Weddings are not real — but marriages are.
Today is my eighth wedding anniversary. Like many married couples do on their anniversary, I started my day trying to find a good picture from our wedding to post on Facebook and then say something nice about my wife. But as I flipped through all the photos from our exceptionally formal ceremony, I realized they weren’t helping me find the right words to say what I love about our marriage. That’s because weddings are nothing like marriage. For example…
- On your wedding day you are only just beginning to learn how to love your spouse. The man I am today loves Torrey so much more than the kid in those pictures. That kid doesn’t know crap, and he doesn’t need to be speaking for me today.
- Weddings are scripted — marriages are not. Life does not come with a trusted pastor telling you exactly what to say when the pressure is on. There is nobody to say “repeat after me” and feed our words to us in those times when words really matter. In real life, sometimes you say the wrong thing and large objects get thrown at your head. But other times, when your spouse tells you exactly what you need to hear (not necessarily what you want to hear) it reminds you that you married your soul mate.
- During weddings everything happens exactly the way you want it to and your beautiful pictures look like they come out of a Disney movie. But marriages are messy, clumsy, and full of tough decisions and dirty diapers. They are sometimes filled with tragedies that you wish didn’t happen. However, when you go through something hard together, and realize in the middle of it that there is nobody else you’d rather have at your side in that moment, it’s very powerful and unifying.
- During your wedding, you both are on the same page and the same stage. In a marriage, sometimes you aren’t even in the same book, or in the same country. Being in the military, this one gets tested pretty hard every once in a while. All I can say is that when we are apart for long periods of time, it just reminds us how much we want to be together.
- At your wedding, everyone you care about is right there supporting you in this monumental moment. They are giving you gifts and telling you how happy they are for you. In marriage, it’s usually just the two of us in the big moments of life, but that’s more than enough for me.
What I’m trying to say is that a healthy marriage is way better but far more nuanced than a wedding photo. So instead, I chose this photo to celebrate our anniversary this year.
It may seem strange because I wasn’t even with my wife in the picture, and hadn’t been for nearly a month. I took this screen shot during a Facetime call from 1300 miles away while on an Army training exercise in Texas. It was a tough month for both of us. My days were really long. And back home (like many military spouses), Torrey was grinding it out, just trying to hold it all together with the kids, her work, and everything else life threw at her. But in the midst of all that, just seeing her smile between our two weird kids eating breakfast in their Halloween costumes (a week before Halloween) makes me happier and reminds me more of what I love about her than our wedding photos do. It reminds me that difficult, messy, unscripted, imperfect, and even apart doesn’t have to mean unhappy. It reminds me that there is no other person with whom I’d rather navigate this controlled chaos we call “life.”
So when we celebrate anniversaries, we should really be appreciating our imperfect marriages rather than reminiscing about our fairy tale weddings. While our wedding day was nice and I’m really glad it happened, it is not nearly the best day of my life. Many days since then have been much better.