On my 10th wedding day, I began to meditate on the journey it had been on all this time. To all the good times and the bad. As well as the ups and downs of life that we have known.
Marriage is not something that happens the day you say, “Yes I do.” Marriage takes place over the next many days, when you wake up in the morning and choose to continue loving your partner despite their imperfections.
Marriage requires work.
Marriage requires love.
People define love in many different ways.
I had a teacher in high school who gave us thoughtful little ideas about life.
He has said more than once: “Love is not a feeling; it is an act of will. ”
Words that fell on deaf ears in a room full of 13 and 14 year old teens.
For us kids, love was a Disney movie. She was a princess and a living prince happily ever after.
Butterflies in the belly, roses with a long stalk, and beating hearts.
We tried to chat with him, telling him that love is a feeling. Love is an intense feeling of adoring another person. That’s right, we hadn’t experienced it yet, but we knew it.
Love was that feeling of joy, bursting in your heart for another person, and when you felt it, you knew it.
We thought our teacher was just a jaded old man who didn’t know what he was talking about.
“An act of will. ” What does that mean?
About 20 years later, I understand.
Of course, when you meet someone, you can be very drawn to them. As you get to know him better, you fall deeper into the abyss of feelings and emotions. You get attached. You crave the company of someone special.
We feel, we connect, we desire.
We have that tingling in our hearts that tells us: “It’s him! ”
We say “I love you” and we mean it.
You find this person who compliments you so wonderfully, that maybe you take the big step and decide to spend the rest of your life with that person.
It’s a choice.
No matter the circumstances or the motivation behind the act of marriage, we choose to accept another person, for better or for worse, until death does our part.
But we all know things don’t always work that way.
The point is, for those marriages that last until “death do us part”, it is not because their initial “feelings” of love were stronger.
Marriages last because both partners actively choose to continue loving each other in the relationship.
True love is not a feeling. It’s a choice. It’s a decision you make every day, to stay with that person.
It is not always an easy choice.
The more time you spend with someone, the more you learn the little things about them that drive you crazy.
There are small details and there are bigger things, and it all affects the marriage.
And people grow and change.
We are each on an individual journey in life, and we are always learning, always growing, and constantly changing.
Married people sometimes break up.
We were annoying each other. We get angry. We make mistakes. We are disappointing. We fail.
When you can see someone’s ugliness, their weaknesses, and still choose to love them, it’s real.
Love is not a feeling. Love is an act of will. Love is a choice.
When two people stand in front of witnesses and exchange vows, they don’t really know each other yet.
These people know a version of themselves. It doesn’t matter if they’ve been dating for years or if they’ve lived together before.
Once you commit, and choose to love and honor yourself for the rest of your life, you change. You are one.
I don’t mean you lose your individuality or your sense of self, but you don’t face life on your own anymore, you have a partner.
Over the days, months, and years you see it in a different way.
You get to know him on an inherently deep level, because you share a life together.
You see the shame, the failures, the regret. You see laziness and stubbornness and anger. You see impatience, fear, and indifference. You see selfishness.
You see all these things, and accept them with an open heart.
You give patience, understanding, and acceptance.
It goes both ways, for both parties, at different stages throughout your journey together.
When one partner walks away, the other gives space. When one partner is in need, the other offers support. When one makes a mistake, the other forgives. When one feels sad, the other offers compassion.
It is not an easy trip. It’s not an easy choice to continue loving someone who has hurt, disappointed, or made you angry.
And these things are going to happen because that’s life.
Keeping a job, paying off mortgages, raising children, planning for the future – with it all comes stress, trials, and tribulations.
You see your partner’s flaws and imperfections, and you realize that he is a reflection of your own imperfections.
All you can do is continue to treat yourself with kindness and acceptance. Keep striving to give this person as much love and compassion as possible, because there will come a time when you will need that kindness and acceptance from your partner.
Because we are all imperfect human beings. We try to do our best, but often we fail miserably.
Yet there is another person who supports us every day. Because she loves us and has chosen not to abandon us.
Life is difficult, Merging two lives together into one is even more difficult.
Sometimes it is heartwarming to always have someone to share your life with. Other times it can be maddening.
But every day we have a choice. The choice to like this person, or not.
When you keep choosing to love, that’s what makes marriages last. This is how the partnership grows and flourishes.
And thanks to this choice, there are all these pleasant things that follow.
Soft caresses in the morning. The sweet kisses on the way home at night. Intimate moments under the moonlight.
Friendship. Joy. The laugh.
Because tough choices often give the best rewards.