There must have been something that existed before “I do.”
After all, deep in your brain, underneath that outer layer of spongy grey matter, there are remnants of a time before holy matrimony. Your birth certificate says so too, telling the story of how you grew up in rural Vermont, born the child of a wheat farmer and a mailwoman, the plot still visible whenever you look in the mirror. That chipped front tooth that still shyly stares out at people when you smile was hard earned, courtesy of a hard collision with the Hendersons’ farmhouse.
Yes, there was a life before those words. But there was not living.
Living? That started when you first laid eyes on each other, irises alit with the spark of kindred spirits; the intensity of that moment nearly erasing a lifetime before it, labeling off distinct periods that nearly redefine time and space.
Pre Meeting. After Meeting.
It isn’t true, of course — it can’t be — but you know no other words that will describe the gravity of instantly following in love, nor a word that captures the feeling of falling in love again and again in all the moments that followed. An explosive love, a passionate love, its energy began rippling through every cell of your being right then, tearing asunder old experience and shaking long held belief with yet unexplored possibility.
Bit by bit, you find yourself revived, emerging slightly different every time the two of you crossed off another “never done that”, the evidence still rooted deep in fond memory. There was your spring break trip to Argentina as juniors, then the first time you had ever left the state of Vermont, or even seen temperatures creep north of 80. The spontaneous cross country drive to New Mexico, just to visit the house that served as Walter White’s famed Negra Arroyo Lane residence. The surprise skydive after one year of dating. Your habit of throwing a dart at a map of the city twice a month, just to get to better know the concrete jungle you both moved to.
The one you enjoy the most, though, continued for far longer than any single moment, living in the depths of soulful, intense conversation. Lying in bed together at night, everything became new again in those late hours, topics and issues hashed out, challenged, criticized, and put back together again with genuine earnestness. Sleep was only a natural extension, a gentle, contented fall into dreamy unconscious together.
So you did as all people who feel this way do. You proposed, deciding that you wanted these infinite mystery to last throughout time, tackling the rest of your years together.
That childhood taunt became reality. First came love. Then came marriage.
And something changed. Everything changed.
It was as if the sudden reality of eternal commitment sapped whatever used to drive you both, leaving behind only stoneheaded stubbornness that it could still be found again. Being caught up at work, worrying first about the new bills and the mortgage, not having enough time, raising kids now in the picture…all the standard perils of married life turned to exhaustive routine, the staleness eating at you all the more because of how magical things used to be. Each day, each repetition only pushes bliss further into the irrecoverable past, a thought that would have been inconceivable before you walked down the aisle. Trying to recapture — and goddammit, you tried — those feelings only results in a feeling of forced facsimile, you discover, leaving your life now in five words.
Work. Home. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
The individual events and the fights in between remain unpredictable — the office flooded due to a busted pipe yesterday; Ellie got top marks in the class for her project on Abraham Lincoln earlier; you’re on track for another raise, and inevitably, another argument about how you work too much — but nothing manages to break this larger cycle, which continues on outside in spite of your joint efforts, and has finally beat both of you into tacit obedience.
Worst of all is the now familiar, tired silence that sends the two of you to sleep, and the alarm in the morning that only signals yet another day your union has held. This cannot last forever. Words do not need to be exchanged for both of you to know that. Unhappiness only keeps seeping in where passion once was; your willpower and hope are exhaustible resources.
An end is on the horizon, inevitable. Destined, as soon as either runs out. You just don’t yet know when you will reach it.