June 4, 1921
Dearest, dearest family --
How I wish you could have been here yesterday to see me married to the dearest man in the world! I thought of you all a thousand times and it was the only thing which marred an otherwise perfect day.
The service was read more impressively than I ever heard it before and we both realized very well just what we were doing but neither of us - I know I didn't - had a qualm. I was never more serene and calm and happy in my life!!
Love, hugs and kisses to you all, Gertrude
_ _ _ _
Dear couple that got engaged yesterday in Memorial Park,
I watched from the other end of the sidewalk as one of you got down on his knee and asked a question while the other threw her arms around you in an answer that could only have been yes. Then your friend walked up, asked for a re-enactment so she could take pictures. I hope your lives together will always be filled with that same kind of happiness.
I don't know what kind of wedding you'll have - a big fancy affair, or a small ceremony at City Hall. Even if you write your own vows, the essence of the promises you make to each other will be the same as lovers have been making for ages. To love and honor each other in good times and bad, sickness and health, for richer or poorer, til death do you part. But here's the thing, what most people won't tell you. It's easy to make those vows, not so easy to keep them. Marriage is hard work.
Most of us are pretty happy during the good times. What about the times that are good for one of you, but not so good for the other. A job promotion, perhaps, that means pack up everything and move across the country. Nothing says good times like finding out you're pregnant, but I promise you will find that trying to calm a newborn baby, when you are sleep deprived will test your abilities to see straight let alone the light at the end of the tunnel (when said child graduates from college.) There will be times when you think the only good times will be the "golden years." Don't forget about stiff joints and menopause. Those are the times that a foundation of good communication and a sense of humor will get your through.
When you pledge to stay together during sickness and health, you won't be thinking about cancer, or car accidents, or Alzheimer's disease. You probably can't even picture one you having to feed the other or wipe the other's bottom. Another scenario is when there is sickness in the extended family. Caring for grandchildren or an elderly parent comes with its own set of woes. This is when that promise you made to each other is going to be a two-sided sword. It both deepens your commitment to each other and rips at its foundation.
According to Divorce.com, "Everyone has financial issues concerning bills, debts, spending and budgets. How a couple deals with those issues can make or break a relationship." I'd like to think winning the lottery would take away this marriage worry, but honestly, what are the chances. You can't win if you don't play. You can go broke if you play too much. Marriage is a balancing act. Give a little - get a little. Rub my back - I'll rub yours.
In the beginning when feel good chemicals are swirling around in your brain and you can't imagine a life without that special someone next to you, the give and take is pretty equal. It's after a few years have passed, when life settles down to ho-hum, when the TV replaces pillow talk, when the person sitting next to you on the bus smells like your lover did when you were dating, when the way the baby throws a tantrum in Walmart, when a couple of beers makes you stupid instead of enlightened, when sex, not dirty socks, was 50 shades of gray, and taking the garbage out becomes an argument instead of a no-brainer that the promises you made begin to wear a little thin.
So now that I've painted a picture that makes you want to forget all about marriage, here's the good news. Being partnered to another who knows you inside and out and loves you anyway is the greatest thing on earth. Having someone to laugh with and a shoulder to cry on makes life 100 times more manageable. Knowing you've got someone to share your failures with makes sharing your successes that much better. Being able to say, I just can't do it, would you mind, with the assurance that the answer will be yes makes it more likely that you'll do the same in return.
If I may be so bold as to suggest a thing or two, I would say ... Learn how to listen with your heart, not just your ears. Talk things out. Hold hands. Dance. Laugh. Don't go to sleep without saying, I love you. Mean it. Remember you are half of a whole, but be wholly you. Lean on each other. Share ideas. Agree to disagree. Apologize. Clean out the sink after you brush your teeth. Fill up the gas tank when it's near empty. Send a valentine in June. Put a date night on your calendar. Take care of your health. Tell the truth. Remember when. Plan for the future. Be friends.
When my grandmother wrote the letter above to her mother ninety-five years ago, she was, like you, young and in love. She married the man of her dreams and lived with him until her death. I can tell you with great certainty that my grandparent's marriage made climbing Mt. Everest look like a Sunday afternoon stroll. I wish I'd known the girl who's hopes and dreams were just beginning. I don't know where things went wrong for them. I do know there was too much alcohol and not enough respect. Too many harsh words and not enough "I'm sorrys." Too much separation and too little communication. Back in their day, marriage was a bit more patriarchal. I think my grandmother was way to smart to be satisfied as "the little woman."
As you prepare for a life together may you be blessed with strength, courage, compassion, and unending yet ever-growing love,