Sixteen Years of Marriage


I was terrified of getting married. It’s something I think I’ve discussed here on the blog before, but it bears repeating. My parents had divorced when I was young, and it really threw me for a loop. It was no fun at all, and I wanted to do everything I could to ensure I spared my kids from having to go through that. But how in the world could I know the person I was marrying was the *right* person?

I’m a planner, and so I had come up with lots of different plans to be certain. I would have to know the girl for at least a year. Probably more like five. We’d date for a long time, and I’d want to get to know her in all sorts of situations. I’d want to meet her parents. See where she grew up. Have many long conversations about everything under the sun. I’d want to date widely, so that I had as much experience with different personalities that I could. What if I met someone after I got married that I ended up being better matched with?

There was just no way to know. I was convinced of that. It’s why I went on so many dates after I got back from the Jerusalem Center. There was one girl I thought I’d end up marrying. That had been the plan, at least. I’d known her for years. All the dates were just there to make 100% sure I knew what I was doing.

And then I went on the first date Denisa, and all those plans went out the window.

Our first date was November 4, 2000. We were secretly engaged by New Years. We eloped April 25, 2001, less than 6 months after that first date. I hadn’t met her family. I hadn’t even been to her home country before, let alone her home city. We’d had plenty of discussions, but as for knowing and seeing her in tons of different situations? I didn’t have any of that.

Anyone who’s met Denisa obviously knows why that all got forgotten. When you meet someone like that and discover she’s actually in love with you back, you’d be certifiably insane to let her get away. And when I look back at 16 years of marriage, I realize how little all my planning really would have come to.

So much of marriage is about adaptation. Encountering surprises and changing. Parenting adds a whole new dimension. The big takeaway is you aren’t marrying that person for eternity. That person will change. You will change. Marrying, in my experience, turns you and your spouse into something else. You are no longer the single version of you. You’re a team. I don’t mean that in any sort of creepy way. I don’t mean you give up your individuality or anything like that. But your priorities change. Your definition of success changes. You could plan for all the different situations that might come up in life, but in the end, all those plans don’t amount to much, because you realize how little you knew at the time.

I was 22 when I got married. I had no idea the sort of challenges that would end up facing us. Family passing away. Career plans drastically changing. Figuring out that whole “parenting” thing. Moving states. I get a real kick out of the thought that I could plan for all of that when I was that young. I don’t think I could plan for all of it now, even with 16 years of experience under my belt. And as time goes on and I see how much still lies in store for us, it would be even more daunting. As I see my parents and friends deal with changes and tragedies and blessings and more, it just shows me how little I know, even now.

If I knew what being married was really like, I think the younger version of me would have been even more terrified. Overwhelmed. But even knowing all of that, I think that younger version of me would still have jumped at the chance to marry Denisa. Sometimes great ideas just glow with how wonderful they are. By far the best decision I have ever made in my life was to ask Denisa on that first date. Everything else changed because of that.

Happy anniversary, Denisa. I love you.

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