I'm going to tell you the one thing someone should have told me before I got married.
On my wedding day, no one told me about the bad parts. No one stood and raised a champagne glass to pain. No one scribbled wise words of hopelessness inside a greeting card.
And that’s OK; I wouldn’t have listened anyway. The day I got married, Love was all that mattered.
Love is still No. 1 in my heart. But now I know the thing that no one told me, and, though you may not listen, I’m going to tell it to you:
This, too, shall pass.
This perfect day, this stunning dress, this mile-long registry of homegoods without which you can’t possibly start your marriage.
And yes, the Love you feel.
That Love will deepen and broaden and engulf you until you are certain it is an inextricable part of you. Then one day you will wake up; you will look at the person you married, and you will feel Nothing.
At first you will blame stress or sleeplessness or distraction. You’ll attribute the Nothing to the melancholy book you just finished, or the discovery that he ate the last of the Cheerios, or her neglect to take out the trash again. But the Nothing won’t go away. The Nothing will haunt you like Love once did, until it engulfs you.
“Before you fall asleep at night, always touch feet.”
This was my great-grandmother’s advice for staying married and staying happy. I heard the story from my parents, who, after four children and decades of marriage, seemed to know something about making a marriage last. Granny herself was married for some fifty-odd years, her marriage ending with the death of her husband.
If you’ve ever shared a bed with someone, you understand – sibling or friend or lover, it doesn’t matter. As a kid, I’d wake up from a bad dream and stretch my foot out toward my sister’s, just to know she was there.
As a woman, there are legs and feet entwined in lovemaking, cold feet pressed against my husband’s legs for warmth, and timid feet, reaching out to say, “I’m sorry,” because we’re both too tired for words, but unwilling to go to sleep angry.
Early in our marriage, my husband and I made a habit of touching when we talked about difficult issues—money (of course), but also why he didn’t want to go see “The Music Man” with me, and why all seventeen pairs of my shoes were housed in the living room when we had a perfectly good closet. You know, real stuff. Silly stuff. Sharing-a-life stuff.
The smallest physical connection softened hard-to-say words, and opened stubborn, frustrated hearts. With our knees barely brushing through our jeans as we argued, stiff on the sofa, we felt equipped to reach the other side.
During our roughest patch to date, we fought from a distance. We barely even made eye contact. I knew things were getting better the night our feet touched in bed—not by accident, but because we’d each reached our sock feet across the cold sheets toward one other.
On the Nothing day, you may give up. Some people just can’t take it, the shock of the Nothing, the terror that it will stay forever.
I promise: It won’t.
Just as, without warning, Love seems to vanish, the Nothing, too, will disappear. It may take time—days, weeks, more than we’d hoped. It may take pain—honest, brutal, hurt beyond words. But it will go.
And Something will take its place. Perhaps something worse, but more than likely something better, something stronger. More than likely, Love, dynamically bolder, unexpectedly truer.
Because every day, from your wedding day to the Nothing day, will eventually dim in the light of all the other days. Better days, boring days, horrible days, days that will fly by and turn into years before you know it.
Your wedding, and all its pomp and glory, will be gone in a flash, and all you’ll have left are photos and videos and a piece of stale wedding cake that you’ll retrieve from your freezer on your first anniversary and promptly throw away.
The Nothing day, with all its hollow worry, will waver and dissolve until, resuscitated by time, you again find yourself running the race that brought you to this day, this person, this Love.
This too shall pass.
It will all pass. Then circle back around to pass us again. Something and Nothing. Love and loathing. Hope and hopelessness. Rewind and repeat.
We can touch souls, touch minds, touch bodies. It can all feel so big, the Love. And the Nothing can feel so dreadfully final. But it’s really just a few inches of expectant space between one foot and another.
Anne Almasy is a wedding and lifestyle photographer with a smattering of generous awards under her belt. An accidental writer, her best-loved essays appear on The Huffington Post, DEDPXL, and other motley Internet locales. Find more at AnneAlmasy.com, or follow her on Twitter @annealmasy and on Facebook.
Photo: Anne Almasy