in a moment of grace, God calls you out of this and gives you a glimpse of the big picture.

Maybe he lets you see the love in your husband’s eyes when you came home from work late, again, and he took it upon himself to make your lunch for the next day. Or maybe you see it when you’re in confession, and you realize that everything you feel guilty about stems purely from wanting to love him more, and better, and the only reason you’re crying is because you just love him so darn much and you need Jesus to help you do better, because “the spirit is willing…” And then you realize…

It’s ok. It’s all ok. All of the mess. All of the suffering. All of the crazy. Because He’s doing great things for you, and even if you don’t see it all here, that’s ok, because it’s not about here. It’s about heaven. He’s making you saints, in and through your struggles.

Marriage was never meant to be a destination ‚Äď marriage was and is always about the journey. “Happily ever after” is the way all the good stories begin.

Happy Anniversary, James. I love you. I love our life together, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And we’ve only just begun.

Love,

Connie

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“Emotionally Engaged”

“Emotionally Engaged”

I recently finished reading a brilliant and¬†life-altering book by Allison Moir-Smith, entitled Emotionally Engaged: A Bride’s Guide to Surviving the “Happiest” Time of Her Life.

I stumbled upon the book in the wedding planning section of my local library. Yes, I’ll admit, I was trolling titles such as 1001 Creative Ideas for¬†A Wedding and How to Have Your Dream Wedding on a Budget in an attempt to¬†find a way to enjoy being engaged,¬†when I came across a book that actually had an answer for what I was feeling.

Allison Moir-Smith is¬†a hero. She has done what millions of women have been too chicken¬†to do: admit that being engaged is not, by any stretch, the happiest time of your life. It’s exciting, yes. It’s a dream come true to marry your true love. But it’s also stressful.¬†And you can feel sadness, hurt, anxiety, depression, and excitement all at the same time. Your life is changing, and no matter how much you love your husband-to-be,¬†change is difficult. It’s confusing. And to top it all off,¬†you’re simultaneously planning the biggest and most important¬†party of your life.

In a world inundated with voices like TheKnot.com and Martha Stewart Weddings, Allison Moir-Smith is one of the few¬†people acknowledging the fact that only 12% of brides feel nothing but happiness and rainbows during engagement. That’s a huge deal!¬†Every single relationship in your life is changing. Your relationship with your parents is changing, as your primary family loyalty is shifting from them to your fianc√©. Your relationship with your fianc√© is changing as you go from girlfriend to wife. Your relationships with your girlfriends change. Your relationship to yourself changes most of all.¬†You’re¬†undergoing the biggest transformation of your life to date, but¬†everyone from your best friend to¬†your¬†bridal magazine¬†expects you to be giddy with happiness 100% of the time.¬†It’s no wonder the majority of brides are stressed!!

Reading this book, I realized that it is ok for me to feel sad about my changing identity. It’s ok to feel torn inside as I have Sunday dinner with my husband-to-be instead of my mom and dad. Not only is it ok to have these feelings, but it is extremely important that I let myself feel them. Just like grief, the only way to get through it is to feel it. Better to process your feelings as an engaged woman than to bottle it all up and unleash a “rain” of terror on your newlywed husband (pun intended; I’m a historian after all).

I’m so¬†grateful that I found this book. Already I feel much happier.¬†Now I know¬†that yes, I can be sad about losing my primary identity as “daughter” and happy about becoming James’s wife, all at the same time. I’ve only just finished reading, but I feel much more hopeful about the remainder of my engagement. The next 8 months leading up to my wedding day will, hopefully, have more meaning for me as I work to form my new identity. And of course, I’ll always be Connie Ann.

For more information about Allison Moir-Smith and her book, please click here.

Wedding Brain

Lately I’ve been having a terrible time trying to concentrate on things. Whenever I go to dinner with people, my brain is in another place and I feel flighty and uncool. This Saturday, I thought my car was stolen in Silver Spring, until I realized that I was in the completely wrong section of the parking lot. My friend who was with me smiled and said, “You have wedding brain!”

Is that what they call it? We’ve been engaged for almost 6 months, and the planning is driving me crazy, probably because we don’t have a date yet and I’m starting to feel very scared and nervous. It was our choice not to set a date until James got a job, and it’s a good choice for us in this economy, but¬†the waiting is¬†driving me crazy. Everyone’s been suggesting that I go ahead and plan as much as possible without a date so that¬†when we’re ready, all we have to do is book everything and go.

So, how much of a wedding can you plan before you have a date?

A lot, actually. You just can’t finalize anything. For example, you can pick your bridal party, but it might be smart not to ask anyone until after you have a date, that way they can decide if they can commit or not. You can design your ceremony (as Catholics, this means we get to pick the readings we want, the music,¬†and the blessings). You can decide what sort of favor you want. You can design centerpieces and table settings. You can even pick your dress. It’s still nerve-racking though.¬†I wonder how many other¬†engaged couples¬†got shafted by the economy?

We’re praying really hard that something works out soon. Hopefully it won’t take too much longer. We’re praying my dad’s miracle St. Jude/Sacred Heart novena, which has never failed. Recently we got¬†the family on board, asking around to see if anyone knows of any openings in our area. And I do think that this experience will be worth it in the end. I can already¬†see how we’ve become stronger because of it. Maybe dealing with snags during engagement helps people prepare for better marriages in the long run. I’ll¬†keep trusting that¬†God knows what he’s doing, and everything happens for a reason.