Ah, married life! It’s not a venture for the faint-hearted or uncommitted heart. It is, however, the perfect adventure for those inclined to create a work of art within the most sacred of personal relationships—marriage. Rilke famously quoted, “For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.” As both a psychologist and a newlywed, I couldn’t agree more.
As I rolled into the fourth month of marriage, I realized that a sea of change had enveloped me. Every bit of my life seemed unfamiliar and vastly different. I had moved into my husband’s home. His furniture and belongings—his very manliness—surrounded me at every turn. Feminine to my very core, his taste for all things masculine seemed to deter my ability to create a nest within his nest. Before we wed, we had made many big and thoughtful decisions. One of these biggies was where to live—his place or mine. Knowing him as I do, I knew—despite his protestations—that moving to my world would be too harsh a transition for my proud, sensitive guy who thrives on consistency and all things familiar. I had known, almost instinctively, that he needed his man-identity, man-cave, and man-world much more than I needed my familiar Carla-world.
Leaving my realm to be with my love didn’t seem like too much to ask of myself, but my psyche ultimately decided otherwise. It was the consequences of decisions such as these that began to hit me with the reality of a California earthquake. The good news is that most California earthquakes cause no real harm; once the shaking and shuddering fade away, so does the fear. The earthquake metaphor works beautifully for adjusting to married life; the stress of the upheaval and change are more a matter of fear than any real threat.
Let’s talk dirty. My sweetheart loves motorcycles and all things mechanical. He loves the dirt. He loves to play. His childhood mascot might have been Charlie Brown’s “Pigpen.” Me? I’m the queen of tidy and neat. I, too, love dirt; but I prefer to leave it outside where it belongs. I, too, love motorcycles and race cars; but in the living room? When I met my darling, he had one vintage motorcycle displayed beautifully in the living room (yes, the living room). Now, another motorcycle has arrived and is proudly displayed in the foyer. Although she is an admittedly gorgeous machine, she’s a stark departure from the baby grand piano I left behind. My husband—being so willing to please his new bride—asked my opinion before the new décor arrived.
Staring into his beautiful brown eyes—and knowing the right answer in my heart—I smiled and told him the motorbike would be a perfect addition. He stares into my eyes with his knowing, devilish grin; we break out into peals of laughter and embrace. As he holds me tightly, I revel in knowing how right it feels to honor him in such small and simple ways. While others might laugh at our odd décor, I feel blessed each time I spy one motorcycle in the living room and another in the foyer. How’s that for a testament to the art of tenderness, flexibility, and love?
I am finding that marriage is truly more than a connection between two people—it is the creation of a third entity: the marriage itself. If nothing else, the second quarter of my newlywed months has taught me to respect and care for the marriage itself. Yes, I need to tend to my needs. Yes, I need to tend to my sweetheart with love and respect. And, yes, I surely need to remain aware that my husband and I are forming the essential components of our married life that will carry us through the beautiful days and years ahead.
Truly intimate connection takes thoughtful energy and awareness. Creating a foundation of love, mutual respect, and soulful compromise takes thoughtful work and dedication. Yet, with each week of continued effort and care, I am embraced by an even deeper sense of knowing that I am—that we are—assuredly on the right path.