"If I get married, I want to be very married."
- Audrey Hepburn
15 years ago today, my parents escorted me to a sun-dappled clearing in the woods to meet Kurt and his parents at an altar he and I had built together. I was not transferred like property: I partnered with this man, and our union joined our families together, with the support and celebration of 150 dear friends and family from across the country.
Today I feel - to paraphrase Audrey Hepburn - very married. In a better way than I could've imagined 15 years ago.
I wish it weren't such a big deal to have "made it" this long -- as if creating lasting love were an elimination challenge where you're destined to fall, sooner or later! -- but people continually remark on how well we're doing and how long our marriage has been. I do hope we're just getting started, but I also know we've learned enough to send some notes back through time to the man and woman we've been at different stages.
Anniversary Notes To Younger Selves
To that woman on her wedding day:
Keep the idealism of these vows and the love of these friends and family members close to your heart. They will feed you through difficult times and they will keep your vision lofty, the way it ought to be.
To that man on his wedding day:
You haven't been conditioned to or trained in how to live with someone and stay in love, how to stoke desire in a woman who hasn't slept in nine months, how to want what you already have. But you've just enrolled in the school that can teach you how. Enjoy every lesson.
To that woman who wanted to leave (so many times!):
This is where the learning is. This is where the healing is. This is where the love is. Stick it out. Stay with yourself, and also with him. I know it feels like you have to choose between the two. Find the paradox, find the magic. Surrender. Yes, again! And again. Not to him; to love. To your calling to be bigger, wider, more receptive, more sage. You'll see: it'll be so worthwhile.
To that woman who stayed by resigning herself to not feeling desired, to not experiencing the pleasure she dreamed of:
Baby, don't give up on you. But don't give up on this relationship either. I know it's terrifying to name it. I know it feels humiliating to have to ASK to be wanted. I know you think this must mean something is broken in you or in him. But neither is true. You came up in confusing times, in a culture that fears sexuality and holds marriage as a prison, and your desire is to know marriage as freedom and sensual connection as an expression of your lifelong love. That's utterly radical, silly as that seems. And you can do it. Just stick with it, keep bringing your truth and your sensation and your love.
To that man who procrastinated and resisted crossing the intimacy gulf, yet tried so hard, so many times:
Stick with it, man. She's calling you toward a better place. One day you'll know that this is YOUR path you're on; not the path of placating her or "not losing her." This is who you came here to become: confident, potent, self-expressive, and rooted in your power. Don't be afraid of that; trust it.
To the woman who remembered her feminine power and honored her needs (without leaving):
You're doing this. I know you can't see what I can see from here, but you are not only revolutionizing your own home, but creating a way forward for thousands of other couples. Monogamy CAN be the hottest place on earth. Your dream is not silly or self-absorbed. Stick with it. And take good notes!
To the man who stepped forward and held his wife and learned to handle her:
You're doing this. I know you can't see what I can see from here, but you are not only revolutionizing your own home, but creating a way forward for thousands of other couples. Men have been taught this set of mixed messages that don't serve them well, but you're straightening out the threads for yourself to create a life and a marriage that work for YOU, even if you've never seen their kind before. Stick with it. And take good notes!
To my beloved today:
Thank you. 15 years is just the beginning, I hope. I love you. I know I am a constant challenge, but I trust I am also a constant comfort and celebration. You are a perpetual marvel. The way you protect us and provide for us, the way you hold and pleasure me, body, mind, and spirit… You are the man I married, in every good way, and you are twice that man, in ways neither of us could've anticipated. I feel so blessed and so grateful and so in love.
And to you, dear reader and lover of love, today, our 15th anniversary:
Thank you for being along for the journey, for loving love as much as I do, and for giving love your best and letting love give all the best back to you. Keep asking a lot of love, of yourself, and of your beloved. I know it pays off.