In honor of Valentine’s Day, I want to talk about this crazy decision I made to get married at age 22. Anyone that has ever really known me was not surprised by that decision—I tend to be motivated by people telling me the odds aren’t in my favor. I went to journalism school after my high school journalism teacher literally said that he wouldn’t advise anyone to choose that profession, and I went on that first date with Charlie after plenty of people warned me to “be careful with that guy.” Slim chances thrill me. Thankfully, so far marriage has been the most rewarding challenge yet.
Putting Charlie and our marriage into words is not easy, but then again neither is putting Charlie into a photo. He tests my patience as a writer and photographer when he groans at the idea of picking up a pen to fill out a simple form, or when he tries to smile for a photo and I have to tickle him so he doesn’t look constipated. But that’s what I’m here for—I tickle him to get one shot that I love, and he reminds me to put the camera down after so that I don’t miss out on what’s happening in front of me. I fill out the forms while he takes over one of my chores to lighten my load. Charlie is the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and I’m quite certain he’s the best thing that ever will happen to me.
Charlie makes me breakfast in bed every Friday morning before work. He started this a few months ago when he asked me what he could do to make me feel loved, and I said that I love breakfast in bed. He puts up with more than he probably should and loves me through all of my many imperfections as a roommate and a wife. He spends most of his free time either reading Christian books, working through his twelve-step program or cleaning our apartment. He dances and sings while he does the dishes. He watches Cartoon Network and laughs with the innocence of an 8-year-old boy. He admits his mistakes as soon as he makes them and refuses to lie, even when it would probably be more polite to do so. If you could see him six years ago, you wouldn’t recognize him today because of the way he turned his life around. Charlie has made me into the best version of myself, even though I don’t have to hide the worst parts of me from him. He’s seen the ugliest sides of me and he somehow loves me anyway—something that I don’t think I’ll ever understand but that I’m eternally grateful for.
There’s something beautiful about knowing that, whatever we both do all day and whatever happens to us, no matter who builds us up or tears us down, we’ll always meet back in our bed to fall asleep next to someone that loves us unconditionally. As a recovering alcoholic (over 4 years sober now, is he a rockstar or what?!), Charlie is busy most nights at recovery meetings or engaging in other forms of community. As a recovering workaholic (sober for approximately zero minutes), I have something scheduled every night of every week, which includes editing photos, freelance design work, meetings for family and friends of addicts as well as seeing my two closest local friends weekly to maintain my sanity. Though the things we do fuel our soul and refresh us, these activities eat up our time and we both care about our sleep almost as much as we care about each other, so we often end up coming home at the end of the day and crawling right into bed to hold hands while we fall asleep (I can hear my father saying, “oh, gag me with a spoon” at that affectionate statement—if you’re anything like him, you’ve probably already stopped reading, but if not, it’s only going to get worse from here). I think the biggest challenge that we weren’t prepared for in marriage is spending intentional time together. Before we lived together, every time we saw each other was purposefully meant for each other; we were each other’s primary focus when we carved out an hour or two of time to see one another on a weeknight. Now, even if we do agree to spend the night in together, we often end up doing chores or other tasks individually rather than spending quality time together. I looked forward to seeing him every day and doing life together, which we certainly do and I’m incredibly grateful for it, but our time together isn’t always as romantic as it used to be when it was completely intentional. These days, I remind myself of how blessed I am to have someone to go to the grocery store with, even though he drives me crazy with how slowly he moves through Wegman’s. These little moments add up to form a marriage filled with imperfections as we learn how to be a wife and a husband.
After the wedding, marriage becomes much less glamorous, but all the more adventurous. We realize that we’re way too young to know what we want in our lives other than to be together, which feels like a great place to start. We don’t know what we want to do about a lot of things, but we know we get to grow up and do it all together, and I’m okay with making the sacrifices necessary for that. Maybe I won’t ever work for a magazine or move out west or any of the other things I thought I wanted before I met Charlie, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that because Charlie is so much better than all of those things. He reminds me of what really matters in this tiny sliver of time we have in this life: family, love, laughter and finding contentment wherever you’ve landed. No job could ever make me as happy as he does, and we both make sacrifices every day to keep the incredible marriage we’ve been blessed with. Though I firmly believe that you can’t rely on someone for your happiness—which I’ve certainly done my fair share of—I think it’s an incredible thing when you’ve found a partner who you want to make sacrifices for, someone who makes those sacrifices feel so small. Charlie doesn’t hold me back from anything, and I hope he feels the same.
We hold each other up and we make decisions together, even when we have polar opposite opinions, which happens more than I’d like to admit. We never scream at each other but we cry a whole lot together. We say things we don’t mean but we work through it by being painfully honest until we’re laughing again. We’re so far from being perfect and yet there’s so little that I would change. We have so much growing to do for each other and marriage is hard, but the seven months we’ve been married have been the best seven months of my life.
And yes, being married does change things, no matter how long you’ve been with the person—the new sense of commitment says, “I’ve chosen you for the rest of my life, for better or worse. I’m in. I’m not going anywhere, I’m not backing out and it’s not going to be easy but it’s going to be worth it.”
To anyone who’s single and somehow made it this far down my stream of consciousness, I hope you’ll wait for someone who makes it easier to get out of bed in the morning. Wait for someone who walks with you through the moments when your imperfections are loudest—someone that stands by you because they know your heart. Wait for someone who stands up for themselves when something feels wrong in the relationship, but who doesn’t pick a fight just because they can.
Charlie, thank you for being that person for me. Thank you for letting me ugly cry when I don’t even know why, and for making me laugh every single day. Thank you for loving me when anyone else would’ve left. Being married to you rocks.