There’s a joke in my family that I look exactly the same as when I was a kid. My face, my smile, my glare (yes, I had a glare as a kid)— they all look the same. My height, a measly five foot two, doesn’t help matters much. Now this isn’t all bad, of course. My parents baby me and people can’t believe I’m married with two kids. Flattering, right? And then there are the disadvantages. You know, my parents baby me and people sometimes don’t take me seriously. And then there was my wedding day, when I was all decked out in my white dress and naivety, and a stranger approached, jokingly asking if I was 14.
He wasn’t too far off- I was 21. Just seven years’ difference.
This week, Matthew and I are celebrating our 7th wedding anniversary. Now when you believe in eternity, 7 years isn’t even close to being a milestone. But when I think of the two people who decided to get married and then the two people who exist today, 7 years seems like an eternity itself.
I saw an aunt of mine a few weeks ago and the last time I had seen her was at my wedding reception. She hugged me tightly, telling me I hadn’t changed a day. I’d frozen in time. I used to think of myself that way. Unchangeable. All of my opinions formed in youth pretty much held up for years longer than they probably should have. See, when I think something is right, it seems perfectly clear and obvious and I can’t understand how everyone else can’t see it too. Maybe it’s the libra in me or the Trusty in me or Matthew is right and I’m actually just stubborn. Whatever it is, never changing and having a happy marriage don’t really go together.
Anyone can tell you that marriage has its ups and downs. Anyone can tell you that you grow together or you grow apart. Anyone can tell you anything and it won’t mean anything until you see for yourself. I honestly never understood why people said marriage is hard. That it takes work. After all, you get to live with your best friend, know for sure someone on this earth thinks you’re pretty, and I have never once had to deal with a bug while Matthew was home. It’s been a pretty great deal.
But being married is more than hanging out with another person all the time; it’s really getting to know yourself. Anyone who ever asks me what marriage is like, I tell them it’s like having a mirror held up to you all the time. All these things I took for granted about myself or simply didn’t know— I see them now because Matthew is there. I didn’t know I said “I am” like “I em” until he told me. I didn’t know I said “I can” like “I ken” until he told me. I didn’t know I was selfish until I had to share with him. I didn’t know I couldn’t trust other people until I had to be vulnerable with him. And I didn’t really know I had a natural glare until he kept asking me what was wrong whenever I was lost in thought.
Now, marriage doesn’t mean he just has a free pass to analyze me or expect me to change who I “em.” That would be insufferable and unfair. I just think sometimes your actions ricochet off the other person and hit you in the face. And some things are who you are and some things are who you never knew you were and you don’t want to be. And then there are some things you can be while alone that simply don’t work on a team.
So yeah, marriage is hard.
In fact, year 7 has been our hardest, by a mile. I mean some of the things we’ve experienced in the past year— that 21 year old girl in the white dress, rolling her eyes at the stranger and wishing that just once she could look her age, could not have imagined them. I didn’t know such bad things could happen. I didn’t know the world could hurt me as much as it has. All the things I didn’t know about myself had nothing on all the things I didn’t know about life. Yet inexplicably, in all of this, I didn’t know we could find such joy in each other. It’s been our hardest year and our best, by much more than a mile. For months I’ve been wondering how this could be possible, that random, not-a-milestone year 7 could be our happiest. And I still don’t really have an answer but I suspect it’s because of all that learning and changing we did in the first six.
So here we are now, seven years’ difference, and I can say from personal experience that marriage has its ups and downs and you grow together or you grow apart but trust me, you will grow. And I am five foot two and I won’t get any bigger but because of my marriage, there’s much more of me than there was.