On my wedding day, at exactly 4:03 p.m., my dad and I began our walk down the aisle, arm in arm, forgetting everything we had been told about pace. Instead of taking short, slow steps as instructed, we walked as if we had been called to an emergency meeting. I still cringe at that point in our wedding video, probably with the same pained expression as the wedding planner who had coached us less than 24 hours earlier. Dad and I were both fast walkers, preferring to be ten feet ahead of any group, always passing people on the left in large crowds.
If I could go back and whisper advice to my 23-year-old self before she walked the aisle, I would tell her, “Slow down. You have a long journey ahead of you.”
So far, that journey has lasted 33 years, which is a long time to stay with one person. Fortunately, Kyle and I are not the same people we were on June 3, 1989, at 4:03 p.m. We rarely watch our wedding video, but I remember those two kids, and sometimes I miss their innocent belief that marriage should be so easy.
There is no photo of Kyle and me walking back up the aisle after the ceremony—likely because the poor photographer thought one backward sprint was enough. We were racing into marriage, so certain that ours would be free of hard edges, dark clouds, and nights when we went to bed angry. On a house tour once, we stepped into a bedroom with a big sign above the bed and the words “Always Kiss Me Goodnight” burned into the wood. So that’s the secret, I thought. I dragged Kyle to a few marriage seminars where we were given advice, tips, and tricks for making a marriage work. But like the sign, they all promised something that, in the end, doesn’t solve all the deep flaws we bring to a relationship. We work them out alone, then come together and keep working. It’s like the tiny gold chain necklace you unknot, and somehow, it mysteriously knots itself up again in the jewelry box overnight. I keep waiting for us to get to a place of bliss when everything about our relationship is straightened out, but it hasn’t happened yet. We’re still humans who struggle with stubbornness and not thinking before we speak. We can be defensive and insensitive, and then ruin an apology with the wrong tone of voice. It's a circle of forgiving, straightening things out, and messing them up again. My mother once told me the most beautiful parts of life are the hard-fought ones, and she was right.
Three-plus decades after my dash down the aisle, that skinny guy I fell in love with behind Raley Chapel on our college campus is still the only one. We aren’t your poster couple for romance, but we can still fill an evening with deep, authentic conversation and hold each other’s pain with gentle grace. He’s the first one to stand up and cheer me on, even when he knows the idea could be crazy and futile. And we still dream of growing old together but hate to think about the day when there will only be one of us. It’s a good marriage because it’s not perfect and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Here's to wedding dresses, walking the aisle, fancy receptions, flowers, and cake. And here’s to anniversaries long after the celebration, when you still hurry toward the guy who loves you for better, for worse, rich or poor, sick or healthy, and all the knotty moments in between.