Congratulations!

A wedding speech that no one asked me to give

Every Tuesday through my funemployment, I publish a blog post as part of my self-guided learning program. Last week, I wrote about my experience traveling in Norway and some tips if the country is on your list to visit.


We’re in the thick of the wedding season. Two weeks ago, my husband and I celebrated with our friends in Helsinki, Finland. And while we were in Helsinki, we spent a few days with our friend who is in the middle of a gloomy divorce.

As one can imagine, hearing stories about the happy union and the dreary separation in the same week made me think a lot about love and marriage. So I decided to write a belated speech to the happy couple.

The ceremony stage from the old cannonball factory window

Dear J & M, family and friends,

We arrived in Helsinki yesterday, but our journey from New York to your wedding actually started a month ago when we flew to Paris, the city of love. We stopped there for a few days to adjust to the time difference, and then we traveled north to Norway. I’m not sure how the Norsk are associated with love, but given that they are the descendants of the vikings, I’d say their love is fierce and immortal.

A month seems long for a trip that would otherwise take only 12 hours via a direct flight. But if you’d compare it to the commitment and the union you vowed to cherish and protect earlier today, a month goes by in a snap of your fingers. In a snap of your fingers, you fell in love on the streets of Helsinki, moved from Denmark to Finland, and bought a house here. What velocity in mere 2.5 years!

But velocity doesn’t only result in positive outcomes. Right before we embarked the journey to Europe, we learned that two of our friends are getting a divorce. Their marriage lasted 2.5 years. So as we’ve been slowly getting ready to celebrate happiness with you, we’ve also been digesting the shock of the news and mourning with our friends.

Inevitably, the happiness and the sorrow that a marriage brings made Victor and I reflect on our own union. We’ve been together for a little over 3 years. Though not terribly long by any standard, our relationship has supported my growth in so many ways, and I’d like to think that without our relationship, I won’t be half as the loving, open-minded, and most importantly, happy, person I am today. So, with much reflection over the past month, I want to offer you three pieces of advice that hopefully will bring you joy and happiness.

First and foremost, know how you recharge. I’m an introvert and being with people takes a toll on my energy level. When my battery is low, I become the worst version of me, who is impatient and overly critical, zooming in on the flaws of everything and everyone around me. (Don’t worry, I’m fully charged to be here today.)

Over time, I’ve learned that spending quiet time alone recharges my battery to be a good person to my partner, friends and family. And I don’t necessarily need a whole day or the entire apartment to myself — a room with a closed door, a walk in nature or an afternoon nap is sufficient. So how do you recharge? Have you talked to each other about it?

Secondly, you begin to understand through misunderstanding. So be gentle and open when you fell out of sync with each other. Ask a lot of open-ended questions, and repeat back what you hear. Explain to each other what they did, not who they are, that might have hurt you. Don’t wait to say, “I’m sorry.”

Oh, and how good we’re at pretending to be okay when we aren’t! Our pride and prejudice embarrass and stop us from saying, “I’m hurt.” But those who know us see through our masks. Victor never gives up asking me how I truly feel until I tell him the truth. It’s hard work to be persistent at peeling back our layers of excuses and “I don’t know”s. But when you arrive there, when you speak and receive the truth, you meet each other on new levels of trust.

So respect misunderstandings and the truth they bring forth.

Finally, nourish your shared passions. Activities that bring you both joy and meaning: travel, literature, fitness, education, games, nature, or whatever else they might be. Victor and I both love to travel, and we gift each other travel experiences for birthdays and Christmas. As a result, we travel all the time when we lived in New York. And now, we travel full-time. We’ve learned so much about each other and ourselves when we travel, dealing with cancelled flights, a lost car key and stomach-sickening windy roads.

I can hardly think of any couple we know who are in fulfilling relationships without spending efforts to nourish their shared passions. So, as biased as my perspective is, shared passions are strong binding fluids for relationships. The more time you spend together doing the things you love, the more you will grow and bind as a team.

A marriage is truly a teamwork. Take care of yourselves so you’re able to listen when the other is feeling down, and be ready to pull each other up. You invest in shared passions, but don’t let your own interests wilt. The well-being of one supports the pair, and the cycle produces velocity that may lead to understanding, trust and happiness.

So here’s a toast to the long life ahead that you two shall share, to the misunderstandings that will bless your way, and to the persistence and vulnerability that will carry you through love and heartache. And don’t forget we’re here standing by your side for all of it.

Kippis!


If you’d like me to give a speech at your wedding, let me know. Otherwise, follow Back and Forth for my thoughts on life, travel, design and mediation.