I’m honoured to be MC’ing a wedding for two friends this weekend. I was relatively young when I got married and to be honest, as much as I loved my wife, I really didn’t understand what made a relationship truly work.
We both had great intentions. We both loved each other very much. But we innocently didn’t realise that our job wasn’t to bring out the best in each other. It was to love each other exactly the way they were/are/will be; the way that attracted us to them in the first place. So when I look at how my friends are approaching things, they seem far less naive than I was and I find it very heartwarming.
For starters, they’re both very nervous. They understandably feel like they are making the biggest decisions of their lives and they are. When I got married I was so focused on the wedding going well that I completely forgot that being married might be an actual skill.
The truth is, it’s easy to be in a relationship when people feel secure and happy. That’s when we all hold hands, and cuddle, and it’s when we’ll be generous and watch a movie or show we don’t like, just so we can be near them. Pretty much all of us are good at that. But that’s not what makes a relationship work. A relationship shows its strengths when one or more of the people involved feels insecure. And let’s face it: everyone feels insecure pretty routinely.
How all this manifests in practice is quite simple. Every person presents certain challenges to others. This couple simply knows what each other’s issues are, and they have chosen to accept them. Still, like all couples they will argue. What they have going for them is that they don’t mistake temporary upsets for relationship fatalities. They move past those short-term challenges with complete faith that the person they love is still present—and that they are only masked by short term thinking.
An example of this occurred recently, when she was experiencing a serious case of cold feet. My buddy called me while she was at the peak of her anger. He regretted that he’d teased her for being upset, so now she was extra mad and he was mostly hiding until she calmed down. I could hear her in the background and she had some things that she definitely wanted him to understand. What was so beautiful about the moment was his response. When I asked him how it made him feel relative to his pending wedding, this is what he said:
“Whenever she’s really upset I always ask myself that. Do I really want to be with this person? Do I really want to put up with this for the rest of my life?! But the truth is, every time I ask myself that, I realize that the answer is always Yes. That even when things are the craziest, there’s nowhere I would rather be than with her. There’s no one else’s stuff I would want to deal with like I want to deal with hers. And I just hope she always feels the same way about me, because I know I’m not exactly easy to deal with sometimes. I’m sure when I’m being a jerk she has second thoughts about me too. But as long as those are just temporary, then who cares? Because every time we make it through the harder stuff in life and calm down, what always shows back up is the same feeling that made me fall in love with her in the first place. It was always there. It was just covered up by a bunch of angry thinking. But underneath that, the truth is, I really do want to grow old with her. That’s what I want more than anything. I want to be the best person I can be for her. And if I’m lucky, maybe I’ll still be holding hands with her when we’re 90.”When we’re really young we think our partner is supposed to be the person we’d always imagined being with. That they should like all the things we like, and have all the same priorities we have. But that person is an imaginary person, without their own beliefs, and history and aspirations.
When we’re more mature we realize that everyone is an individual and everyone will present challenges to us as they go their own direction. But if we’re patient and we watch the world closely, we absolutely can find people who will accept us as we are, all while simultaneously helping us to become a better person—not through their instruction—but through their example.
My friends will face the same challenges every couple does, but they face them from a foundation of mutual respect. Rather than wanting their partner to be this way or that way, they appreciate the way they already are. They don’t want to marry some future perfect version of each other. They want to marry the entire person in front of them today. And that level of acceptance comes from the highest order of love.
That kind of loving is absolutely the very best kind to base a marriage on. And I for one look forward to raising a toast at some future anniversary, where we are all old and grey, but where they are still falling in love with each other every single day.
Here’s to love.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.