Some time ago one of my nieces became engaged. I was at the cabin when we received the news. This is the letter I wrote for her.
As your wedding draws nearer, the time for showers and gifts also grows closer. You will register here and there, and your friends and family will shower you with gifts. I too will be on the hunt for the perfect present, however that is a few months away. Today I am sitting at the kitchen table in the cabin watching the deer wander through my yard. As I sip my coffee my thoughts turn to the two of you, and ultimately my own wedding. I realize the greatest gift I can give you requires putting pen to paper.
This is a very chaotic time for you. I was a full-time student in the days leading up to my own wedding. In fact, I had a mid term exam on the Monday after the wedding. As a result, much of the decision making was taken out of my hands. We disagreed about everything. Rene’ was only taking the advice of his family. His brother chose the suits the groomsmen would wear. His sister chose the decorations. His mother rented a second wedding cake because she didn’t like the cake I bought. We had a roast beef dinner even though I don’t eat roast beef. Rene’ and his mother agreed that most people like roast beef. So… Roast beef. We gave out the left- over wrapped cake from my sister in law’s wedding even though I had ordered small pieces of the traditional Danish cake. My future mother in law had tons of fruit cake in her deep freeze so she just changed the ribbon colour. Rene’ chose the wedding invitations and the wording. He even chose the first dance song. “You’re the Inspiration”. By Chicago. I wanted “Sea of Love” by the Honeydrippers. Love that Robert Plant. It is no wonder that the day of the wedding I wanted out. As I walked down the aisle I cried tears of fear. I felt trapped. Married into a nut house. Our first fight was in the car on the way to the reception. No grand entrance for us. Rene’ went into the hall with his brother, the best man as I stayed outside with my maid of honour for 15 minutes wondering what I had gotten myself into. Frankly, the first year of marriage was the worst. That being said… It got better. Over 35 years in and my life is truly wonderful. So here are some of the things I learned along the way.
- You will feel let down after the wedding. You may spend a year planning and putting yourself in the poorhouse but its just a party. No wedding is perfect so let go of perfection. My wedding wasn’t of my choosing but it was a very fun time. Because people I loved came. One friend flew home all the way from Botswana. It was good.
- The wedding isn’t the end. It is the first day of your married life. Problems you had before the wedding are still there. In fact they may be worse after all of the wedding fiasco. For me, getting married kept me with Rene’. I run away from anything that I can’t fix and I would never get divorced. Marriage forced me to stay and work it out.
- Most of the problems in the early years are due to outside influences. When you have different ideas about things sit back and think about where your opinion comes from. Sometimes we care too much about what friends and family think. The most important person in your life is your spouse. What do they think? Usually they want what is best for you both.
- A marriage is like a corporation. There can only be one President. Think about that role for a moment. The Vice President is usually more involved in the day to day while the President is sort of a figurehead. With veto power. In our marriage Rene is the President and I am the Vice. I keep things running. The minor life. House, home and family. There is a ton of freedom there as well as responsibility. He very seldom says no to me but when he does, I listen. That is because he steps in for the big stuff. He shows me the pragmatic side of things which is his forte, not mine.
- Start your marriage with a joint bank account. If you can’t share money, you will never share life. All money goes into the joint account. From there it gets divvied out. So much to savings. So much to bills. Budget everything. Try to keep your retirement saving plans even. It is good tax planning. Your goal is to build a life together. You are saving for retirement, not divorce. At different times you will make more than your spouse. At other times, you will earn less. The goal is to take care of each other.
- Use the word “home” carefully. Where you live together is your home. Where your parents live is your mom and dads house. For many years Rene’ would talk about going home for the weekend. I would say to him “You are home”. It can be hurtful.
- You are a family. You and your man. Kids or no kids, you two are a family. On your wedding day this becomes family number one. Primary! Now, your parents… siblings… Secondary. Extended. From this day forward you are a team. What is best for your team is what matters. When you are blessed with children you will learn how much your parents love you. You will learn unconditional love. You will love your guy more and your bond will be even stronger.
- Adversity can make or break you. When I was pregnant with Ethan, we were told that the chance of us divorcing was 70% if he died. We were told to seek counselling. Counselling is something people should do before things get bad. It is not a sign of weakness. I have gone into forms of therapy 5 times in my marriage. Alone. It helped me. More to see his side as I already knew my side. We didn’t go for help when Ethan died but his death did bond us together in a way we never imagined. You see, losing a child made us understand that nothing else really mattered. The hardest thing I have ever done was to walk away from that hospital and leave my son behind forever. The lessons Ethan taught us in his short life live on in Rene’ and I forever. We are the only two people who know what we shared. History is huge.
- Don’t trash your spouse to your family It is a bad habit. Anything we do over and over will certainly get much worse. If you need to complain, get a shrink. I always whined to Suzie (Rene’s sister) because even if she took my side, (and she always took my side), she still loved her big brother. So, call each others siblings and vent. Your words will be kinder and gentler, and they will always love you two.
- Touch each other. Sit close when you watch T.V. Hold hands when you walk. Hug each other whenever you have been apart. Never say goodbye without saying I love you. Always trust each other. Whatever has kept you together this long will keep you together forever if you just trust.
Love Always, Auntie Cindy
Since that day Rene’ has passed away. Forever came too soon for us but we were blessed to have the many years we shared. Marriage is hard work and in the end you reap what you sow. In many respects we were lucky. Although as I learned long ago from a wise guy named Rene’, “The harder I work, the luckier I am.”