To My Sister on Her Wedding Day

4 Imperatives for a Happy Marriage

Marriage – like all of life’s essential milestones – is both absolutely ordinary and heart-stoppingly exceptional. 
It is so common that young children will often answer “married” when asked what they’d like to be when they grow up. It’s such a staple that in our 20s, many of us rebel against the very idea of it, resolving never to settle ourselves into such restrictions.
Restrictions. Chains. Bonds. The conventionality of marriage – and it’s depressing reputation – fall away when you find the right person.
Suddenly this mundane institution becomes extraordinary.

It is such a gift to find someone who feels both like coming home and being swept away in the same instant. When you find that person whose quirks fit with your own, being married suddenly becomes a right to be fought for, not a restriction. It’s not all rules and hundreds of years of institutional social obligations. 
Committing a lifetime of love to another person is an astonishingly liberating act. 
It frees you to take risks secure in the knowledge that your love has got your back. Your safe harbor travels with you. Your whole world can turn upside down, and yet, with your loved one at your side, all challenges will be overcome. Possibly even met with some grace and enjoyment.
This freedom opens you to a world of adventure.
I use the word adventure loosely. For many of us, it means the prospect of a unique vacation or taking on an unusual hobby. Micah and Andrea have already embarked on dozens of expeditions more exotic than most.
Andrea has always excelled at change and risk-taking, but with Micah at her side, these visits into the unknown seem more fun and less burdensome. At least my sense – from all too far away – has been that the chaos of starting something new is tamed by the fact that she is sharing every inch of it with someone she loves who loves her back.
As Andrea’s big sister, I can celebrate the freeing qualities of marriage with some authority. 
For nearly 20 years Joe and I have been dating – married a few less. We were more or less committed before we had an inkling of what that meant. We’ve been together always.

Over the years, we have both grown and evolved, often initially with a little chaos and disconnect but ultimately together. I can say definitively that sharing life in marriage makes each new experience more deeply savored, at the time and years later as you remember and plan anew the adventures of your past.  
To be honest, even the less enjoyable events become a source of hilarity and conspiratorial bonding down the road….. something you’ll look back on nostalgically, saying things like “remember that time the Ivorian monsoons threatened to wipe out the 10,00 pounds of costco purchases we had sailed over the atlantic?”
I’ll take this one moment in the spotlight to give you my 4 sisterly pieces of marital advice. These little habits will help ensure that yours continues to be that forging, flexible, liberating sort of marriage. 

First…Be still together. 

Stillness is not an easy task in modern life. 
Whether you venture out into nature or snuggle on your sofa, don’t fill every moment with productivity or social engagements or flashy gadgets.

In idleness you’ll find purpose and peace… and each other. In idleness you’ll be able to enjoy the view around you long enough to set your sights on the next mountain to climb.

As a parent I hear a lot about the over-structured lives of children, but us adults too have almost no true free time. Recreation can feel like a second job, building expertise on new hobbies. Even methods of slowing down seem to get competitive. Break away from those pressures and carve out a few moments each day, without phones and without distractions, to just reconnect.

Second… Be kind. 

This may seem silly and obvious, but it bears repeating. Why are we all inclined to overlook or accept flaws in friends but pick on family? Resist the urge to alter where alteration finds, in the words of Shakespeare. The room to change and grow, and risk, requires some kindness, forgiveness, and understanding.

Third… Listen. 

And I mean really listen. Strive to hear more than what your partner is saying, but what he means and what he’s feeling. Strive for understanding. 
Listen for the natural waxing and waning of motivation and creative energies that we all experience. Learn when to help pull each other up and move each other forward as well as when to let one another rest and restore.

In an argument, believe that – almost without exception – the motives of your loved one come from a good place.. Assuming the worst gets you nowhere. Always find a way to move together with compassion.

Finally, my favorite tip…Play together. 

This goes back to my jab at our hyper productivity culture.

Play is not simply joyful. It awakens your creative and problem-solving energies. And it builds strong relationships. Andrea has probably already learned this well from our parents, who always stole a bit of time for golf and the lake, even in the frenzied days of full time farming with three young children.

For Joe and I and our young family of five, we spend time inventing our own goofy backyard games or hunting frogs and animal tracks. I’ve been known to launch a water fight or two. Joe does a mean front flip on the diving board, in line with the other ten-year-olds.

The point is, life gets busy – but don’t let it get too busy or too serious to play. 
Clearly, I enjoyed having a soap box to share some advice with my little sister and my new brother-in-law. It makes me want to recommit to each of these habits as Joe and I head into the next 20 years.
So let me say on behalf of all who have come here today, welcome to marriage. We wish you a lifetime of stillness, kindness, listening, and playing.

We are all so excited to celebrate this freeing bond you’ve made together.

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