There’s almost no way to talk about marriage without the underlying meaning we each attribute to it; whether it’s what we saw growing up, what we’ve come to aspire, media, and religion.
Marriage, like almost every life decision, is tinged by opinions and theories we’re unaware of most of the time.
Or rather, that’s what I thought until I got married.
She wore a white gown with red roses. I know it was sequin because it was slippery to hold while our eternal hug took 10 minutes. The crowd at the airport was gone. It was just the two of us. Tears wetting my denim jacket, my sister-in-law screaming my name; meeting my nephews for the first time; the drive to my new home.
It was a lot to take in, but it felt right. I had left home, but I was home. I had come to the woman who, when we were teenagers, said she’d marry me. I never believed her. Yet, here we were. Hands in each other’s, eyes in clouds, bright and young. Ready to love each other each day till death.
Or were we?
I’ve discovered myself more in one year of marriage than all the books I’ve read. There’s something about living in close proximity with another human that brings out the best and the worst in you both.
If you’ve ever had roommates, you understand how conversations around doing dishes can go. Let’s not start with cleaning the toilet, or trash, or tidiness.
You may come to terms with what you like, and dislike, by yourself. But you discover the breadth of your tolerance by being with others.
The idea of love is tied to being human: we love and want to be loved. Heinous acts have been committed in the name of love. Brave ones too.
Parents stifle their children's futures, dragging them away from their dreams saying:
“I do this because I love you. You’ll thank me later”.
Marriage might be the only one where we all understand should be done out of love, but almost never survives exactly because of this: our understanding.
What is love?
Just consider it. Take a moment to think about what love means to you. Not what you’ve seen in a movie or read in an article.
What really is love?
And is it a good reason to get married?
The title of this article is “I Love being Married”. I never even thought about it when it came. It just felt right.
How often do we do things like this? Without thinking? How often do we speak our minds without considering the impact of our words?
How often do we get married without considering what it really means?
It was my wedding day. I was alone in the basement. Thinking of my father, mother, brother, and sisters. They were miles away — back in Cameroon. The house was alive: food transported to the reception, screams for final touches on the decorations. My brothers-in-law huffing and puffing one directive or the other.
I took my phone out and started recording a voice note to the family group. As I spoke, the tears welled up, wishing I could see them one more time. Praying for a miracle, that my father and mother would see their firstborn son take his vows and marry the woman they’d come to love from far away after almost a decade of arguments, fights, misunderstandings.
The woman they’d thought was destroying me. The woman who eventually built me. The woman I was choosing to spend my life with.
Here’s my definition: love is a choice.
It’s bland. Unromantic. Boring. Probably unlike what we’d want to hear. Like medication and vegetables, it’s not fun to take but necessary for healing and health.
I love being married because it’s a choice I made. It’s a choice to be made.
Marriage is too hard to run on emotions and hormones. Too difficult to put on autopilot. When you marry someone you’re guaranteed, with time, to see them at their worst, their best. You’ll have to deal with things even their parents are unaware of.
In fact, you’ll deal with things caused by their parents that even they — your partner — are unaware of, and how you deal with this is how your marriage either brittles away or hardens strong.
I did not know what I was getting into. I did not prepare. I read a few books, watched a couple of videos, but I did not visualize the difficulty level.
I did not realize that this was a life long journey and we’ll never be done.
The counseling we did wasn’t enough — that’s my opinion. I like to study and maybe there should be a college degree for people like me with tests and exams.
There’s no point bringing up divorce rates. You know this. As true as Valar morghulis, not all marriages survive the first year, or the next 10 or 40.
There are still chances that the growth and lessons I think I have learned may fail. I could still end up without a partner. Fact.
It’s this truth — this underlying reality — that makes me think about marriage now in a different way: marriage is built on love, love has many facets, love is a choice that we make each day.
I would not recommend marriage for this reason; it takes too much from a human to be married — or to love. Ask any parent: loving a child happens in the middle of the night after a 50-hour shift, or in the early mornings when you just want that 15 minutes but can’t, or that nap you’re about to miss because they just woke up from theirs.
Marriage is not a book recommendation where after a few hours, one can decide it was a bad idea and leave with a few hours ‘wasted’.
Marriage is not a restaurant where you can try a meal and decide you’ll never visit.
Marriage is a personal decision I wish we’d consider the depth of the act before randomly suggesting it to anyone old enough to look up the word in the dictionary.
Marriage is hard.
And it’s easy.
Life is hard. And it’s easy. Love is hard and it’s easy. It’s the push and pull of existence. It’s similar to trekking to a place you love: you may not want to walk up that hill, but you know the view is totally worth it.
You may not want to wake up early or stay late, but you know it’s for the long term. If you have a dream, you have to work for it.
You may not want to work out, but you want that energy and body.
The dream is the work.
Marriage requires those uncomfortable conversations: facing your biases, disagreements, compromises, acceptance, discovery of self and of other, impulse control — all the things that are necessary to become an adult.
It’s easy to understand the importance of these traits; it’s hard to go on that journey.
I can’t recommend you get married: I don’t know you. I don’t know what you’ve been through, what journey you’re on, what you still need to learn or what you want. That’s up to you.
I know that for me, I’ve had to take responsibility for the things in my control. I’ve had to learn where my boundaries are — and define new ones too. I’ve had to learn how to be angry without being bitter, how to articulate my thoughts better and most importantly:
How to care for someone you disagree with while disagreeing with them.
13 years ago, when I met the woman who would become my wife, I had no idea what marriage was. Today, on a scale of 1 to 100, I’m at 2.
I sort of know what is required of me. And I love it.
Maybe it’s because I have a high pain tolerance. Maybe it’s because my wife has worked so hard to achieve her personal goals that I can’t help but be inspired. Maybe it’s because each time she tells me she loves me, I feel the pride in her eyes for how much I have grown for me — for us.
I also know now that marriage takes two people willing to do what is humanly possible to be in acceptable harmony with themselves and the other.
What does this mean?
It means pain is only temporary — like growing pains — not the blanket of the relationship. It means letting go when it’s forced and guilt-ridden.
It means measuring your progress between you two, not what your parents or anyone else — including a random guy on the internet — say.
It means being a good human being and bringing that in all levels to your home.
Marriage is not a prison where dreams go to die; it’s a springboard where you find a cheerleader and shoulder. A person who will root for you, and let you support them too.
Someone who chooses you as much as you choose them.
Love: A Choice I Make Every Morning
I am not proficient in any sports. I have a horrible singing voice. I am not particularly handsome. I love video games…
When we decided to sign the papers, make a ceremony, we decided because we wanted to.
The ceremony was over a long time ago. The guests are gone. It’s just us two, day in; day out. Long hours, I-just-woke-up-faces, and hangry chats.
There’s no way a marriage survives on feeling alone.
“I’m so proud of you.”
“Well, look at what you’ve done: I know you did not want to get a ‘regular’ job”, she rolled her eyes at ‘regular’, “I know you did not want to change so fast in such a short time.”
“ I had no choice.”
“No, you did. And you chose to do this for us. I know you won’t say it now, but I know you care and you will do what it takes. I knew this a long time ago.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“I’m not. But, I have seen what you can do when you put your mind to something. I know you put your mind to this.”
“Thanks, babe. Maybe it’s because when I see you fight for the things you believe in, it inspires me.”
“Seriously. Plus…you never gave up on me. You’ve always had my back.”
“I got you, dude.”
“I know. And I got you too.”
“Ugh. Now you’re just repeating everything I say.”
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