You're agreeing to have your actions, decisions, and dysfunctions deeply affect another human being.
Dear Pre-Married Self:
Sweet girl, you have no f*cking idea what you're doing. (It's OK. I'm doubtful that anyone really does.)
You're about to say the vows you're told to say. You'll go through the motions you legally have to go through. You'll have glints of optimism in your eye as you take that man's hands and promise to love him in sickness or health, in good times or bad. And you'll mean it.
But you should know the truth: Marriage isn't just a commitment, it's a responsibility. You're agreeing to have your actions, decisions, and dysfunctions deeply affect another human being.
If you get sick, that other person will be affected. He'll not only help pay medical expenses, but he'll stand by your bedside. He'll cry, he'll worry; your life and death will so deeply affect the trajectory of this other person's life.
And you're not just promising to act responsibly toward this other person's feelings and life but you're promising to do that through all evolutions, no matter what comes. No matter the demons in your past, no matter the stresses and burdens of life.
You will not only live your life for yourself, but you're promising to live in a way that causes the least amount of pain and damage to your partner. You're promising to be kind, to consider another person before just yourself. And not in a self-sacrificial way — you must also take care of yourself — but because that's what it means to love.
That's a very big responsibility. Are you ready to accept it?
On the other hand, marriage is an intense vulnerability. You'll leave yourself open to be affected so deeply by another flawed human being — a human with dysfunctions and past trauma that you had no part of and can, in no way, fix. You will never change him.
Can you accept him exactly as he is, right in this moment? Are you prepared to establish your boundaries and define your dealbreaker standards? Can you continue to love yourself while loving him?
Marriage is a push and a pull, a clumsy dance between the two. And sometimes you'll act irresponsible; you'll cave under the weight of vulnerability. You'll act cowardly and sh*tty. And sometimes, if you look deep enough, you can find a space for forgiveness and growth and self-awareness.
Your marriage will be a profound way to learn and practice serving something outside of yourself. Think of it like a third entity in the house: a living, breathing thing that needs nourishment and attention. Like a dog. Or a plant. Or a child.
You'll have a chance to intimately know another non-related human in a way that no other relationship allows. You'll observe his patterns and behaviors from the outside and see a version of yourself mirrored back. You won't always like what you see.
Marriage is a full-blown life experience. It's not simple or concrete. There's no way to predict the struggles and heartaches and stumbling your relationship will take through the years, even if you try really hard and do all the things right.
If there's one thing I've learned, it's that all married couples have their distinct scent of sh*t. They might be different, but they stink up the house just the same. It's unavoidable. Can you accept that?
Marriage is not a fairytale, it's a choice. An opportunity. A learning experience. It won't solve all of your problems. In fact, it'll probably keep you up some nights, wondering if the bullcrap is worth the commitment. And you know what? Maybe one day it won't be.
Maybe one day you'll realize that your partner isn't just sharing your life but consuming it. Maybe you'll start suffocating and shrinking, rather than growing. Maybe one day it'll be time to let the marriage go.
I can't tell you what will happen. But keep being curious. Keep being loving. And keep paying attention. Even if the marriage doesn't last forever (I'm not sure all are meant to), make sure you learn a little something along the way.
And no matter what happens, I've got you. You'll be just fine.