My first wedding anniversary is rapidly approaching. I could say all kinds of cliché things about how I can’t believe how quickly the year has gone, about how marriage is worth it and how our wedding day was the happiest day of our lives — but to say that wouldn’t add anything new or valuable to anyone besides me and Patrick.
To be honest, on most days marriage is pretty boring. We live our married life — much like most of our lives — in the holy ordinary, where the choices we make and the motions through which we move define who we become as people. That’s how much of our first year of marriage has gone.
At the same time, Patrick and I hope to be intentional about the stage we’re setting for ourselves and eventually for our family, so we decided to use this occasion to have an honest conversation about our first year of marriage. Here’s what we said — and what we learned.
Why did you marry me?
Patrick: I am generally wary of this question, because I know how much our justifications for making big, life-changing decisions often evolve with hindsight. However, I think an element of that process was baked into why I chose to marry you from the beginning. When I proposed to you in the living room, after all my plans had gone completely off the rails, I told you that the choice we were making to commit to one another was one we had already made and would continually make in the future.
I chose to marry you because I knew that repeatedly choosing to love you had already transformed my life. Celebrating the sacrament of marriage with you would be equally transformative. And I knew that continuing to choose you in the future would push me toward becoming the person I want to be when I’m with you. In that context, I think it makes sense that the answer to “why” will constantly evolve and change throughout our marriage.
Molly: Sorry I ruined your proposal plans, and sorry I’m impossible to surprise.
I married you because you make me a better version of me, and I know as a married couple we will be able to fulfill our vocation and change the world by bringing life and love into it together. I married you because while I don’t believe in soulmates, I do believe that when I’m with you, I become better — and I believe that, in some way or another, God sent you to me.
What do you know now that you didn’t know a year ago?
Patrick: I’ve learned how the vows we made in the marriage sacrament have real power. This lesson was most clear when we went to our friends’ wedding shortly after ours. Listening to their exchange of vows hammered home how I am constantly called to be a better husband. One of the things that I find really powerful in the Catholic marriage rite is that the Eucharist plays a central role. So every time we attend Sunday Mass and participate in the Eucharist, there is a kind of renewal of vows. I am reminded that I am called to be united in love with you, and that our love enables us to bring life to others. I don’t think I knew a year ago how powerful a reminder this would be, and how much it would challenge me to ever more fully live out my vows.
Molly: I’ve learned that the commitment that comes with marriage is concrete and real. For basically nine years I’ve pretty much assumed we would be together forever — but there’s something different that happened when we got married. Suddenly, when we talk about our kids, it’s not some ethereal “maybe, someday” thing where I know I’ll have kids but can’t be certain with whom. Now, when we talk about our family and our future plans, things are set — it’s more real.
And I’ve learned that being married doesn’t mean things get easier or go away. We’re still going to have to figure out life, and jobs, and major life decisions together — and while it’s certainly comforting that you’ll be there with me every step of the way, that doesn’t take away your desires or mine, my stubbornness or yours. So I suppose that means I’ve learned —unsurprisingly — that marriage is work!
What’s been the most surprising thing about marriage?
Patrick: The most surprising thing about marriage is how much more intense and collaborative our decision-making process has become. Even though being together so long gave us some of a head start on developing common habits and expectations for our life as a married couple, I’ve found that since marriage, these have taken on new meaning. We are setting the groundwork for how we operate as a family moving forward, in everything from combining finances to balancing time between our two families. It feels as if there’s a greater weight to the decisions we make and what they mean for our future together. At the same time, I feel more strongly than ever before that we’re a team.
Molly: I’ve been surprised — though maybe I shouldn’t be — by how normal and ordinary married life feels. The strangest thing about being married has been saying my new name — and every once in a while I still slip up. Other than that, our daily life of being husband and wife feels completely and totally ordinary. It’s not different than most of the other sacraments I’ve experienced; when I was confirmed, I didn’t feel like an adult all of a sudden. I suppose that’s the nature of the sacrament — that it transforms us and who we are, that it’s a sign of something bigger, but that this transformation is so beyond our comprehension that it’s not quite perceptible. So the majority of my days of marriage are ordinary, but there’s beauty in that ordinary. And the rest is trust: trust that we’re doing this right, trust that something bigger is happening than we can understand, trust that our commitment to one another brings more love and light to the world through these everyday moments.
What would you tell yourself if you could go back to the night before or the morning of our wedding?
Molly: Okay, so mayyyybe I forgot the rings at my parents’ house. And maybe that made our wedding start 15 minutes late, and maybe the photographer had to go back and get them. Oops.
What I’d want to tell myself would be more about the planning phase: “Relax, everything is a gift.” I spent so much time worrying about the day — what might go wrong, whether I’d be overwhelmed by the people and the day, how I’d feel walking down the aisle with everyone looking at me. But once we got to that day, I just absolutely knew in my heart that everything was right — and nothing else mattered. I wish I could’ve given myself that peace in advance of the preparation, but I’m grateful that it was there at the end of the day.
What have you learned about marriage after being married a year?
Patrick: I’ve learned that marriage means that we both need to be ready to make sacrifices — and at the same time, that sacrifices feel less painful because we’re both all-in. Over the past year, I’ve constantly relearned that my purpose is to be a husband — and eventually a father — first and foremost. Once my priorities are reoriented around that, making decisions as a married couple has always seemed easier and less of a compromise.
So after a year of marriage, that’s where we’re at. Patrick and I both have a much more realistic vision of marriage, and we’ve got a pretty clear grasp on what our purpose in this life is: we’re in this together to make the world a better place by the decisions we make and the paths we walk. And most of all, we’re doing that in the everyday, boring, silly, holy ordinary moments.