Marriage is hard. People love to tell newlyweds this. It really bothered me to hear it, ad nauseum, for two reasons: first of all, because anyone who says this in response to two people striving for hope and happiness together is a cynical turd. And secondly, it nagged at me that there was truth in it. It’s no secret that most marriages are a mess. But as people told me so, over and over, no one could give me a sufficient explanation as to why marriage would be so hard. Or why marriage should change anything at all. Why would one day—this day, a ceremony and a certificate—alter anything about the relationship you’ve known for the past eight years?
You choose to marry, and then, other than a few miles of red tape, all that holds you together is a promise. And that promise—to stay beside one person no matter what life brings, when what life brings is so often chaos and sadness, and we are constantly evolving animals full of secrets and hurts and wants that we can barely even recognize most of the time—that promise should be impossible. At its best times, your marriage will represent every solid, grateful choice you’ve ever made. But there will be worst times. And in the worst times, the promise will seem silly and naive, practically imaginary.
We’re scared to build a home with the person we love only to look up and find that we’re not enough. That we’re too broken or too selfish. So we scramble to hide feelings or troubles or crazy hopes in order to shelter the marriage, preserve the marriage, keep the marriage safe. And we hide ourselves until we’re far from one another, far from our friend. But life also brings opportunities for forgiveness and sweetness and light. And the opportunity to choose your family, to make someone else your blood, is one of the sweetest we can know.
Katie and Mike, I, and every person here—we know your incredible friendship, have seen each of you through the eyes of the other, watch how you take care of one another. Your fondness is enough, because it will hold you to your friend. It will make you capable of keeping an impossible promise. Your marriage will change you and your relationship in untold ways—let it. You don't need to be simple to be loved. You don’t need to be sheltered to be safe. Let the hard feelings and wounds and wants exist in yourselves and in one another, and your marriage will keep you both, just as you promised, in the open air and light.
--My speech at the wedding ceremony of two friends last weekend, May 25, 2013.