"The Married Couple Chronicles" (Lessons Learned about Marriage)

[Chapter One] Marital Status: Please Mark One
Do we look like a “married couple” yet?

Disclaimer: This post is largely copy/pasted from a Facebook note I wrote just a few days after returning from our honeymoon back in 2009.  I’m editing/adding to it in hopes to document what I have learned now that we are more than 4 years into this thing called “marriage”.  As I have stated when I first wrote these words, I do not claim in any way that this post is applicable to the general married couple population. By no means will I EVER claim any sort of reliability or validity in the statements made below. This post is the result of simple Q&A sessions with close friends as well as general observations, so PLEASE do not take it as “fact” in any form or fashion.

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In the years after the first of my friends (that’s right…MY friends…NOT my parents’ friends) began to get married, I took some time taking a poll on the following question…

At what point do you go from feeling like a single person to a married person? 

Of course, as with many other questions, the answers have been as different as the couples that give them. I’ve heard everything from “as we said our vows at the altar” (very rare) to “at the honeymoon” (more frequent).

On May 30, 2009, when I myself had taken on a husband and the title of “wife”, I brought my Q&A to an end with a rundown of my findings and then my own response and thoughts. The “research” (and I use the term VERY loosely) I had done had covered a large spectrum of couples, from the newlyweds (defined as no more than two or three weeks into marriage), newly married couples (defined as up to 5 years of marriage), and the married couples (defined as any couple that has been married more than 5 years).

What I found (unsurprisingly) was that, while each couple had their own stories to tell (no two relationships are alike), there was a running trend of couples who did not fully realize their “married” status until well into their new relationship. Some, it took a couple days after the “I Do’s”. Others, it took several weeks, even MONTHS (no one I spoke to went into the “years” category) to finally fully realize their new marital status.

So are there some trends to this discrepancy?

The first trend observed from my conversation with couples was the extent of time that the couple had dated/were engaged before taking “the plunge”. Couples who had dated a shorter period of time were more likely to notice a drastic change between “dating” and “married”.  For some, this resulted in a shorter lag time (anywhere from a few minutes to a few days) between altar and shift in thinking.  On the other hand, couples who had dated for longer periods seemed to take a few days longer to feel the effects of the “wedding day”. For example, the shocker did not hit one couple who had dated/were engaged for a little over a year until they arrived at their honeymoon!!

At the same time, there were too many conversations with couples that also did not fit into this trend.  There were many short-term dating couples who took a long time to feel the effects of the vows.  A good number of couples who dated for YEARS had no problem quickly shifting from the two paradigms of thought.

The second observed trend was the age of the couple. This factor actually seemed to have one of two effects. First, age could have acted as a deterrent for the shift in that younger couples were still in the “we want to have fun” mindset while the older couple was ready to move on and take on their “married” status with gusto. The second (funny enough) had a completely OPPOSITE effect, where the older couple had more time to BE single, which made the breaking out of that status more difficult while younger couples were less likely to have settled into “single” mode and more readily be able to accept married life.

So in concluding my “research”, it was determined that  no amount of data can be collected to answer this question empirically – there is no way to prove that there is any particular moment in time that one finally feels married.  There are no patterns to be found to explain how this phenomenon occurs either.  For every married person (notice I said person, not couple…that was intentional), there will be another unique story behind how they went from feeling “single” to feeling “married”.  So while I can make all of the assumptions I want from the limited (and extremely biased) data I collected, I know I will never be able to give you a defined, standard response.

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So what about me?  What does my own experience tell me?

When I originally wrote this, one week and two days after InChul/Tyler and I were married, the fact that we were “husband and wife” had not fully sunk in for us yet. Having dated and been engaged for over 6 years and 7 months before officially tying the knot, we considered this could have been due to the normalcy of us being “together” that made the shift so slow. Of course, we considered that this could also have been because we were yet to be faced with the realities of marriage (since we had been in Jamaica until just 9 days before, with so little time to adjust to our new “normal life”).

But it was that morning that the “new normal” began to surprise me with some of the smallest, seemingly insignificant changes in my life.  I had woken up early with InChul/Tyler that morning (I’m talking like 5:30AM or some other absurd hour of the day – especially considering it was in the middle of my SUMMER VACATION) to make sure he was fully prepared for the long day ahead.  This was probably the first real wake up call for me that life was going to be different from here on out.  With a list of errands to attack for the day, I took those first steps of my journey on finding out what being a “housewife” really meant.

Since that first brush with domesticity, the next four plus years of marriage has slowly eased me through the process of going from “marital status: SINGLE” to “marital status: MARRIED”.  I cannot pinpoint the moment when I felt that we were “married” because…it sort of sneaked up on us.  Day to day, being in each others’ lives constantly (because we WANT to be in each others’ lives constantly), we became each others’ lives.  And becoming each others’ lives comes with many lessons for us “from SINGLE to suddenly MARRIED” people to learn.  Such lessons includes…

  1. The wedding day does not mark the end of all of your relational woes…it is simply the beginning of a whole new set of relationship lessons you must learn (or learn to cope with, anyway).
  2. To love someone is not a feeling.  To love is a CHOICE one makes everyday (no matter how much the other person bugs you with his dirty laundry strewn all over the bathroom floor…ew!).
  3. The life decisions of one person will alter the future path of both individuals (Welcome to Michigan…wait, WHAT?  WHERE?).
  4. Supporting your spouse may very well mean sacrificing your own desires and life plans (I WANT MY SUMMER BREAKS BACK, PLEASE!!).
  5. “Wow…I really do love this guy/girl,” becomes less shocking as time goes by…but more true at the same time (which is in and of itself shocking…how does THAT make sense?).

So no…I don’t know when I finally started to truly identify with the little check mark next to the “Married” box on a countless number of documents.  In fact, there are still moments to this day that I have to do a double take before marking the correct marital status box.  But apparently somewhere along the way, “you and me” became “we”…and “we” are the new normal.  Now, I can’t imagine life without him.  It’s different…but it’s nice…VERY nice.

Oh…and that word “husband” rolls off the tongue a LOT easier now.
The End 
To be continued…

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