Why I'm happy my marriage isn't perfect
On November 11, 2015, Sam and I got up before sunrise and took a walk through our DC neighborhood at the time, Columbia Heights, which sits atop the district.
As we watched the world below us wake up, we quietly whispered vows. When we eventually reached the hilly peak of the view, we said “I do” as the sun rose.
In our jeans and sweaters, we completed our early morning nuptial walk with a latte and a bagel from our neighborhood spot. And came back home to sign our marriage certificate all before 7am.
It was a Wednesday and we were married.
For the first few months, we kept it our own private secret, which gave us some time and space to settle in as husband and wife, before we even thought about planning a wedding.
By the time August 27, 2016 rolled around, when we took another “walk down the aisle” to meet our nearest and dearest friends and family gathered together on the water’s edge to witness our public exchange of vows, we’d already been married for 9 and a half months.
Among other things, that certainly took the pressure off!
A wedding lasts a day. A marriage is grown over a lifetime.
Today, 3 years after our wedding celebration and nearly 4 years into our marriage, I can say with confidence: my marriage isn’t perfect.
And here’s why I’m grateful it’s not.
First of all, I understand the allure of perfection. It’s clean, it’s non-negotiable, it seems like something you can achieve or accomplish and then hang on the wall alongside pictures from your (perfect?) wedding day.
But as far as I can tell a few years in, my marriage is a living, breathing thing. And “perfect” is far too small a container to hold it all.
Perfection implies solidity and form. But marriage seems to me to be fluid and always moving.
Like the inhale dissolving into the exhale and the exhale swelling back up to the fullness of the next breath in. A generative and nourishing, continuous cycle of respiration.
Perfection feels more like holding your breath.
Perfection implies a finished product.
But so far, it seems my marriage is the work of a lifetime of days. (In fact, the engraving etched on the inside of our wedding rings reads “everyday”).
The dailyness of this work is not unlike our yoga and meditation practices.
And in fact, “practice” feels like much more of an appropriate metaphor for this marriage.
A practice invites daily devotion. The requirement of participation. Attention, of course. Patience most days. Showing up, no matter the internal weather or external circumstances. Which teaches a kind of steadfastness and loyalty that marriage most certainly requires. And nurtures a sense of equanimity, as life rises and falls like waves we do our best to surf.
Oh, and those shapes we make with our bodies on sticky mats — the yoga poses. Well, those give me regular practice of strength and flexibility. Turns out, both are required in a marriage too.
Needless to say, each of us supports the other’s daily spiritual practice (yoga, meditation, breathing, movement, contemplation, reflective reading), because it has such a profound impact and direct relationship to the practice of our marriage.
So I’ve got no guaranteed formula. As far as I can tell, there’s no “3-Steps to the Perfect Wedding Cake” recipe for marriage. And if there was, I probably wouldn’t be interested in reading it.
Because releasing myself from the narrow confines of a perfect anything invites in a sense of so much more possibility.
So, here’s what I got —
Be wildly devoted. Give your whole self to it. Answer the call again and again and again. And that is how I know best to practice love in a marriage, everyday.
xo Cath (& Sam :))
p.s. — Here are a few pictures from that joyous (and imperfect ;)) day — in case you’d like to see. (Thanks to the beautiful Addy Burr for these). Also, for those who are interested, some dear friends shared readings at our wedding including an excerpt from Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love called “The Age of Silence,” “A Blessing for Marriage” by John O’Donahue, and e.e. cumming’s [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in].
p.s. — For a special preview of what a daily practice could nourish and support in your life this Fall, click here.