What We Can Learn From Newlyweds

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.


10 thoughts on “What We Can Learn From Newlyweds

  1. I love this. LOVE THIS. Shake ‘n Bake? Bring it. That was my childhood. And I still use it for my kids sometimes … 🙂
    My favorite on Phil’s list is #2. You are REAL. And I do mean real. That is something Matt would say about me. But in his case it’s wouldn’t be, ahem, entirely positive!
    We’re 14 years this September. And, while I agree that sounding out ‘commitment’ isn’t the way to make the teenagers believe you, I do believe that’s part of the deal. That said, I adore the idea of writing our top 10 things to each other. May need to borrow it! xox

    • Thanks Lindsey…and oh, the crispy goodness that is Shake ‘n Bake! And absolutely, commitment is a HUGE part of the deal. Thank God I have a guy who is willing to explore his “childhood wounds!” God knows neither of us were brought up in a world where people go to therapy;) I think creativity goes hand in hand with the commitment. Making marriage our own thing makes it more of an investment than a nose-to-the-grindestone duty. As always, thank you for your insightful comments xoxo

  2. Love your writing! (Honestly, when do you find the time??) You have inspired me to write this year!! Miss you in our writing group. xxx (BTW: I did something like this last year for Steve — every day for a year I wrote down something I loved about him and gave him a notebook on New Year’s day with 365 entries. Saw it on Pinterest so can’t take credit for it!! But it was a great exercise. — though admittedly I did have a few days that were hard to write!) Love you!

  3. Another beauty! Your writing always makes my day and no matter what you write about brings a smile. I always feel as if I’ve had a conversation with you! Commitment, trust, honesty, faith and good ole deep love… Thank you!

  4. As a German-Irish-Catholic married 10 years this September, and whose marriage sounds like it’s gone about the same path as yours, I couldn’t agree more. I have no idea how couples make it without George.

  5. BRAVA, Jessie! This was great! I especially liked the idea of a ” list”.we will celebrate 47 years this coming April and every now and then I tell Jim something positve from my mental ” list” out loud , and it does make me feel warm and fuzzy. But, now writing these on paper would be cool! We are getting old but we still pass each other in the hall or wherever and still touch each other ( not what you think ha,) and I call it love in the hall!! Thanks for your words!

  6. So great! Today is our 9th anniversary! I still feel like I am the luckiest person to have found Greg, and I’m going to work on a list! I know that one of the things will be that while he cooks me great meals, I would love some Shake and Bake every once I a while!

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