I wasn’t always sure I would get married. And even now that I am, I try really hard not to take marriage for granted.
In my early and mid twenties, as I saw my friends pair up and find their perfect matches, I just couldn’t seem to find that same person for me. And I was more than content being single and focusing on travel and my career than casually dating for the simple comfort of being paired off, however temporarily.
Particularly as someone raised in a very traditional Indian (read strictly no dating or fraternizing with the opposite sex unless they were related to you. Ever. Until you were magically married to the perfect, parent and society approved match) household, I wasn’t sure that I would find someone that would understand my need to not only build and raise a family, but to build and grow something lasting in the world.
So I began to prepare myself that perhaps marriage wasn’t for me. Especially as I was accepted to HBS and understood that realistically for a woman, I was further complicating my “marry-able” prospects.
But just as I was ready to set off on that 2 year MBA adventure, I found my match in the guy that is now my husband. And in him I found acceptance and patience and a shared zest for the world and all that it offered.
We celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago.
And it’s led me to reflect. What have those 5 years meant?
I’ve come to realize that in a silly way, it’s been a lot like salmon, swimming upstream to get home. We both know we’re headed in the right direction and we’re both committed to the journey. But it’s constant work to move forward and you can’t take anything for granted. You can’t stand still because you’ll end up going backwards.
They haven’t been an easy 5 years. No marriage is. But in this age of quickie divorces and “conscious uncouplings” it’s come down to asking a critical question, fairly regularly.
Do I still want to be in this? Why?
Not because I’m looking for an out. But because it helps me constantly appreciate my marriage for the imperfect but privileged thing it is, in 3 ways:
1) It makes gratitude routine: By continually recognizing and evaluating what you value and appreciate in the other person, you instinctively practice gratitude. Yes, you become oh-too-aware of the frictions and the failings. But more, you understand everything you have to be thankful for every day because you’re sharing this journey with that person.
2) It forces responsibility and recommittment: Some of the best early career advice I was given was: You own your own career. No one else. So it is your responsibility to be your own advocate and ask for what you need. Marriage is no different: You own your marriage. Whether it’s going well or poorly – it’s on you. There is no blaming nefarious outside forces or evil people out to get you. Asking yourself if you’re still committed to it makes you responsible for every day and every minute you’re in the relationship.
3) It prevents complacency: Life is busy and it’s too easy to avoid the hard conversations and ignore the annoying niggling things. But honestly assessing the state of your union and pushing to talk through the irritants makes the relationship more of an active than passive matter. There will be no “we just woke up one day and realized we’re different people”. Because we’ve agreed to be hyper-aware of the commitment.
Sure there have been days that the answer to the question has been an emphatic, ill-natured “No – I most certainly don’t want to be in this.” But that’s almost always been a knee-jerk reaction to some irritant or stress in our life.
And I know that 5 years is nothing in the cosmic scale of things, especially when we have friends celebrating having been together for 10, 15 years. But I want to get to those incredible milestones. And the only way I know how, is to be constantly mindful of the reality that it’s not a forgone conclusion.
But it is an imperfect privilege that I will fight like hell for, every day.