Depending on your age and marital status, you have either been exposed to or are now generating cringe-inducing sentences that begin with:
"Well, when I got married..."
"If I were you..."
"If I could do it all over again..."
"Whatever you do, don't..."
"Make sure you..."
The possibilities and comments are as endless as the sea.
The bride may feel like a Ritz cracker on the beach, surrounded by sea gulls who are harping out personal need for comfort and attention. The comments flare through the fog, warning of inevitable hardships to come. Hey, marriage is wonderful. I love being married to Tall Child. Of all the advice I endured/heard/read, two pieces stand out and stay true to this day. The first came from Bop, Tall Child's mother. She warned, "If you don't want to do something the rest of your life, don't ever do it for the first time. For example, if you don't want to take the garbage down to the bottom of the driveway every Monday, don't EVER do it. Ever."
Why? Why did I cut those shrubs back 12 years ago? WHY???????
The other sentence that has probably best defined my marriage and saved my and Tall Child's unity sanity is from The Holy Bible. In the book of Matthew, Peter asks Jesus, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." Tall Child, again, I am so sorry I backed your car into a palm tree in Panama City Beach. Oh, and for all my Tupperware throwing and door slamming temper tantrums. Good think you're an athlete. Just think, all those years of high school and college basketball were preparing you for marriage to me!
I'm no relationship expert but I do know this after being together 16 years. Marriage is a trip. And when you stand at the altar, you may think you have it all figured out, but you are beginning a journey that has no itinerary, no guarantees, and no real predictability.
Traditional wedding vows are beautiful and certainly a poetic way to hop on the love boat. But the pretty words aren't direct or descriptive. We sacrifice reality for pretty. Why can't we have both? All we need is a translator up there by the preacher.
So, here I translate the ceremony and vows East Tennessee style.
Preacher: Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the presence of God to join this man and this woman in holy matrimony.
Translator: Audience member, you may want to be here or you may be mad because it's a football Saturday and you have already spent an entire paycheck on this couple, but they love you, or at least they felt obligated to include you, so suck it up. There's an open bar at the reception. This is a church so behave and understand that God is here and you need to sit there and think about your own marriage and pray like heck for this one that's about to start. And, if your spouse glares at you, smile and squeeze her hand. If she looks at you lovingly, do the same, and pat yourself on the back.
Preacher: Marriage is ordained by God, regulated by God's commandments, blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ, and to be held in honor among all people.
Translator: Bride and groom, if you want a successful marriage, don't listen to what your friends and family say. There is a rule book. It's called The Holy Bible. Happy hour is singular, just like you'll be if you stay more than one happy hour. If the waitress says, "Do you want another round?" You need to think, "What would Jesus do?" He would go home and drink wine with his wife, boy. So get in your truck and high-tail it home. EVERYONE you know should honor your marriage. Audience, if you think she's a "b" it doesn't matter. Maybe you think he is a control freak. It doesn't matter. A husband or wife should never have to compete with in-laws, friends, or co-workers, within reason, for attention or money or time. So, audience, respect the couple. Bride, if your mama is obnoxious, handle it. Groom, if your mama is laying on the guilt trip, deal. Blood gives bad news to blood.
Preacher: Groom/Bride, will you have this person to be your wife/husband? Will you pledge your loyalty, love, and honor, duty, and service, in all faith and tenderness, to live with her/him and cherish her/him according to the ordinances of God?
Translator: I don't know why I'm asking this because you proposed/accepted, but here goes: Groom/Bride, are you absolutely sure this is the one you want? As in "The only one I want" like Danny and Sandy? Are you that sure? Forever? This is your last chance and, though it will be humiliating to run like hell now, you'll avoid a bunch of legal stuff and your mamas will forgive you. Oh, but here's some good advice to consider if you are wavering at this point: you really don't know someone until you are married to him for a while. Living together is not the same thing. Marriage is legally binding. So, good luck! Let's do the vows now!
Bride and Groom: I take you to be my [spouse], to love and cherish, for richer or for poorer, in joy and sorrow, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live.
Translator: I am marrying you, but please know that sometimes you may hate my guts. No one can make you madder than your spouse (me)! Hopefully, we'll get rich but keep in mind, honey, that we may get rich and lose it all or we may never have a dime. God says you have to love me anyway. I will love you anyway. Right now we are happy but bad things will happen so hang in there with me. Actually, some of the bad things may be my fault. If I get sick, for the love of God, please don't be a jerk. Clean up the house (or me) and go get me a combo meal at Chick Fil A on your way back from Walgreens. I will make sure you don't have hair in the wrong places if you become incapacitated and I will take good care of you and keep you looking dignified. Please do the same for me.
EXCHANGE OF RINGS
Preacher: In the giving and receiving of rings, the man and woman give to each other an outward sign of an inward commitment. Let the rings be a sign of your love.
Translator: Let the circle be unbroken. Don't. Take. The ring. Off. or it'll be replaced with one around your neck.
Delicious just chimed in from across the room as I typed this, "With these rings, I do dread, all the [expletive] that lies ahead."
I don't normally write with anyone else in the room, if I can help it, but I've had to exercise my marital/familial skills of tolerance and patience as we are wrapping up a cozy week together in a condo on Hilton Head Island. Tall Child, Sharky, Gnome, Delicious and I make for pretty good roommates. The best behavior award goes to Tall Child; the worst behavior award probably goes to his neurotic wife. But, I kept all my vows this week. I was loving-ish and patient when Tall Child let the car battery die, adding another $200 bucks to our vacation expenses. I was cool with sickness and even spoon-fed (no joke) ALL my boys some cough and cold medicine. I was patient when Gnome pole danced with a hat rack at Hudson's Seafood Restaurant. I protected my husband's sanity by giving him a five hour break from all of us. I prayed for safety as we giggled through a Dolphin-watching cruise in Calibogue Sound. We were not rich on Monday, but we are definitely poorer this Friday.
Tall Child and I have flaws and we have certainly made hurtful, stupid mistakes. Honestly, we've experience the good and bad end of pretty much every vow. But, this week AND the last sixteen years as a whole have been an eventful, educational, sweet trip. I'm thankful he asked, and I'm thankful I said "yes."
Imperfect and beautiful.
So, if you are embarking on your marriage journey, here's my obnoxious advice:
Love, forgive, and have as much fun as possible. Don't try to predict or control your future. Which reminds me of Theory 22: Dreams are necessary. Plans are pointless.
See you next post! Until then, think outside the barn.
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