Jess and I just celebrated our sixth anniversary this past weekend. By celebrate, I mean we tried to take a trip down the coast for a romantic day of exploring and antiquing, but between Jess being extremely pregnant and me still recovering from the last surgery, we wound up mostly doing lunch at our favorite restaurant and then calling it an early day.
I don't intend for that to sound depressing. One of the great things about marriage is it lets you take a longer view on things. A lavish celebration of affection isn't all that feasible right now, but we're together for life. We'll make up for it many times over. In a short time we'll have a baby girl to multiply the celebrating.
I don't think Jess will ever let me live this one down: A year or so after we got married, I said, "You know, marriage doesn't suck nearly as much as I thought it was going to." It sounded better in my head before I said it. Before I got married, I really never intended to get married. I couldn't see the point. The majority of marriages end in divorce. As an atheist/anarchist I don't really need to have a marriage legitimated in the eyes of the church or state in order for it to be real to me. I'd already planned to stay with Jess for the rest of my life. So really, what was the point?
Ultimately, it was simple math. Jess's family really wanted her married. Jess wanted to be married. It really didn't matter to me, but with little effort on my part, I could make a whole lot of people I cared about happy. Plus: presents!
Maybe indifference is not the attitude one should go into a marriage with, but it worked for me. I went into married life without all the baggage. I wasn't looking for marriage to complete me, didn't think it meant an automatic "happily ever after," wasn't really expecting anything to be different save for it'd be a little more difficult to break up if we got bored with each other.
Much to my surprise, marriage did change everything, in many unexpected and happy ways. As much as I like to think of myself as someone who makes his own rules and isn't defined by society, society has other ideas. It really is easier to be married when you're of an age that people expect you to be married. You're treated with more respect. People take you more seriously. Doors open up that you had no idea were even closed. The world really does treat you better when you're married. Part of me bristles at that because I strongly believe that people should be valued for who they are, not for their labels, but in this case I'm benefitting it, so I'm not going to fight it!
But that's really the least of it. Even though I'd planned on staying with Jess for the rest of my life already, there really is something different having a ring on my finger that reminds me of that in a wonderful way. No matter what happens, no matter how bad things get, we're together and we'll make it work out somehow. Even if we don't know what the solution is going to be, we'll get through it. There's a difference between intending to be together forever and actually thinking like you're going to be. The good things are things you'll maintain, sustain and grow, and keep on growing for years to come. The bad things are things you'll overcome, together.
I've become a much braver person since getting married. I would never have bought a house on my own, or gone back to school, or done many of the dozens of crazy things I've attempted over the past six years if I didn't have a wife there reminding me it's better to try, and that she has my back.
Together we dream bigger, try harder, and go farther than we ever would on our own. Every day I'm reminded what a great choice I made when I decided to marry Jess.