Joshua, today you are getting married. I am ridiculously happy for you and proud of the man you have become. I know throughout your life it was probably a big pain to have three extra “mothers” and a bit embarrassing to have sisters so much older than yourself. As oldest big sister, I have one last bit of advice before you launch off into your own life as a married man. I have been thinking a lot about five things I learned while being married to Paul.
Overlook your differences because as two individual adults, you are going to have things you do differently. Early on in your marriage, things like which way the toilet paper roll is placed on the dispenser, won’t really bother you but after a year, it might. How Carrie loads the dishwasher, irons your clothes, or whether she leaves a trail of clothes from the bedroom to the bathroom, these things are really not a big deal. Paul called these “foibles,” the little quirks of our personalities. I decided early on in our marriage I wasn’t going to point our his faults because I did not want my many faults pointed out to me. He loaded the dishwasher in a way that seemed a completely inefficient use of space. But you know what? He was loading the dishwasher so I kept my mouth shut about it and resisted the urge to go behind him and re-do his work because I wanted him to continue to want to load the dishwasher for me. If I criticized how he did something he was doing for me as an act of kindness or service, he wouldn’t want to do nice things for me in the future. Let your wife do the things she is willing to do in her own way. It is her gift to you to do little things she knows will help you out and make you happy.
Never stop dating. You can be newlyweds forever. The first couple of years of marriage is a time of constant growth and learning about how to do life with your wife. That process can continue your whole married life if you are constantly seeking to grow as individuals and as a couple. Paul and I had only one really rough patch in our 11.5 years of marriage, right about year 10. We had adopted four kids in five and a half years and we forgot to make our marriage a priority. We didn’t keep our weekly date night. Date night from year one was absolutely non-negotiable. It happened every single week. Except after our fourth adoption when we felt we were too broke to hire a babysitter or we were just too busy with kids. We went through a stretch where it seemed like we were roommates and not a married couple. It was horrible because we forgot the importance of being a couple and not just parents. Once we re-instated the priority of date night, the strain in our marriage lifted. Date night doesn’t have to involve expensive outings. A lot of times, our date night involved going out for a bike ride together, walking along the river, or cooking a nice meal together. The only really important rule of date night is you show up, and you spend time talking about your day/week and listening to Carrie share hers.
Marriage is not 50/50. Let me repeat that: marriage is not 50/50. Marriage is 100/100. You have to go all in. In reality, there will be times when you feel you are giving more because Carrie’s 100% that she is able to give doesn’t seem like 100%, but there will be other times when your 100% effort will likely feel less than Carrie’s and she will take up the slack for you. Marriage is learning to sacrifice when you need to sacrifice, to give more generously than you ever imagined, and it will be the hardest work you have ever done, but will reward you more than you will ever imagine.
Pray with each other daily. You really can’t hope to accomplish the above without praying for each other. In the Catholic Church, marriage is a sacrament and a vocation. It is entered into with the cooperation and help of God. One of the purposes of marriage is for you to help each other get to Heaven. To that end, sometime during the day, take time to pray. Paul and I chose right before we went to sleep for the night. The side benefit of this time was it helped us to work out any anger we had before we could pray. Have you ever tried to pray with someone you are mad at? It doesn’t work. But whatever fits into your day, your marriage, make the time to pray to ask God for his help to make you the best husband you can be. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It might feel strange at first to pray out loud with each other (it did for me to pray with Paul), but eventually it will become as easy as breathing. Ask for God’s blessing on each other, and for the strength to be a good husband (and eventually a good father).
Choose love each day. Just as we as Christians wake up each day and choose Christ, each day you should wake up and choose to love Carrie. This might seem like a ridiculously easy task right now because you are hopelessly head-over-heels in love, but there might just come a day when you aren’t so lovable or you don’t “feel” in love with Carrie. Make the choice every single day to say “I choose love. I choose Carrie.” Choosing love will make it easier to get through whatever trials you face together, and believe me there will be trials. I always say, “Paul wasn’t perfect, I am not perfect, but we were perfect together.” It was because we chose love.
I love you so much Bubs! I am so excited for you to begin your life as a husband and to have Carrie join our family. It’s true what people said, you have never been happier. I have seen the goodness that Carrie brings out in you and how this has helped you grow as a man. Let the adventures begin!!! xoxo