I Didn't Really Understand Marriage When I Said 'I Do'

by Christine Organ
Originally Published: 
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Fifteen years ago, my husband and I said “I do.” We’ve been together for just about 20 years. Two. Decades.

We met when I was only 22 years old. Practically a baby. I’ve never been all that good at math, but by my calculations, that means that in my life so far, he’s been in my life for almost as long as he was not.

I could tell you that it was love at first sight and talk about how he’s my best friend and refer to him as my “soul mate” and post photos with #soblessed. Except it wasn’t really love at first sight (at least not in the traditional sense) and #soblessed really just means #sofake and #ijustthrewupinmymouthalittle to me. And, okay, okay, so he actually is my best friend, but only if by “best friend” you also mean a best friend/partner/lover/supporter/confidante who still makes you get googly-eyed.

Our love story is as remarkable and amazing as anyone’s story. Which means it is totally unremarkable to anyone except us. Except that it is also completely amazing in the way that all love stories are.

The short version of our love story involves law school classes, burritos, some drinks, a late-night drive in a hatchback, and plenty of debates over what actually constitutes our first date.

The long version involves years of dating and figuring each other out, doing a lot of really stupid shit, falling in love again and again, and ultimately deciding that yes, this is the person. This is The One I want to spend the rest of my life with. The One I want to bicker with over the thermostat and research minivans with.

This is The One I want to share a life with.

Except, all those years ago, when we both decided that we were each other’s Person and that we had found The One, we didn’t really know what that meant. We didn’t really know what sharing a life with someone looks like.

Because how can you know what sharing a life really looks like when you’re a starry-eyed 20-something-year-old baby?

But here’s the really amazing and wild and wonderful thing falling in love with The One when you’re young (ish) — you don’t just get to grow old together, you get to grow up together.

You don’t just get to share your lives, you get to really do life together.

And sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you realize that all those years ago when you decided that they were The One, you had no idea. No.Freaking.Idea.

Because growing up and sharing a life with them is even better than you thought.

All those years ago when my husband and I said “I Do” to all that life would throw at us we had no idea what that would really look like.

When we said our very traditional vows, we had no idea just how non-traditional our household would look a decade and a half later. We had no idea how much we would both change as individuals, or that (thankfully) we would change in mutually compatible ways as well.

We had no idea how much we’d need each other to survive things like miscarriages and Alzheimer’s disease. How no one else would understand the agony of losing a beloved pet — our first “baby” and a first anniversary gift to each other — or the heartbreak of watching your son cry on the baseball pitcher’s mound. How we’d spend hours — literally hours — talking about composting and the right way to fold towels (yes, there is a “right” way).

We had no idea.

And I still have no idea. I have no idea what else is in store for us. I don’t know how we will change and grow (especially considering we’ve changed so much already). I don’t know what highs we’ll share together, and what lows we’ll survive together.

And you know what? I’m glad we had/have no idea.

Because the adventure of it, this wild ride of growing up together has been one of the greatest joys of my life.

I don’t have any answers about what makes some marriages last while others don’t. Though I suspect it might be some combination of hard work, compassion and all that other stuff the “experts” tell you, along with a lot of love, a little luck, and hefty dose of something that can only be described as magic. As well as not being married to an asshole, and being coupled with someone with whom you share mutual respect and trust.

I don’t have special insight or advice, either, because honestly we’re still figuring it out too. While 15 years of marriage — and 20 years as a couple — feels like half a lifetime sometimes (because it literally is half a lifetime for me), in some ways, we’re just getting started. And let’s face it, we’ve got some more growing up to do.

What I do know—what I knew back then and still know now—is that there is no one else I would rather face this uncertain future with than him.

And that’s more than enough.

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