I was standing at the entrance of a swanky bar on an unremarkable Wednesday night in September the first time I saw the light hit his face. Every cell in my body became a choir - resounding a synchronized "whoa." I was certain he was the most fascinating work of architecture I had ever had the pleasure of marveling at.
It was our first date, and a blind one, in fact, because we had only developed a flirtation over Facebook. A mutual friend was emphatic that we meet, claiming to have been struck with an unshakable feeling we were "perfect for each other." Investigative scrolling through his tagged photos had not prepared me for his disarming level of in-the-flesh appeal, however.
He was something in the realm of an Adonis; like a tonic of exhilarating alchemy. I was drunk, sweating, and "hot and bothered," but it wasn't the cinnamon vodka. Within a week of our first meeting, the gates of passion flung wide open with total abandon. We fell into a pool of romance so intoxicating, we could barely keep our heads above water. We began talking for hours every night - swapping stories of triumph, love, heartache, and defeat. He talked about his grief over losing his father to a massive heart attack at 16. I shared my pain over losing my mother to a tragic accident at the age of 6.
We swapped text messages from the moment our eyes opened until they closed each night. A few weeks in, he asked, "Do you want to run away together? I don't care where we go." My answer was no. Because I didn't. I had no desire to ever run again. I wanted to stay right where I was, swimming around in this pool of newfound magic with him forever.
Eight months later, while at a Sunday afternoon picnic in the park, one knee pressed into the grass, he presented me with a diamond ring and asked me to become his wife. I said yes, of course.
I surrendered myself fully to the joys and whims of wedding planning. I scoured Pinterest for hours every day in pursuit of inspiration. I collected the lingerie, slid on the dresses, and examined my butt in front of dozens of mirrors. I held my glass high for the Champagne toasts, mailed the invitations, and practiced signing my new last name. It was an unforgettable era in my life. As my dad and I rounded the oak tree and made our way down the aisle, The Beatles' classic "Here Comes the Sun" served as our soundtrack. When I locked eyes with my husband-to-be, I was hit with unimaginable euphoria. It was something from a dream.
That was five years ago and, truly, they have been the most beautiful years of my life. I love him more than I loved him then.
But, would you be disappointed if I confessed that, shortly after our fairy-tale wedding day, a thought flashed through my mind - one that may have led to our state of newlywed bliss crashing and burning into obscurity? That I realized that I hadn't just signed up for a lifetime of window-fogging sex, stimulating conversation, and heart-stopping romance? I had also signed myself up for a bundle of other things - some of them fist-clenching unpleasantries.
As wonderful as my husband is, he isn't a knight-in-shining anything. And it would be unfair for me to expect him to be, because I am certainly no princess.
Two months into our marital bliss, I sobbed on our couch with my head in my hands. Our electricity had been abruptly turned off in our home and our bank account was overdrawn. To add further pain to my existing ulcer of monetary panic, I had just walked into the bathroom to brush my teeth, only to find his beard hair covering the sink like a Winter quilt. We were simply not adulting well together. Newlywed life was not at all what I imagined.
I wasn't sure this was all it was cracked up to be - marriage, that is. We didn't agree on purchases. I felt he had an impulsive and lackadaisical attitude toward spending, and he complained about me being too cautious and slow in my decisions. We didn't agree on how to clean the counter tops, or organize receipts, or fold the towels. What was a spouse good for? I didn't need a man in my home - dreamy Adonis or not, well-intentioned or not, my best friend in the whole wide freaking world or not - if his habits were going to ride in like a bulldozer to my sense of cleanliness, financial peace, and credit history. I was so excited about saying I do, I didn't stop to think about what happens after.
I was a fragile little branch blowing in the winds of married life's realities, one incident away from snapping.
If we had not remained fervent in our sincere love for one another, and if we had not carved out plenty of breathable space for candid, patient, and respectful communication and compromise, our tale could have played out more like a tragic opera.
Because life on planet Earth is not like the movies. In the intimate moments of human interaction, there is no set lighting, no filter, no one shining your shoes, and no director guiding the camera angle. There are a whole lot of unflattering cuts no matter how resilient of a person you are, or how strong and unwavering your love is.
I find myself considering the irony of engagements and wedding days. They are often awe-provoking, extravagant, and musical, and everyone involved makes back-breaking efforts to ensure that all plays out cinematically. No one wants to look bloated, or be caught with armpit sweat, or snag their dress, or smear their mascara, or get dirt under their fingernails.
But that's so hilariously far from the reality of marriage - something I should have realized.
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When you marry someone, you're not just signing yourself up for all of the things you most adore and celebrate; you're also inheriting their knee-jerk reactions, their most aggravating idiosyncrasies, and - you guessed it - their debts. You will bear witness to their deepest insecurities, most stubborn tendencies, and most stomach-turning bathroom habits. And they will bear witness to all of yours.
How easy it is to disregard those parts until you're in the fiery throes of them.
We often go half (or more) of our lives in relentless pursuit of a "perfect" person who will fulfill our longings and satisfy our most spine-tingling fantasies, as though we ourselves are perfect. We often fold inside of ourselves these lengthy lists of qualifications, standards, and traits we expect the "right person" to meet. "One day the right person will come along and wipe away your tears forever," I read on Instagram not long ago.
Huh? I'm sorry, no. No one has that kind of power. Do you have that kind of power? How can one expect another person to encompass all of the ideals he or she is so grossly incapable of encompassing?
What I wish I had carried with me in those stressful newlywed days is the understanding that my husband has right to the pardoning of his bad days as I have right to the pardoning of mine. Our love has deepened and cemented through every stumble we have taken. I cherish all of his quirks - from the cute way he positions his feet when he plays guitar to the giddy expression only a sinful plate of food can provoke. And I love the way he loves me.
Oftentimes the sight of him still renders me "hot and bothered." I would choose him over and over again, forever.
But as wonderful as he is, he isn't a knight-in-shining anything. And it would be unfair for me to expect him to be, because I am certainly no princess.