Before I even started dating my husband Eric, I knew I wanted to marry him.
I was only 22 years old, which is considered pretty young for marriage these days, but he was entirely different than anyone I had ever dated before. I just had this feeling in my gut that not marrying him would be a huge mistake.
At the time, I had taken two years off from dating completely because I recognized that I needed space to grow as a person and figure out what I wanted out of life and out of relationships.
Before that, I had a history of unhealthy relationships and had made some big mistakes. I was tired of living in that cycle: of getting my heart broken, of breaking someone else’s heart, of engaging in meaningless relationships to fill the void, and of doing it all over and over again. So when Eric asked me out, I took my sweet time coming around.
What finally cracked me (and convinced me that I wanted to marry him) was the realization that I really trusted him to sacrifice for me for the rest of his life. Of course he wouldn’t do it perfectly, of course he would make mistakes and have moments of selfishness, but I could see that putting other people first was part of his character.
I saw it in the way he treated his roommates and his friends. I saw it in the way he treated his parents and his sister. I saw it in the way he treated people he didn’t see eye to eye with. I saw it in the way he treated me, even when I put him off for almost an entire year by insisting we remain “just friends,” though that wasn’t at all what he wanted.
But if it had stopped there, that wouldn’t be healthy. If our relationship was all about him sacrificing for me, it would have been incredibly one-sided and dysfunctional. I knew that because I had had that kind of relationship in the past. But Eric wasn’t a doormat; he gently and lovingly spoke his mind and stood his ground when necessary. I knew that in this relationship, I would be treated with great respect and consideration, but I knew that the same thing would also be required of me in return.
If a relationship lasts long enough, however, we are all bound to lose some of the emotions that we have come to associate with “being in love.” So when the going gets tough, as they say, then what? When it doesn’t seem that the other person deserves our sacrifice? When we are just flat-out tired of giving it? What then?
Well, from my experience of marriage now nine years later, I would say that those times are when you remind yourself of the vows you took. In our wedding vows, most of us say something about promising to love and serve the other person no matter what. When love lasts a lifetime, it simply will go through low and high points. But what makes the high points so high is that you’ve stuck together through the lows. And that experience is so rare, so valuable: There’s no other intimacy in the world like it.