Last weekend my niece Nora got married.
When I first thought about writing about her wedding, my working title was something like “Advice to Nora on Her Wedding Day.”
But then I looked at her face in this photo, and decided: Yeah, looks like she’s doing ok. Pretty sure she doesn’t need any advice from me.
In fact….I have a sneaking suspicion it might be the other way around.
Any marital advice I would give – while perhaps true and hard-earned – would be a real buzz kill. I remember when my dad used to wax philosophical on marriage to my sister and I at the dinner table.
“Girls,” he would begin, in-between bites of Shake n’ Bake chicken, “the key to a lasting marriage is COMMITMENT. CO-MMIT-MENT.” Because sounding out words to teenagers really brings your point home.
Phil and I are married 10 years this July.
We are definitely committed. In fact, at one point I actually was committed. (Well, not exactly committed – it was self elected – but still. It was a facility.)
Phil and I work hard at our marriage, because we like to work, and we like things to be hard. I blame our collective German, Irish, and Catholic lineage for the fact that we feel the need to suffer for happiness. If we are not digging deep into our “shame barriers” or “upper limit problems,” we are clearly being complacent, and need to spice things up by throwing in some conflict. Gotta keep all the tools in our therapeutic tool box nice and sharp.
And, in fairness to us, I believe there is value in this level of dedication. We have seen a marriage counselor – we will call him George – on and off for years. Frankly I am in awe of how couples make it without a George. He has given us a whole new language with which to communicate. With frightening regularity, we say things like: “Is this really about me, or is this actually about a primal unmet intimacy need?”
Because healing your childhood wounds is hot. Hot like a hemorrhoid.
At the wedding cocktail hour, I gave Nora and big hug, and said, “Wow. You look beautiful….and really happy.”
“Oh my gosh,” she said, her face flushed with excitement. “I AM SO happy. Dan is such a great guy. I just feel so lucky.”
As she moved through the crowd to greet her guests, I thought about the perfect simplicity of Nora’s words.
In her book Marriage Rules, Harriet Lerner describes young love as the Velcro Stage:
In the Velcro Stage, we automatically focus on the positive. We know how to make our partner feel loved and valued and chosen. We may find our differences interesting and exciting, and overlook the negative.
Life is hard. There will always be reasons to have conflict, whether it be illness, death, financial ruin, or a spray of pee on the flipped-up toilet seat. There will always be something wrong with our spouse (and us), because we are not perfect people. If it’s the flaws we are looking for, it’s the flaws we will find.
But Nora reminded me that if I look for reasons to feel lucky, I will find those, too.
So in the spirit of feeling lucky in love in 2014, Phil and I each composed a list entitled “Top 10 Things I Love About You.”
Reading the list made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and Phil of course sobbed like a schoolboy (see #2). I highly recommend writing a list for your spouse/significant other. Don’t even tell him/her that you’re doing it. Just write it in an email, on a post-it note, on your hand, wherever. Just get started. It will put some pep in your step, and in your partner’s as well.
Life is difficult enough without looking for more reasons to be pissed off. Instead of trying to fix what is wrong (which makes you feel heavy) young love reminds us to see what is right (which makes you feel light).
In 2014, choose to feel light.