Marriage: A Recommendation and Disclaimer
Upon rereading my post about how to be a man, I realized that it was, in many ways, a love letter to your father. He is a marvelous man and someone I am so very grateful to have in my life. I am a big believer in marriage. It’s not for everyone, but it was definitely for us, and something I truly wish for you. Finding someone that you want to share your life with is one of the greatest gifts you could ever have. Someone who’s lived your history and is part of your memories. Someone who, at the end, knows you were here. Someone for whom you truly mattered. But lest you think it’s all puppy dogs and rainbows, I want you to know that it’s not just get married, happily ever after, that’s it, the end.
I once MC-ed a friend’s wedding and in my speech I said that marriage is like picking the person you want to spend the rest of your life in a car with. You don’t road trip with just anyone. You have to really like a person to do that. The road will have it’s ups and downs, you’ll go through good weather and bad, you’ll be lost then find your way, you’d stay in some great places and some where the water doesn’t work, people will join you for a while and then they’ll be gone. To navigate that kind of trip properly you have to like the same things but not be the same person and you have to truly enjoy and accept the other’s company because after all the games are played, the magazines read and the radio’s off, it’s just the two of you forever, and that’s not something to be taken lightly. Lately, I feel like marriage in general, is up for debate. Should gay couples be given the same right to marry as straight ones? My answer is yes. Should it be harder to get out of a marriage so people take getting into it more seriously? I’d answer a provisional yes. Should you be able to be married to more than one person at the same time? I’d go with no. And are same sex marriages undermining the state of marriage? No, straight celebrity marriages are. I’m talking to you Kim Kardashian/Britney Spears/Renee Zellwiger…
If you find someone you want to marry – truly spend your life with, not, we’ll see how it goes – then treat it with respect. It’s not about the wedding. A beautiful wedding does not a beautiful marriage make. Don’t get me wrong, a fabulous day that celebrates you as a couple is a wonderful way to spend your money, but you still have to work on the marriage itself. When Dad and I got married (June 22, 2005) lots of people asked us why not just take the money we would spend on one day and use it for something more practical like the down payment on a house. That never occurred to us. We really wanted that day. Our day. And we never regretted it. To be able to make those promises to each other in front of our family and friends was so special for us. On my death bed, whenever that may be, I won’t be patting myself on the back for my practicality but reliving my most wonderful memories, and my wedding (and subsequent honeymoon) is right up there on that list.
It’s that memory. That day. That look you see on bride and groom’s faces that says “Oh my God we’re really doing this…” The way your relationship feels different after, no matter how long you’d been together before. It’s that legal and, if you believe it, spiritual bind that makes you truly family, truly an “Us” that makes marriage so special. Subsequently it’s that same feeling that makes same sex marriage a no brainer to me. Someone Granny’s age once said to me, “But why do they have to get married? They have all the same rights…” I responded with, “Why did I have to get married? Why did you?”. It’s different to be married. It means something different. It’s the ultimate statement of love and commitment and if you feel that way and are really willing to put your hands in and do the work you should be allowed to. No matter who it is you want to marry.
The thing is being married is no joke. It’s hard bloody work. It’s changing your pronoun from me to we. And though I’d advocate retaining your own identity within your marriage, you can no longer make decisions just for yourself and that’s hard adjustment to make. Your choices directly affect one another. You can’t just do what’s best for you. I’d hazard to say that’s why so many celebrity marriages fail.
When you’re a celebrity or married to your job, you live in a world where you are #1. In a celebrity’s case you have a team of people behind you who’s livelihood depends on your success. People who put their jobs first find they can’t just scrap it all based on what’s best for the marriage. They have to stay on their game. Do what the job asks of them and not what the marriage needs from them. Subsequently the marriage falters. Living in a different city than your spouse? Never going to work. Both people trying to be #1? Never going to work. For a marriage to succeed there has to be give and take. And that means one person has to give. It doesn’t always have to be the same person but it always has to be someone. You can’t be both looking out for yourself. It just doesn’t work that way.
Your father’s dream is to be a successful actor. When we met I was also an actor. Watching him go in and out of auditions with such confidence and success is one of the reasons I changed paths. He was loving it and I was becoming a neurotic mess worried about my hair and age and wrinkles. And when we decided to get married there just seemed like one too many actors in the family. At the time I likened it to being in Vegas where one of you is on a hot streak and the other is losing all their money. It just made sense for me to cash in my chips and give them to Sean. He had a better chance of winning for the both of us.
The trouble is, that was 8 years ago and though your father continues to earn a living as an actor, he still hasn’t “made it” and we struggle. We struggle to pay our bills. We struggle with my A type ambition and lack of “career”. We struggle with my realism vs. his “it’ll all work out” optimism. We struggle with my being sick and his having to earn almost all our income alone. We struggle when he’s away working one of his 3 jobs (on top of acting) and not seeing him enough. We struggle when he is home and working on one of the projects he hopes will take over from the side jobs, and we don’t see him enough. We struggle with the lack of time left in the day for me to get my dreams off the ground. We struggle with our fiery personalities and the fact that with 2 actors in the household someone always has the ability to get a little dramatic…
Baby, for all the great love your dad and I share, tying your life to another’s is a struggle. It’s worth it in our case, but it’s NOT EASY. When you were very little and we’d fight you’d scream. It upset us so much. We said we shouldn’t fight in front of you, but we weren’t so good at that. Now that you’re older you act like a little referee. You come into the room and if we’re raising our voices (which, despite our best efforts, we do often) you tell us to take a “Time Out”. I told you you could do that. I thought it might give you a sense of control when you might be feeling nervous about Daddy and me. It works. You like bossing us around and it gives us a chance to cool down. Your dad and I have a tendency to get on a bit of a train that neither of us can stop and our fights often escalate because of it. Having a period away from each other can help keep things in perspective. Sometimes, however, we don’t heed your advice and we keep at each other until we are both exhausted. That’s the thing, fighting is exhausting. I also think it can be healthy. We stopped trying to hide our disagreements from you for that reason. Is it pleasant? No. Does show you the truth of life? Yes. If you believed your parents never fought and then you got into a relationship and inevitably ended up fighting, you might say, “Well, this isn’t working. My parents never argued. This obviously isn’t the right person for me.” But if you see us fighting, then compromising, then understanding and then finally hearing and accepting each other you learn something much different. If we were parents that fought dirty, undermined each other and called each other names then perhaps you would just be learning nothing more than how to be cruel. But, for all your father and my bluster, we always work it through. We always come back to the table. We always end with love and that, in all it’s imperfection, is worth knowing.
And the things you fight about in a relationship are not all big things. More often than not is about dumb, everyday things like how you load the dishwasher. Sure, money, or our lack there of, is our biggest source of tension, but our most recent fight was about our cable provider. Dad wanted to switch and I didn’t. Everytime we switch something always goes wrong and we end up switching back. I wanted to avoid the anxiety and quite frankly I liked it all the way it was. I understood and could use it – and we have like 6 remote controls so that’s saying something. But the savings was $100/m, and I couldn’t in all good conscience say no, even though I really, really wanted to. The TV is my domain (your Dad’s more of a video gaming computer relaxer) so I’m a little testy about anything to do with it anyway.
So… we switched, and it broke down like this: Cable guy shows up and it’s not what they promised on the phone. We aren’t getting what we thought but are assured it’ll be “just as good”. The modem they install is faulty so they have to send us another one. The one they send us is different and doesn’t fit with the parts they’d installed. They have to send a technician to fix it. We go without cable, internet and phone service for 3 days. (Our cell phones don’t work in our house without our modem so we were really SOL). I stayed home from 8-12 to wait for a technician who never shows and when we call, they tell us that when they said “tomorrow” on Monday the person we spoke to was in INDIA and “tomorrow” actually meant Wednesday. I wait again the next day from 8-12. By the time I could actually turn on the TV, I found that my shows were now being broadcast with black bars on either side like I had a TV from 1987. When your Dad told me that was an SD channel and I had to find the HD channel to watch my show without the bars, I lost it. I told him I didn’t want to find it. I didn’t want to think this hard or try and relearn a whole new system that made me feel as technologically inept as my mother. I told him I was infuriated that I could no longer work the DVD player which was now his X-BOX and who’s controller felt like an alien in my hand. I went crazy and he was defensive and we subsequently lost it on each other. Terrible. Hideous. Behavior. 4 hours and multiple texts and phone calls later we realized that all he needed to say was, “I’ll fix it” and all I needed to say was, “Great, thank you” and the rest was just noise. But that’s the kind of noise you deal with when you tie your life to someone else. If I was single I’d just get the TV I liked and be done with it. But I’m not, so now I have to play You’ve Got Mail like I’m setting up for Modern Warfare 3 and do it with a smile on my face.
I think if we fought about major things like the way we treated each other or how to raise you it would be different, but for the most part we fight about ridiculous things like emptying the garbages (this never gets done) or opening the curtains (which is a must for me in the morning and for your father is a, justifiably, obscure and irrelevant issue). At the end of the day you have to put the relationship first. Is it more important to be right or to be happy? Does it really matter that I have to open the curtains? No. Shouldn’t I just be happy he makes the bed? Probably. This is not to say you should just roll over in a marriage, you should just ask yourself what’s best for it and try and make your decisions accordingly.
Your Dad and I talk about everything. Years ago when I was maybe 14 or 15, I was eating with Granny and Granddad in the dining room table and Granddad finished, thanked Granny for dinner and got up to leave. I told him (in the cheeky way that only a child can) that if he was going to leave the table first it would be great if he cleared. He didn’t even bat an eyelash. He was like, ok, sure. And he took our plates so Granny and I could keep talking. You could have knocked Granny over with a feather. After, she expressed how she couldn’t believe I’d said what I’d said, and more so, she couldn’t believe how easily Granddad had complied. I told her at the time – and have told her many times since about my own marriage – if you don’t ask for it, how will you ever get it? You have to say what you want. Don’t secretly seethe for 30 years that someone doesn’t do what you think they should. Everything is a compromise but most things are much simpler than we give them credit for. If the compromises are too big then maybe that’s not the right person for you anyway.
For all the difficulties that come with marriage there are also so many amazing things. To truly feel like part of a team. To have that kind of trust. It’s priceless. I read an article in Vanity Fair a couple of years ago about a classic old Hollywood star, her husband, her lover and her husband’s lover all vacationing together in the 1940’s. Sean and I discussed it. Affairs vs. Open Marriages. What works. What doesn’t. And what it came down to – after a very lively “what if” discussion – is that we wouldn’t want to mess with what we have. That any short term pleasure could never compare with the long term security and unity we have with each other. That even knowingly accepting that breech of trust would be like poisoning the well and it wasn’t worth it. Committing yourself to one person for the rest of your life is hard but it makes it so much easier to know that all your feelings, and all you are, are accepted within that relationship. Nothing is taboo. Nothing is off the table. Anything is possible but everything is not necessary. We also discovered we wanted to take more vacations together.
Your Dad and I have made a pact to get remarried every 5 years. It’s fun. We get to have a different kind of wedding and re-commit to each other and remind ourselves of why we got married in the first place. It’s not for other people. It’s just for us. On our 5th Anniversary we renewed our vows in Vegas. Elvis did the ceremony in a total of 4 and a half minutes (no joke, we have a DVD) and though we laughed through the whole thing saying the vows again meant something totally different 5 years later just as it will 10, 15, 40 years later. When you first start out you think everything is going to be perfect. Life isn’t perfect. For richer for poorer means more now. So does in sickness and in health.
Marriage is a journey and you have to celebrate your triumphs because not everyday is good. A couple that had been married for 60 some odd years was asked the secret of a lasting marriage and they said that neither had fallen out of love at the same time. That’s the thing. There’s ebbs and flows. You just have to keep growing and changing together. Encourage and help each other to become the best possible version of yourselves. Don’t swallow your feelings and be willing to trench it out to get to the other side of an issue. Keep working and keep finding new ways to respect and love the other. There are times when, at the end of the day your dad sits beside me on the bed and we just look at each other. As corny as it sounds, there is a stillness in his eyes. A calm I don’t have on my own and one I absolutely couldn’t live without. I’m safe with him. I’m happy. I’m cherished. I’m not alone. And that is worth everything.
Find it for yourself angel. Find it and don’t let go.
xo Mrs. McGowan (your mom)
Great post! Very true and insightful!
So true! James and I end up playing a game when tension gets high. It works! It is this… This is what you said, this is what I heard. It gets us to communicate how we hear things and how each of us is “translating” it. More often than not it ends in laughter because we imitate each other and it is SO right on sometimes. I hope our kids find that person that they want to be in the “trenches” with sometimes and see the joy of coming over that mountain together. I guess my hope is that I teach my kids how to be intentional with relationships and with life in general.
Girl you are so talented. Seriously, some of us sit back and say “good lord! If I had a 10th of her talent…”
I actually laughed out loud at the Cable part. Glad we are not alone. Our babysitters think we are launching the space shuttle every time the “process” of TV or DVD watching changes. LOL! James finally settled it by buying a harmony remote… it asks nice questions like, “is your TV turned on? Is the PS3 on?”… after a while I realize I am yelling at the remote, NO!. And it is still asking questions… ugh.
Brilliant as always. Blessings.
How very lucky I am to have met you and be able to look into your heart. You’re a beautiful woman, Leigh. xo, Estrella
Lovely post. Your guys work to make it work. I agree about fighting in front of children, sometimes people fight. Then they make up. A great thing to model.
I to believe in this thing called love and marriage. Lovely post.
I loved this post! It brought a tear to my eye, because of the truth and honesty you share in it and perhaps because I’m getting married soon too. So it was good advice for me as well.
As a fellow Canadian, I was interested in where you and Sean got married. As your photographer is from Toronto I assumed it was somewhere in Toronto. Can you please share?
Your family is so lucky to have you a part of it and we are lucky that you are sharing yourself with not only them, but the rest of us.
Blessings for an abundant life, Leigh!
Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. We got married at Christ Church Deer Park at St. Clair and Yonge and then had our reception at the Eglinton Grand at Eglinton & Avenue Road. It was terrific. We used Wedding Day Memories as our photographer (they were nice but we weren’t thrilled to tell you the truth) but we would HIGHLY recommend Harboury Productions for videography. Aboud was un-believable and we watch the video he made for us every year on our anniversary. It’s so much more special than the pictures which are pretty but can’t ever totally capture an event.
Thank you for your complements. Please keep reading. I really means the world to me.
Thanks for sharing your wedding tips and all your good wishes.
I’ve had a chance now to read all your posts under “Letters to my son”. Great advice at any age, I’d say, so thanks for sharing with everyone.
BTW, my fiancee granduated from that TV broadcasting program at Ryerson University. Small world, eh?
Blessings of happiness, love and peace!
Such a small world! Honestly, it teaches you to be nice…
Wow, is all i can say about that post. Marriage is off my radar at the moment – I’m 23. But my boyfriend of 6 months is 27 and a bunch of his friends are getting engaged. Sometimes I look at the engagement pictures and the wedding photos of his friends that have already tied the knot…and I can’t help thinking that they did it for the wedding. Not for the marriage. It’s insightful to read something like this and really think about how you connect with someone else for the rest of your life. I’m a little commitment phobic, and a child of divorce to boot, so it is amazing to read this post and see an inside perspective. Thanks
beautifully written. it brought tears to my eyes. being a newlywed (we just celebrated our 1 year this past october), i can already identify so much with your words. and i agree whole-heartedly. keep writing!
“I’m happy. I’m cherished. I’m not alone. And that is worth everything.”
This is so beautiful. Even to a twenty-something who’s never been interested in marriage or settling into everlasting monogamy.
And the remarry-every-5-years is just fucking adorable. 🙂
“When Dad and I got married (June 22, 2005) lots of people asked us why not just take the money we would spend on one day and use it for something more practical like the down payment on a house.”
Funny, I asked my fiancee’s mother the opposite, “We’re not well to do, we shouldn’t spend this much money on…”
Best wishes and congrats on FP
Your son will love this when he is older. What a wonderful idea! Thank you for sharing.
Such a wonderful post–brought tears to my eyes! Love your blog and your heartfelt letters. You hold nothing back, and that’s beautiful. Your son and your husband are both very lucky to have you in their lives. I also really appreciate you and your husband’s idea to recommit to each other every 5 years. I’ve never been married, but I do want to be one day and have a family. I wish more people would speak with the candor that you do about marriage and what it entails–it’s not to be taken lightly and as you said, it’s not for everyone. From my naive perspective, committing your life to someone else and to your family is an every day choice. You, your husband, and even your son make that choice every day and as you said with all the highs and lows, you’re still in the car, making the journey.
I just wanted to drop in and say hello. This is wonderful. I don’t have Pulminary Hypertension, but I’m a cancer patient. I don’t have children, but have always planned to once I’m older and when I finally get the chance to marry the man I’m in love with. I can understand feeling the need to leave something behind in case you’re not there in the future to say these things personally. This is the most profound collection of blog posts I’ve ever read, and I can’t say enough how much I hope and pray you’ll be there to read these to your son when he’s old enough to understand them. You sound like an amazing mother, and I’m simply in awe. Thank you so much for putting this out here. I write a dumb blog about silly awkward situations. This, well.. This puts me to shame. Cheers to you, your husband, and your wonderful son. The blogging world needs more people like you.
Thank you Patrick! What a lovely note. I absolutely don’t put you to shame. Making people laugh is one of the best things you can do. Thank you for your wonderful compliments. I’m so grateful to my blog savvy friends that encouraged me to take part in this new medium. I can’t say how much it means to me to be getting my thoughts out in a more tangible way than diatribe-ing to my husband. All the best, Leigh
I’ve just found you on Freshly Pressed and so glad I did. Your letters, I need some time to sit and read more, are wonderful and will be something your son will treasure forever, it’s a fabulous idea. I love this post on Marriage, I’ve been married for 30 years, I was 19 and I knew my husband was the one for me. It felt like the most natural thing in the world and although we weren’t blessed with children, I am as happy now as I was when we married. We made the right decision to get wed.
On another note, I blogged the other day, the one thing I wish my Mum had taught me was that not everyone would like me….it would’ve helped me a great deal in growing up!! I look forward to following your blog and wish you and yours well. Thank you.
Wonderful post about marriage. I got married one and a half months back . I do agree with you that no matter how long you have been together once that “wedding knot” is made you feel very special than before. Loved your post !! Keep writing..
I have been married sick or a fewmnthsnnow, and there are some serious problems that my spouse and I have to face. But I think. Back to our wedding day, a small ceremony with mostly family owned things. We had the worst luck, and many things went wrong that day, but we feel that we had the wedding that we needed. And through each thing, either one of us or family members, kept things moving. And it was a beautiful thing with that lesson at its heart. We must build and move together. And we are not alone.
I wish I has something this awesome to say, but I don’t. I was married once for 15 years and I wanted more than anything for that puppy to work out… But it didn’t and I still morn the passing of my coupledom. Blessing to you always. T
I love your honesty. It’s so open and refreshing.
Also, your wedding photos are HOT (both ones!)
Well shucks, thanks. What can I say… weddings are fun!
I love that last shot!
Great title. too!
Such wise words about marriage, Leigh. I know that, one day, your son will apply these lessons to his own life and they will help him get through the down times so that he can fully enjoy the up times with his life partner. I especially loved what the couple of 60 years of marriage had to say about how the secret of marriage is never falling out of love at the same time. What a different world this would be if everyone understood commitment the way you do and if everyone was equally understanding of what marriage is and the mutual sacrifice that needs to be made. You sound like a wonderful mom and a great life partner. Thank you for sharing.
Wow. I don’t even know you but I stumbled across your blog and this post made me weep. So lovely. I blog but don’t have quite your talent for words, and your writing inspires and touches me on a very personal level. My birth mother died when I was three – my eldest son is now three – and while my father remarried and I had a happy childhood, my life certainly has been rocked at times in coming to terms with a strange void. As such, my decision to start a blog when my first child was born was really for him… “in case I am gone”. Rather than having most mothers’ primary fear – of having their child’s death precede them, rather, my greatest fear is that I will not be able to be there for my child. So thank you for sharing. I want my kids to know that they are everything to me, so that one day when they are 35, if I can’t sit down with them, cup of coffee in hand, and reminisce about our journey, and to show my gratitude that God chose me to be their mother…. They will still know who I am.
Wow, this is really honest — your son will really appreciate these someday.
Congrats for being able to bring this post up. I hail from India where we don’t have all that fast-forwarding culture that’s running at dizzying speeds. But still i could relate to the married lives that you described. Married lives and the issues that touch them up are the same everywhere i guess. This post is a peek into that second half of our lives that we all as adolescents dread, is really reassuring and guiding.
I believe these posts u leave are the best gift u r leaving for Loch.
Beautiful write up!!
I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this idea for children. You have a great concept here. Thank you for sharing, and kudos to you for such a great idea. You are a talented writer, and seemingly a great teacher to your son. God bless.
I nominated you for the Kreative Blogger Award! Here’s the link.
Thank you. I’ll check it out. xo leigh
Yummy writing and yes, the person you can road trip with is The One. Thanks for such candor and irony.
this is a really beautiful post and totally inspiring. 😉
This was a great post, I thoroughly enjoyed it 🙂 I would like to say something though,
“you tell us to take a “Time Out”.” <– While it may work now, this is a bit dangerous to do in my opinion. I am not telling you in order to correct your parenting skills, but it's something I am experiencing and I think I should warn you about. He may grow up feeling that the marriage is still intact because he is there to give "time outs", therefore saving the marriage. My parents separated, and I still feel that when I am not home with them something may go wrong, or that they may get depressed when I am not there, in essence I feel responsible for their happiness. I hate having this feeling. It creates guilt, resentment and doesn't let me spread my wings. I have to fight it of course. Anyway, I shouldn't complain. I just wanted to say that it might not be so good in the long run, but of course each person grows up differently.
Your point is a valid one. I would never want Loch to feel responsible for the cohesion of our marriage. Acting like a middleman for parents is a difficult position. I do however believe that this is not the feeling he gets from the occasional times he has implemented the “time out”. He sees us complementing each other and working through things far more often. Thank you for your concern though. All the best, Leigh
Thank you for the reply. That’s important for him to see you being good to each other 🙂
loved this. what a lucky little guy you have to have a mom like you!
Probably this isn’t the first time that someone says to you ” Hey, what you are doing for your child is awsome”, but, i have to say it.
First time i came here, i don’t even know what i was looking about, then i understood that everything you’ve posted here aren’t only suggestions for your young man, but are just lessons for life..that someday everybody will need.
I’m sorry for my bad english (i’m italian) but at last i just wanna wish you good luck and hold on!
Emily your English is far better than my Italian! Thank you for your support. I’m hanging on every day! xo leigh
It’s amazing how you’ve got what most of us are thinking, and more importantly feeling, down so well on paper. I love the line “neither had fallen out of love at the same time”, it’s so true.
What a sweet and compelling post. 🙂
My husband and I got married in 2010 for pretty much the same reasons you described — we wanted that next level of commitment, to belong to each other. I still remember waking up the day after our wedding and realizing that our relationship really had changed. Even though we’d been together for over five years before having a ceremony, that one event forever divided our history into a before and after. We felt inexplicably closer to one another, and a deeper sense of security was almost immediate.
We aren’t currently legal, of course. That would be spectacular… maybe someday.
I totally agree, too, on your relationship advice. I hope your son hears the wisdom in your words.