The Dirty Truth About Marriage

On October eighth, my little brother married his girlfriend of eight years. My husband and I flew across the country to attend. It was the first time I had been home to see my family in four years. The last time, I still lived in Quebec, quite a bit closer than where I live now. Because my husband is a teacher, and teachers don’t get vacations in the middle of the school year, we had to fly back and forth across the country in the span of four days, but it was worth every moment of travel time.

Of course, there was no way I was going to miss such an event. And from the moment I heard about their engagement, I wanted to give a toast at the wedding. I’ve been married thirteen years now – I still can’t believe it’s been that long! – and I feel qualified to offer advice. Mine is actually the second longest marriage on my side of the family, a sobering realization. The truth is, thirteen years of marriage has taught me a lot about how relationships work. Not only that, it has shown me what kind of person I am and what kind of person I want to be. I wanted to find some way to distill the experience I have gained from my marriage into a package of tools a newly wed couple could use, even if they’ve already been together eight years.

As a writer, I always turn to words. Words are powerful. And words are the threads I use to weave my tapestries. These are the words I spoke at my brother’s wedding. If you’re married, you might find a lot of truth here.
. . .

As some of you may know, I’m a writer. When it comes to these big life moments, the first gift to come to my mind is words. So I have a list of words, here, for the bride and groom:

Triumph, sharing, passion, challenge, laughter, sorrow, support, effort communication, heartbreak, connection, forgiveness, understanding, joy.

These are the elements of marriage; and you’ll note I’ve included the bad along with the good. Life is full of challenges, but the two of you are together now; a pair. That means never having to face life’s struggles and challenges alone.

The idea that magically strong connections sustain relationships is a Hollywood myth. Real marriage is much dirtier, much trickier. It involves being able to see the best in each other when you’re at your worst. It means rising together when life has knocked you down.

Perhaps this isn’t the inspirational speech you expected. But marriage is full of un-glorious moments. The reward for surviving them is the bliss of attaining shared goals, of building something as a couple. So that you can step back and say ‘this is ours. We made it.’

Today is a day full of advice (some of it unsolicited). Here is mine: share your burdens. Remember why she makes you laugh and why he makes you smile. Forgive the little things. Assume the best of each other. Never be too busy for a hug, a kiss and an ‘I love you.’ Anger is poison. Honesty and good communication are keys. Remember: no matter how impossible something seems, you can handle it together.

Congratulations for embarking on the next leg of this crazy journey we call life as a pair. Go and build something wonderful.

. . .
I wrote these words for my brother and his wife, but they came from my own experience. I know the truth in these words because I have lived them. The most unsettling aspect of being a writer is never knowing how your words will be received. Throughout the night, several wedding guests mentioned my speech and the impact it had on them. Later, I heard more stories from the couple. So it seems these were the right words for the occasion. I hope my brother and his wife will get to experience the same joys and triumphs married life has given to me.

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