Today’s the day! Your mind has been so wrapped up in wedding planning and honeymoon packing that you’ve hardly had time to think about what comes next. You know you’re about to pledge your entire life to another person but (let’s be honest) you’re not exactly sure what that entails. Sure, you’ve read books, you’ve talked to counselors, consulted with older couples. But, c’mon, you’re 22. You really have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.
So, let me offer you a little glimpse into the future. I’m writing to you from your first anniversary. A whole year of marriage has passed, in delightful and unexpected ways. Here are just a few things for you to look forward to. A year from today, you will be:
Married to a total stranger. Okay, maybe not a total stranger. But you will realize (over and over) in the first year of marriage how little you actually knew Thomas when you faced one another at that altar. The man I know now looks wildly different from the person you think you’re marrying today. You dated for almost three years, but just dating does not introduce you to the intimate details of someone the way that marriage does. In the next year, you will see him in vivid clarity for the very first time: the good, the bad, and the ugly. And—worse!—he will see those parts of you, too! It’ll be uncomfortable at first but the result is breathtaking: being truly known by someone and still deeply loved in return? It’s what we need more than anything. It will humble you. It will liberate you. And it will fortify you against any difficulty that life can throw at you.
The poorest you’ve ever been. We’ve just made a cross-country move to a city we’ve always loved. Turns out, moves are expensive. Luckily, we spent the first year of marriage saving religiously. We put away a part of every paycheck and that allowed us to have the money to leave our jobs and strike out in a brand new community. We had the money to pay a little extra rent on the perfect apartment in an incredible neighborhood. We were able to cover all those small moving expenses and see a life-long dream of ours come true. Even though things are a little uncertain right now, you and Thomas provide each other with the security to take risks, fail, and try again. Risks that, by yourself, I’m not sure you would have had the courage to take—but with him, it’s easy. You always have a soft place to land.
Sleeping on the floor of an empty house. For the past 10 days, you’ve been sleeping on two twin air mattresses in your otherwise-empty home. Turns out, you really need to hammer out a firm date when you hire movers to deliver your furniture. But don’t worry. You’ve got all the necessities: clothes, blankets, soap, shampoo, and three cases of beer as a welcome from the folks next door. The neighbors on the other side (who generously let you borrow their crowbar when you accidentally locked yourself out on the first night there) will smile at each other while they share stories about sleeping on the floor of their first apartment 17 years ago and you’ll realize that this is actually a rite of passage. Suddenly, giggling together while eating cold sandwiches cross-legged on your hardwood floors doesn’t seem that bad. In fact, it’s kind of fun.
More in love than the day you got married. And I’m talking giggly, sappy newlywed-type love. They say that kind of behavior is confined to the “honeymoon phase” but I promise that your honeymoon won’t be half as good as the 12 months that follow. (By the way, on that honeymoon, Thomas will suggest paddle boarding—if you’re fond of having a husband with all 10 of his toenails, I would encourage that you try to talk him out of it.) In the past year, we’ve fought. We’ve cried. We’ve learned. We’ve grown. And we have loved each other with more sweetness and depth than I knew was possible. Today, you’ll stand beside him in your white gown and you will promise him things that you don’t yet know how to do—love him unconditionally, sacrifice for him, continuously forgive and be forgiven. But that’s the beautiful thing about marriage. It refines you into a person who does.
Lane, today will be one of the most magical days of your life. But I can promise you that, despite the white dress and string lights and cake, your wedding day won’t even begin to measure up to the 12 months that come after. I’ll leave you with this quote from C.S. Lewis, which you have heard before and will revisit often in the coming year.
“Love in this second sense — love as distinct from ‘being in love’ — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. […] ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. it is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”