She Said: How Planning For Marriage, Not Just A Wedding, Calms My Fears

Philip and I are planning a wedding now, and many of my hours are consumed in thinking of the details, dreaming of the day we will be married.

As Philip and I have talked about many times, we’re not simply planning our wedding weekend—we’re planning a lifelong marriage. We’re preparing for the biggest irreversible moment of our lives. We both know we’re playing for keeps, and this is a bit scary.

Jenn and Philip. Photo credit: Corynne Olivia Photography
Jenn and Philip. Photo credit: Corynne Olivia Photography

As we go through these months of engagement, we’ve made a commitment to prepare ourselves in as many ways as possible. We have pre-marriage counseling sessions, reading books that guide us in discussing all the things we should talk about before we get hitched, learning Natural Family Planning (NFP), and taking advice from people whose marriages we respect. We’re also saving the intimacy of sex for the lifelong union we seek—because we want to give ourselves a much greater chance of having that lifelong union. We’re simply two imperfect people trying to stack the deck so our marriage will last.

If we’re doing all these things to help plan a marriage, why do I still have moments of fear? Will I love him enough? Will I know when he needs tenderness and when he needs some tough love? Do we have what it takes to make our love last a lifetime?

Most of my friends have been married only a few years, so I turn to the most trusted of sources: the interwebs! In my attempt to prepare for what is coming down the pipeline I read a lot of blogs. Some of those bloggers have been married fifteen-plus years, and I learn from what they write.

Largely, I find it a valuable glimpse into their lives as parents and as married couples. Their writing encourages me to think of how we will create a family culture, how we’ll protect our love from the constant busy schedules that plague our society and how we hope to parent.  Small glimpses into the messy and vulnerable spots of marriages I respect give me encouragement that Philip and I will be able to choose to love each other, rather than surrendering to doubt and fear.

There have been times, however, where I will read a blog post that says something along the lines of “I hardly knew real love when we got married…what I knew then was only a selfish kind of love that grows into the long term, unconditional, type.”

I know it’s not meant as a condemnation or a critical pointed finger saying that Philip and I don’t know love, but that’s how my heart reads it at times. I am quick to defend, thinking, “Of course we know love. If we only knew infatuation, physical attraction, or selfishness, would we be taking steps towards marriage?”

I realize we do not yet know the selfless love required when suffering enters the picture—as with caring for a dying loved one or a sick child. We do not yet know the sacrifices required of parents. We do not yet know the ins and outs of loving each other in the daily ups and downs. But does that mean what we share is not real love?

While the flame of our love may be relatively new, there is no doubt in my mind it is the true stuff of love. We’re certainly past the point in which our connection is physical attraction and little more. My love for Philip is not only a feeling I have, but a choice I will be asked to make every day when the feeling wanes. My “yes” on day one will be my answer for every day that comes. My “yes” is to an unconditional, total, faithful love that will always win out over fear.

So while there may be moments my fear rises again, I know our love is real, and I know we’re setting a firm foundation by preparing and planning the marriage of a lifetime and not just the wedding of a lifetime.

Editor’s note: Check out what Jenn’s fiance, Philip, has to say about preparing for marriage in this post

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