Matrimony didn’t physically change my life.
Joe and I had lived together for almost two years before we got married.
Before he’d even proposed, we had purchased a house together and vacationed alone together. From the day we first cohabited I began packing him a tuna fish sandwich every morning before work and in return he began making the bed. This arrangement has been going on for three years.
For an impulsive person with irrepressible wanderlust, I take to domesticity like a fish to water when I’m in love.
On our honeymoon, I met a couple in their 60s from Detroit, who told me they spent the first year of their marriage getting to know one another. He worked as a supervisor at a Ford plant and she was a housewife.
Every morning for a month she would wake up at 6 a.m. to cook him breakfast before his shift and every morning for a month he would force himself to eat it.
It was painful.
“I finally had to tell her I don’t eat breakfast,” he said.
“All he wanted was a thermos of coffee,” she balked.
“I eat breakfast more now that I’m retired,” he countered.
“But how was I supposed to know?” She exclaimed. “It’s not like we talked about breakfast before we got married.”
This blew my mind.
For those of us who shack up before marriage, the first year of matrimony takes on a different sort of feeling. I knew Joe didn’t eat breakfast three dates into our courtship. By the time he popped the question, I’d vacuumed up his toenail clippings no less than a dozen times.
The transition from live-in girlfriend to wife was subtle, but no less educational.
Here’s what happened to me:
In the months after our wedding everything Joe and I did as a couple suddenly seemed more official. More serious.
We were a married couple grocery shopping. A married couple watching Jeopardy. A married couple shopping for Christmas decorations. A married couple arguing over whether it was worth the extra buck for Hellmann’s Mayonnaise instead of the store brand.
As a result, I became more serious.
I felt like someone I had stamped the word adult across my forehead in bold, black ink. The weight of this perceived label caused me to spin into a toxic spiral of anxiety.
I worried about money. I worried about the future. I worried about fertility, drinking water, health insurance, car insurance, my savings account, his savings account, our credit card balances and the fragile state of the industry in which we both work — newspaper journalism.
I worried about APRs and PPOs, 401Ks and other acronyms I know nothing about. I worried so much the pug’s face turned gray.
I worried in my dreams and I worried in my pipe dreams. I worried I hadn’t achieved enough as a single person, all the accomplishments I had yet to cross off my list, all the countries I had yet to visit.
Joe had fallen in love with a free spirit and married an old crank. I held onto my last name because it was the last bastion of my former lighter self, but I had strangled my former, lighter self by fixating on things I couldn’t control.
One day, not long ago, it dawned on me that while it’s important that relationships mature, it’s equally important that they stay the same. And by that I mean, there are a million reasons why two people fall in love, none of which have anything to do with how well you look while carrying the weight of the world.
If marriage is about growing old together, then the best thing I can do for mine is drag it out by staying young.
Some women appear to have it all and I spent a year agonizing over whether I could too, until I came to the conclusion that having it all is not a literal feat, but a figurative one.
Having it all is making peace with it all. The first year of my marriage taught me that.