Ten years ago today, I got married, and I’m still in awe of what a huge risk that was, and how glad I am every day that I took the leap.
It is safe to say that we had absolutely no idea what we were doing. Everyone thought we were way too young. And I know for a fact that many couples that are now divorced felt the same amount of certainty on their wedding day that we felt on ours, deep within.
Recently, when my husband told someone that he was coming up on ten years of marriage, the man was incredulous, and asked, “Are you happy?” Gratefully, my husband was able to answer, “Yeah, dude. Really happy.” I think at other points in our marriage, he would have had to give a very Ben Affleck answer: “Well, marriage is a lot of work, but yeah, I’m happy.”
Because, like Ben and Jen, Joel and I have had to WORK it. And then work it some more, my friend. But what else is worth working on, in life? Our relationships are who we are, what makes up the crux of our lives. When I die, no one is going to care what letters I have after my name or if I ever published that book. What will last is the way I loved the people I said I was going to love. Did I choose to love them every day? Even when everything broke down and I was sure we simply couldn’t work it out this time? And especially when a bunch of small things happen in a row that just make me feel demoralized and lonely, even though I know we are overall okay. That’s when choosing love is a matter of leaning, heavily, on the vows, on the magic you created at the ritual of your wedding, and on the community that is shoring you up.
Our wedding was still the most fun party I’ve ever been to. The ceremony was lovely, even though we all missed my dad (who had died not even a year prior) so much we bawled through most of it, and Joel nearly broke my fingers as he wrung my hands through the vows, but what made it really special was the reception, which was in an old converted barn.
We couldn’t even get through dinner without starting the dancing. Here are a few pictures from the insane dance party that ensued, thanks to our Haitian DJs from NYC (who were so late I was sure it was all going to fail miserably) and our incredible guests. You guys, I had to SCAN all these photos in at Walgreens! That’s how friggen old I am. But of course we got married when I was 15, right??
The song Joel and I had our “formal dance” to was Rufus Wainwright’s The Consort. At a wedding I was in a few weekends ago, my husband surprised me with the most romantic gift he has ever given me. To commemorate our 10 year wedding anniversary, he had my friend Sydney, a metalsmith who was in our wedding and made my bridal headpiece, make me a bracelet which featured a flower from the headpiece, with a lyric from that song engraved on it. It reads, TOGETHER WE’LL WREAK HAVOC YOU AND ME.
It’s was a promise way back then, and it still is. Joel and I have embarked on the most conventional thing in the world, hetero marriage, with as much punk rockery as we could muster. We’ve done it our way.
A lot of people ask me “what’s your secret?” to being together so long. I’m tempted to say, “Playing cards! Sex! Therapy! Waiting 8 years to have a kid! Prayer!”, but really no one ever knows what happens between two people.
My best advice is: wreak havoc, together. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re too young, too old, too gay, too alcoholic, too broken, too shuttered, too much work, that you’re the wrong color for each other, that you just can’t forgive, that you don’t want to go “there”. Wreak havoc on your lives, changing everything about who you thought you’d be, in relationship. But do it together.
Marriage is not about the end result, or whether you “make it” as a couple. It’s about knowing each other, and getting to know who you really are in relationship, and allowing that to change over time. I know people who had beautiful marriages, that ended, and they wouldn’t give up what they learned to avoid the pain of how it all fell apart.
So show up as your worst self when you have to, and let the other person help you find what a better self could be. Give up on having the picture perfect Christmas card family. Just be your fucked-up selves, but do it brazenly, with as much acceptance of the other person as you can muster from deep within. Wreak havoc, and don’t close off to one another. Never stop letting each other in.