Gretchen L. Kelly, Author

I Had No Idea What I Was Getting Into When I Got Married

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I thought I wasn’t the marrying type. The relationship type? Yes. But marriage is so… permanent. Long. Endless. Boring.       

I used to lay on the floor for hours, headphones on, music turned up. I would daydream and imagine my future. I pictured a life of work combined with creativity. With love that came with no contract. I wasn’t like everyone else, I thought. Boredom came too quickly to me and I could not imagine enduring a lifetime in a relationship out of obligation.

I told myself I would be independent and strong. I would make decisions about my life without consultation and without negotiation. Be my own person. And if a man captured my heart and wanted to walk through any part of life with me, he would have to play by my rules.

Yes, I had it all figured out.

Then I met him.

Our meeting was prophetic. I turned to look over my shoulder, saw him, and walked right into a wall. I stuttered an awkward hello as I rubbed my offended forehead. Introductions were made, pleasantries were exchanged, and I scurried off as soon as I could.

Months passed with small talk in the office, text messages sent in purely professional language. There was an energy between us that I refused to acknowledge or admit.

Then things changed. He asked me out. I said yes in spite of myself. I told myself it was just a date. It didn’t mean my plans were off track. It didn’t mean anything more than a nice evening with a nice guy. But even as I was telling myself that I knew it was a lie.

Everything changed. I fell in love. We fell in love. It was quick and intense and undeniable. It was nothing either of us had ever experienced. We marveled at how little control we had over what was happening to both of us.

I knew right away I would marry him.

Just like that, my life plans changed.

Just like that, the picture in my head of my future was a completely different picture. There was a house and kids and maybe a dog. It was everything I always thought I didn’t want.

And now I wanted it so bad I could taste it.

That was 19 years ago. I got the marriage. The three kids. The house. A dog.

Is it what I thought it would be? No.

There have been bumps in roads and curve balls thrown and surprises around corners. There have been many walls that have been run into head first.

There have been fights. And pain. And frustration.

But there’s also been comfort. The comfort of knowing we are both in this. The comfort of reaching out and knowing his hand will always be there. Of knowing that I can lay my head on his ready shoulder. That I can go to him for his advice and I will receive the unvarnished truth. That there’s someone there who is willing and happy to walk through life with me.

There’s been helping each other through loss. Lifting each other up when life knocks us down. There’s been stress that’s been carried by two sets of shoulders instead of one.

There’s been passion and laughter and love.

Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I had no idea what it would be like. All I knew was I was marrying the man I loved. I hoped and prayed that the rest would fall into place. People were full of advice, as is custom when young people get married. But looking back, there’s no way anyone can fully prepare you.

I couldn’t have possibly understood what it is for two lives to come together. To navigate all of the needs and curves of another person’s life and dreams and desires. To understand all of the life experiences that make and shape a person. That marrying someone meant marrying their past and their experiences and all of the things that influence them.

I couldn’t have known that the fights would be bigger because there would be more at stake. That hurts would run deeper. That the struggle to understand what truly lies behind every misspoken word would be the key to having less misunderstandings.

I couldn’t have known that it would mean digging into my own past. That all of my life experiences, my hurts and fears and expectations would hitch a ride to my new future. That my issues would bump up against my marriage and leave it bruised at times. I had no inkling of the depth of humility and willingness to learn and change that would be crucial to staying connected.

I didn’t know that through the years, you would negotiate and make concessions. That marriage is built on compromise. That to not do this would leave a marriage bitter and lifeless. But to engage in the act of compromise, to do it honestly and whole heartedly would make a marriage healthier and happier.

I couldn’t have imagined that the love that you started with? The love that kept you up talking to each other all night and walking around in a state of blissful exhaustion? That it would grow. That you would find yourself wanting to share good news with him first. That bad news sent you running to him for comfort.

That you would still get butterflies when he walked in the door.

That the deep connection and the years of getting to know each other’s intricacies and nuances would nestle deep into your bones and become a part of you.

That there’s a warmth and comfort in all that hard work but that it’s never too comfortable. That complacency or apathy will kill the passion and dull the life you’ve built together. And you will fight to keep that from happening.

I thought being alone would prove I was brave. I thought independence meant not tethering my life to another’s. I thought getting married would inhibit me and stifle me.

It didn’t. I’m still me.

I’m more me than I was before I ran into that wall so many years ago.

Giving up all of my plans of wild child, against the grain freedom and independence took me to far more adventurous places. Living a life on my own terms? There’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s not a badge of honor I needed to wear. Living a life on our terms means  advocating for my own needs while taking into account his. There’s a glorious beauty in that. It’s a hard won challenge to stay wholly intact while becoming a part of something bigger. A feat of honesty to oneself and dedication to each other.

Easy? No. No one said it would be easy. I  know there will be many more walls that will be run into head first. Maybe that’s what marriage is… knowing you will run into a wall and agreeing to do it. To know it won’t be easy.

That’s ok. I never liked easy anyways.

Easy is boring.











38 Responses

  1. I really liked this post. I had the wanting and desire to be happily married to the man I loved, and the wanting and willingness to communicate and struggle through the ups and downs. His alcoholism got in the way. I had to give up the partnership in order to save myself. Sometimes it makes me sad. Our daughter is beautiful. And she is strong because of the paths we took. I hope and believe she learned enough to have better relationships than I. The bond between her and me is very, very strong and we communicate beautifully. And this is where I am, alone but happy now.

    Sent from my iPad


    1. It’s heart breaking when both people can’t or aren’t able to do all that needs to be done to keep a marriage together. It is hard in the best of circumstances. It sounds like you’ve found a place of peace and happiness. Your daughter sounds very lucky to have you. <3

  2. Simply beautiful. I’m two years married and, although I haven’t forgotten it, your post reminded me of how lucky I am. Easy is boring, but even the easy days are exciting and full of life. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you! I do too. I think finding someone who’s willing to work hard at marriage is a real important part of it. And to work on themselves. I don’t know anyone in a long marriage who hasn’t had to change and evolve.

  3. Very interesting essay. Enjoyed reading it. I’ve been divorced 28 years now, and haven’t been able to visualize myself married again. I’m socially engaged and happy. I wonder sometimes…”Why in the world would I want to change this?” But I’m open to possibilities. I’m convinced that one way or another, all is well. Thanks for a great article!

  4. Your marriage story seems to start as my life is gong on right now
    I want to be alone and free..but who knows?
    Your love story is beautiful, and your post touches my heart
    (Sorry for the previous comment, computer is crazy and sends before I want to!)

    1. My advice would be to enjoy where you are right now and try not to over think it. If a new romance is thwarting your plans, you’ll know soon enough if it’s worth it. Good luck and thank you for your kind words. <3

  5. I totally get the free spirited dream of being beholden to no one. Marriage has been the most humbling experience I’ve ever known, and the most challenging. 🙂 I loved this, it was a lovely thing to read in all the negativity swirling around us. <3

  6. AMAZING article. I usually skim through long articles online because I have a huge monitor and it’s hard on the eyes, this, however, wasn’t. An inspirational article. I am married myself, not much, 3 years, but reading this I know how true all this is. Though I don’t think about hitting walls, rather handfuls of salt. There is this saying in ex-Yugoslavia (where I come from) marriage is about the cargo bags of salt you accumulate through the years. The good, but especially the bad, is precious salt that we have. I hope 16 years from now I will be able to say all that you have here. Thank you for a beautiful piece of writing.

    1. Wow. Thank you. For you to say it didn’t feel too long is HUGE for me. Being too wordy is my biggest obstacle as a writer. I love the bags of salt metaphor, that is so much more poetic than running into walls. 🙂

  7. Well, I have tears sparkling the corners of my eyes as I write this, not just because it’s wonderfully and gloriously written, and SO right…but because with all of the things you’ve committed to doing for your husband, for all the ways you’re willing to compromise and explore and dig deep and change, for all the adventures you’re prepared to take, and the challenges and hardships you’ve agreed to face…you’ve found someone who is willing to do all those things for YOU, too.

    THAT is worth marriage.

    THAT is life, well lived. And I’m thrilled for both of you.

    1. Aw, my sweet Lizzi. I love your heart. The true beauty in a marriage is when both people are willing to do the work, do whatever it takes. Whether you ever marry again or not, I hope- I know- you will find someone who sees the beautiful soul you are and will go to the ends of the earth to love you. <3

    1. Your comment is chilling. Because you are so right. People can change and not always for the better. And sometimes people let things come between them and what matters most. I am so sorry you are going through this. It makes me sad and angry at the same time. I’m just so sorry. *hugs*

  8. A lovely tribute and profession. 🙂 I feel the same about my own partner, even only after five years of “officially” being together. The hurdles are harder, but they mean more, and as my own partner has told me countless times, maybe it doesn’t work as well when you’re facing each other all the time… but it works very well when you’re holding hands and facing the same direction. <3 Great post for Valentine's week. 🙂

  9. Oh, Gretch. This is so simply beautiful, and I feel as though I’ve walked a mile with your heart. Now let’s figure out how we can bring you and your sweet family to Texas permanently.

  10. I went through hell and back with my husband. He toured Afghanistan 3 times, and he never came back the same. I tried for 2 Years to live life by his standards. It didn’t work out. He became so different, and almost like a stranger that I finally said that our marriage was over. I’m now with my best friend, we met a long time ago. (18 years ago) and my daughter and I are very happy with him. My ex is doing well with his new woman in his life, and she seems really nice! I’m just glad that we finally found our way through all of this mess that war can bring. Peace and love, Tammy. 🙂

  11. I have been married 2 years, been with my wife 6 years. Yes; marriage gets boring sometimes but when two hearts are joined together with lot’s of love, that boring time becomes amusement to the soul. I LOVE HER always. Good Luck in your marriage…

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  13. Gretchen:
    I’ve enjoyed a few of your pieces so far, but this particular one resonated with me. Not so much for me, but for my wife. She didn’t have a lot of experiences with men before we met and I think planned to enjoy herself for a bit, but we met and the rest is history. Not that you need affirmation from me, but as a fellow writer I really appreciate your style. It isn’t easy to write with emotion. It’s an intangible quality, but you have it.

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