Marriage. It is a wonderful, miraculous state. The institution of marriage. Institution sounds so cold. And marriage is anything but cold. I have never been a relationship girl, I grew up with parents that didn’t like each other and stayed together anyway. It wasn’t always that way for them, they were deeply in love when they first got married, and I know this because of the passionate love letters that my dad wrote to my mom and she saved and showed to me years later. He could barely stand to be away from her, and every sentence he wrote ended with my love, my girl, my everything. He was passionate, he was in love. But being the youngest of 6 children I never witnessed this. In fact the day my oldest sister told me when I was in my 20’s that my parents used to be affectionate and happy and used to kiss all the time I stared at her in silence; really? I never saw that. When I came along life had gotten the better of them. My dad was disappointed in his career and didn’t make the effort to treat my mom with care, and my mom was bitter about getting older and losing her looks. Little did they know that physically they both were still very attractive but their spirits were broken. This is what I saw as marriage. Two people too scared to reach out to each other after so much hurt had passed between them, but also too scared to leave. I wanted nothing to do with it. I felt trapped just being around them. In my mind, marriage was something to avoid, and relationships were not any better. I didn’t want anyone telling me what to do, like my dad used to tell my mom. I didn’t want anyone monitoring and judging my day to day decisions and actions. So, over 20 years ago when I met my now husband and fell in love with him at first sight I had no expectations of a long and healthy marriage. All I knew was I wanted to be with him. I wanted to make it legal and start a life with him. It was more a feeling than a thought. We were both longing for a simpler life and a family of our own. When we got married, I told his sister “I will only marry once”. Not sure why I said that to her as I was marrying her brother and she probably had no idea what I was talking about. But I felt I needed to say it, and have her as a witness to my words. THIS was my marriage. If it didn’t work out, I would never marry again. So I put all my emotions, energy and hope into this marriage but I never had any expectations of it lasting “forever”. I just wanted to be with my husband and I wanted him to be with me, and I figured as long as we both woke up every morning feeling that way we were good. I was going to be different than my mom was in her marriage. I was going to talk to my husband about my feelings and we were going to be very close. I made it a challenge to myself not to be like my mom, in hopes that the marriage wouldn’t go the way my parents did. When my daughter was born, once again I wanted to be a different mother than my mom was. My mom was so scared of everything, and I wanted to show my daughter that life wasn’t scary. That you can put yourself out there and get what you want. I wanted to have that husband that loved me and the strong daughter. My idea of my family started to become stronger and stronger of how I wanted us to appear to others. I wanted to prove so badly that a marriage doesn’t have to go sour. Also, since I had made the decision to marry and decided this was my only marriage I didn’t want to be wrong. So when disagreements came up between us, I argued and we fought, but then I started to become quiet. I stopped trying as hard. Maybe because I just got tired, or maybe because I started to get scared of what might be said if we talked more deeply. The marriage of two people became bigger than just a relationship. Now there was a child involved, there was a house, cars, friends, possessions, reputations, a certain future. All this was depending on this one person in my life, my husband. My life as I knew it could change in a minute if he changed, if he came home one day and said he didn’t love me anymore and wanted to leave, my whole life would be turned upside down. Sometimes when we fought these thoughts would creep in my mind and start to eat away at my confidence. It was happening, I was getting scared. I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk away if he cheated on me, or was disrespectful to me. I had way too much invested. Not that he did either of those things, but I always thought of myself as a strong woman that would walk away in a heartbeat if a man treated me badly. But I knew in my heart I wouldn’t walk away now, and it scared the hell out of me. I had become what I had fought against my whole life, my mother. I had become my scared mother. That seems like a simple sentence to write, but it took me years to admit it to myself, and another few years to admit to anyone else. I understood her more, I felt more compassion for her. I finally got it. Maybe I also understand more why marriage is called an institution because it does become bigger than just two people in a relationship. Marriage becomes your whole life, and the person you are married to can take that away with a few words. It is scary! In rocky times in our marriage, we focussed on our daughter, and she would bond us together. But when she was getting ready to go off to college we had to find that affection and patience with each other we had when we first met. We had to work at noticing each other and complementing each other again. We had to remember our love for each other which was and is always there. Why is it an effort to remember love? It seems like it shouldn’t be, but it takes time and thought, and patience. Do we just become more selfish as we get older? I don’t know. What I do know is that is finding that love again has been the hardest but also the most beautiful experience of my life. I know that I love my husband even more now because I see and know all of his faults and weaknesses and he knows all mine and we are choosing to be together. I think of my parents, and I have a renewed love for them and their dedication to each other even during unhappy times. I realize now that no one ever understands a marriage or relationship except the two people that are in it. And for a person like me who didn’t believe in marriage, I can say my marriage and family is the greatest accomplishment of my life.