Today is my parents’ 32nd wedding anniversary. They’ve been through hell and back and are not only still together, but have also managed to stay in love. How? By choosing each other every day. Like my religion teacher from high school used to say:
“Love is not a feeling. It’s a decision, an act of the will. Love is what takes over when the feelings fail, when the one you love is not even likeable.”
My brother and I are very lucky to have been raised in a home that taught us the value of commitment. Ralf was also raised in a similar environment, with his parents being married for over 35 years. We had wonderful examples of what marriage is really about. Although the past few months have shown me that life is completely unpredictable, I wholeheartedly believe that Ralf and I would have made it. That if his health had permitted, we would have celebrated our 10th, and 20th, and 30th wedding anniversaries. That we would have grown old together. I think those that really knew us as a couple would have bet on us too. The fact that I’ll never know for sure how it would have all turned out really hurts. I obviously wasn’t expecting my current reality. But even if I’d known that I would be here now, I would not trade or change a single moment I shared with him. The love Ralf showed me, even if just for a moment in time, is worth all the pain in the world.
Ralf and I both agreed that marriage was serious – not something two people should “try out” and “see what happens”. We believed in doing whatever it took to work through the tough times. Like Father Bob said during the homily of our wedding mass, the hard moments are the ones that call for you to remember the vows you made to each other. Not the easy days – on those days, both individuals would have probably stuck around anyway. Your vows serve to remind you of all the reasons why you should stay and fight for one another when it would be easier to throw in the towel and leave. Now, I can’t be so naive as to deny that there are some instances where all hope is gone, where all avenues of compromise and reconciliation have been exhausted, where there is just too much hurt and too much to forgive. That’s why marriage and falling in love in general is so damn terrifying. No matter how much you believe in commitment, unconditional love, and making it work regardless of the circumstances, there are no guarantees. To truly open your heart to someone, to be vulnerable, is to take a tremendous leap of faith. We never know for sure how the story will end, but if we run from uncertainty we can miss out on SO much.
On our last wedding anniversary, I was four months pregnant. In my card to Ralf, I told him how blessed I felt that not only would our son grow up with an amazing man to look up to, but also a beautiful example of how a husband should cherish his wife. It breaks my heart to think that Mason may live through his childhood without witnessing what devotion within a marriage should look like. That’s why I pray that God will lead me to another man who I can share a special love with. A man who is not out to replace Ralf as my husband or as Mason’s dad. Instead, a man who can help me grow an even bigger heart that can accommodate even more love. A genuine love. A love that my son can learn from and look up to. A friend of mine recently told me, “Love does not divide. It multiplies.” How beautiful is that? Our hearts are capable of infinite amounts of love – we just have to be willing to take the necessary risks.
Happy anniversary to the two people who showed me that love means highlighting each other’s talents, accepting each other’s flaws, and taking huge risks to reap even bigger rewards. May you have many more together!