As repeat readers may know, I just got married. And, as you may have noticed, I can overthink things.
Major life shift + tendency to overthink = lots of thoughts, it turns out.
The definition of marriage is the subject of a great deal of controversy in this country right now, as is whether the institution is even worth it. I admit that a few weeks ago, I felt like the ceremony and the piece of paper wasn’t going to change anything about my relationship: I felt seriously, emotionally, religiously, bonded to my other half already. What did it really matter if we had governmental approval or not?
But then we got married, in a beautiful and meaningful ceremony followed by a dance party with friends from all parts of our lives, and we moved in together, and we’ve merged bank accounts and his books are in my bookshelves and we’re talking about what we should have for dinner every night. In other words, even though I can’t tell you exactly why, it feels different.
Which is where the overthinking comes in: I don’t know how to be a wife.
I mean, I went into this thinking being a wife was pretty much the same as being a girlfriend, except we’ve made it permanent. But now that I’m in it, now that I have this feeling, it seems like there’s something different. And I don’t know how to do it, to be it.
And then I thought: Happily Ever After. The stories stop. The story is all about getting to the prince, ending with the poofy white dress and the wedding bells, pan up to the castle and assume that’s all anyone needs to know.
And not even just the fairy tales. The modern movies are all about the chase; when the love interest is found, the meet-cute is over, finito.
And that seems to be true in life, too, at least to an extent: I worked on a book a few weeks ago that was based on the author’s grandmother’s real-life story. It was interesting and exciting through her childhood and youth…and then she got married. The first 20 years of her life took up 80% of the book; after the wedding, the last sixty years of her life made up a paltry 20% of the book.
So one night I panicked. I asked my husband(!): “Is this it? Is my story over?! I don’t want my story to be over!”
Even though I know, in my rational brain, that being married doesn’t have to mean everything stops, that the achievements get dusty and forgotten on the shelf, it feels that way. Most of the stories about marriage are about cheating, or almost cheating: not something to want. The stories with seemingly good marriages in them are about the kids–I’m not even ready to start that conversation yet.
Am I reading the wrong books, here? Or is marriage always too boring to be written about–meaning that any excitement or achievements or forward motion is something I’ll have to produce on my own, pushing past the inertia of knowing whom I’m coming home to every night? Why, if our society supposedly values marriage so much, is there not a plethora of stories to teach us how to be good husbands and wives?