Monday, August 25, 2014

What is it Like Being Married?

As a newlywed of just over two months, I get asked a certain question quite a bit. Of course, sometimes the question is phrased slightly differently but it's ultimately the same question.

What is it like being married?

To be clear, the individuals asking me this question are not asking in the sense that a child might; blissfully unaware what a life commitment to someone else feels like. For the most part the people asking me are married themselves, and so the question boils down to several completely different questions such as:
  • Do you regret getting married?
  • Are you happy being married?
  • Is it difficult being married?
  • What has changed in the relationship?
  • Does the relationship feel different than it did before?
The thing is that for my wife and I, marriage is no different than engagement was. We were engaged for three years, lived together for four, and had been together for six. All of the milestones that were expected of a traditional marriage had already been passed.

And isn't that the way it should be? One family friend of mine, after asking us this question and hearing our response, was genuinely surprised. But why should being married be any different than being engaged? Shouldn't we be just as emotionally and physically comfortable and committed to each other as we were the day before we said our vows? Why leave anything a surprise after we had been together and in love for so long? By experiencing everything in a relationship that we could with each other before marriage, we were that much more prepared to be with each other; our fears were settled when our separate lives mixed perfectly together, and when they didn't we worked hard to learn how to make them mix.
  • We both like keeping our living space clean and tidy? Perfect!
  • We have different preferences for how to spend our free time together? Okay, let's figure out a mutually beneficial compromise to avoid further conflict!

If nothing changed, what's the point?

I don't think I've actually gotten this question, but I'm sure there are some people who may think it, so I will address it thusly:

When I was young and did not understand homosexuality, I asked someone why a man would marry another man, "for the tax breaks, which is why they shouldn't be allowed to" they told me. Could the same be argued for my wife and I? Should we not have been allowed to marry simply because the only thing that changed was that we are now financially and legally responsible for each other? Were we wrong to want to marry simply because nothing in our relationship would change?

To digress for a moment; in my opinion, marriage is such an odd thing for the government to be involved with in the first place; as my wife and I signed up for our marriage license I couldn't help but wonder what business the government had why people got married? Does it really make a difference if they're not man and woman, in love, and living and sleeping in separate bedrooms?

In our case, we married not only for the tax breaks, but also for the symbolic gesture of committing our lives to each other. We have made a loud and clear statement in front of all of our family and friends that we will be monogamous to each other and care and love for each other for as long as we live. We married to celebrate and reaffirm the promises we have made to each other every day. That was the point.

Aren't you missing out on something?

Not even in the slightest. I've got everything I could want out of marriage; a fantastic party I'll remember forever, a ring on my finger, a new perspective on our relationship, and all the legal stuff that comes with it.

Honestly when I consider the relationship I have with my wife and compare it to others that I know, I'd say that I've got it even better than most do. Corey and I are not only husband and wife, but we're best friends. We rarely argue, we never get tired of "hanging out" with each other, we can rely on each other when we need each other the most, we still surprise each other with how in sync our thoughts are at times, and overall we make each other's lives much easier to live and deal with than anyone else.

I've met people who talk about having a "love/hate" relationship with their spouse, people who don't talk to their spouse for hours on end out of spite, and married couples who seem to get along fine but don't show any sign of the "spark" that some don't even believe exists. None of those applies to me. When I think about the relationship I have with my wife, I can easily relate it to the best of marriages that you see in the movies; the ones that are supposed to be works of fiction. Granted we have our share of issues, but the positives so much outweigh the negatives that they seem to not exist at all most of the time.

In short, my wife is the best thing that's ever happened to me, and asking her to marry me was the smartest thing I've ever done.

Wait, what do you mean by "a new perspective on our relationship"?

Sorry, you're right; I didn't explain that. While nothing has physically changed in our routines and lives, I must admit that I feel a bit different since getting married.

I feel like a wolf.
A wolf howling.
What I mean is that, like a wolf, I have chosen a mate for life and I feel a strong natural urge to protect and care for my pack.

Update September 2, 20141: Since publishing this post it has been brought to my attention that wolves do not always mate for life. I feel like one of the wolves that do.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

My Wedding: The Honeymoon

[This post is part 4 of a multi-part series about my wedding. You can read about the rehearsal here, the  morning of the wedding here, and the wedding itself here.]

With the long-awaited wedding over, and after a day to rest and open up our gifts, my wife and I set out to the next step; the honeymoon.

Our original plan when we first talked about going on a honeymoon was to save money by taking a road trip within the continental United States. We assumed it would be fun, inexpensive, and a great way to start our long-term goal of visiting each state together. Maps and tourist guides were bought, hotels were researched, and we were just about to book our stay at one with  the ultimate goal being to end up in North Carolina (which has been a fantasy of Corey's for quite some time partially thanks to Nicholas Sparks books).

Just before booking the hotel, we realized that the whole process was just too stressful, too expensive, and too small. We found ourselves having to calculate distances between towns and gasoline consumption, subtracting hours of fun because of driving time, and not wanting to worry about all of that when the time came.

"Why don't we just find an all-inclusive resort for the same amount of money, spend it all at once, and not worry about that sort of thing for a second during the trip?" I suggested. Corey rolled her eyes at me because this had actually been her original plan. She was always more interested in the idea of sitting on a beach somewhere, but I had said "no" to that idea because I thought it would be too boring.

So what changed my mind? Stress and finances had only dictated that I did not want to go on such an intricate road trip for what was meant to be a fun and romantic honeymoon, but what had made me want to go to a beach?

The winter of 2013 was a long and record-breaking cold one. That's what.

Before long we had decided (with the help of a travel agent suggested by a friend) to go to the Ocean Maya Royale resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico. We chose the location because it is adults-only, smaller, and less expensive than others, so with the money we saved on the location we bumped ourselves up to the "privileged" package.

It was the first time that either of us had been to an all-inclusive resort, as well as the first time either of us had flown on an airplane (which turned out to not be scary except for the scary parts). The resort was beautiful. Not too large, but not too small either. They had multiple restaurants, each with their own theme and menu, and they had multiple activities throughout the day which ended with a show and then dance party at the end of the night.
Photo of the daily events at the Ocean Maya Royale
We signed up for two excursions; ATV ride/tour and a full-day visit that was split between the Tulum ruins and Xel-Ha natural water park.
Photo of my wife and I on an ATV in a thick jungle-looking area.
We purposely scheduled the excursions for the middle of our week-long stay so that we could spend the first and last days relaxing, which included a couple's massage on the first day and a private dinner on the beach on one of the last.
Photo of our desserts during a romantic sunset dinner on the beach.
Part of the privileged package included meals at certain restaurants which were closed to everyone else, wine and chocolate-covered strawberries at our room upon arrival, and (our personal favorite) a private section of the beach with comfortable furniture, shade, and an exclusive waiter/waitress for drink orders.
Photo of my wife and I about to eat a delicious breakfast near the ocean.
Over the course of that week we each tried things that we'd never done before. We snorkeled with fish (I'm quite scared of fish), tried all sorts of food (why not try it when it's all included?), got the aforementioned couple's massage, and both realized we're quite fond of daiquiris.
A selfie of my wife and I swimming with snorkel gear on.
So much happened that it's honestly too much to sum up into one blog post. There was a lazy river, a chocolate martini-induced iguana sighting, a lot of Italian food, a finger-painter, a Grease show, more delicious food than I can recall, beautiful blue water, baby deer, a guarded bridge to a beautiful inlet, a waterproof camera, and a lizard on our ceiling.

On our last night (after the lizard), we reconnected with a couple that we'd met on the first day when getting our massage, and ended up staying up late hanging out, talking, and drinking with them until the wee hours of the night rather than turning in early as we had been for the rest of the week. They seemed legitimately bummed that we were leaving the next day, since they were staying for a whole extra week.
A photo of my wife, myself, and the couple we spent time with on our last night of our honeymoon.
Of course, we were even more bummed to be leaving. The honeymoon was more relaxing than anything else either of us had ever experienced before, and we found ourselves making mental lists of all the things we would do should we (hopefully) return. I would highly suggest this type of honeymoon to anyone, as well as the Ocean Maya Royale resort itself.

And yes, we really should return.

Monday, August 4, 2014

My Wedding.

[This post is part 3 of a multi-part series about my wedding. You can read about the rehearsal here, the  morning of the wedding here, and the honeymoon here.]
Tweet: Showtime.
Above is the last text I sent before my wedding officially began. With my wife-to-be hiding in a shed behind the entrance of the gazebo, my groomsmen and I made our way outside to the wedding space. We were stopped only for a few minutes to give people time to sit down as well as us time to get our boutonnières put on. The nerves had finally started to hit me as the realization started to sink in.

Positioning myself behind the closed gate I was to walk through, I awaited the musical cue. Rather than a traditional wedding ceremony song, we had chosen "A Thousand Years" by Christina Perri. In the days and months leading up to the wedding I had expressed concern that the song would come off sounding silly, since it was composed for and used in one of the Twilight movies. It was my feeling that you shouldn't use a song popularized by a movie, because then everyone is just going to be thinking "they picked that song just because they heard it in that movie" rather than admiring the beautiful lyrics or music.

Whether or not someone was thinking that I cannot know, but I know that Twilight was the furthest thing from my mind when the music kicked in and the gates opened. Upon seeing the beautiful space and all the smiling and eager faces of my friends and family, my eyes almost immediately swelled up with tears of joy. I tried my best to keep a smiling face, but my emotions fought me every step of the way. I even whispered to the judge when I had gotten to the front that "I'm already crying."
Photo of myself walking down the aisle, looking ready to cry.
After the bridesmaids and groomsmen took their positions, Corine emerged from the shed, though she was concealed by the now closed gate. One of the traditions that we had decided to keep for our wedding was that I would not see her wedding dress until the wedding itself. This was much easier said than done, especially since she bought the dress over a year before the wedding. I waited in anticipation; seeing only the white color of the dress through the gate. I couldn't help but wonder what type of dress she had picked, how it looked on her, and if I would be as emotionally impacted by the sight of her as everyone said I would (and should) be.
Photo of my beautiful wife being escorted down the aisle by her father.

Of course, I was emotionally impacted by the sight of her. How could I not be? She could have been wearing a bathrobe and sweatpants and it still would have tug at my heart to see my bride walking toward me. She looked absolutely gorgeous in her wedding dress. I was absolutely in tears by the time the ceremony began.

A Brief Overview of the Ceremony:
  • The ceremony started out with the judge introducing herself and passing around a small bag with the rings inside of it for the guests to hold and wish good luck upon while the ceremony went on.
  • There was then a rose ceremony in which Corine and I each presented a rose to our parents as a symbolic thanks for their unconditional love and support.
  • Corine and I then held hands while the judge performed a hand blessing. The original intent of this particular part was for it to be an Irish hand blessing which involves literally tying a knot around our interlocked hands, but there was some miscommunication and a different hand blessing was performed, though I didn't notice or care.
  • The expression of intent came next, where the judge asked us each if we would take each other as husband and wife, and we (of course) responded "I will."
  • The vows, which we had written ourselves.
  • The rings were then collected from the guests for the ring exchange.
  • We ended with a sand ceremony, in which we mixed two separate vials of colored sand into a single container to represent the blending of our lives together and that as hard as it would be to separate our individual grains of sand, so too would it be that hard for us to break our loving bond.
The vows in particular were tearjerkers for both she and I. Saying something that comes from the heart and is very personal to your relationship is just so much more meaningful than any pre-written vow could ever be. The personal vows were also, in my mind, symbolic of the effort we were trying to make to make the wedding truly our own. Before our wedding day we had some people express worry that we weren't going to have a "traditional" wedding (traditional wedding song, at a church, etc.), but when it was all said and done we had relatives and friends coming up to us and telling us that it was "the most beautiful wedding I've ever seen."
Photo of myself and my wife walking back up the aisle after getting married, and looking happy!
On a slight sidenote, I think people are so wrapped up in what they think a wedding "should" be that they become closed-minded to the idea that anything else can be as beautiful. The truth is that anything unique to your personality is going to be much more beautiful than a carbon copy of something that's been done thousands of times before. I highly suggest to anybody reading this that they go the extra mile to make their wedding unique and personal. It makes a hell of a difference.
After finishing the ceremony and taking some photos, it was time to make our way to the reception space, which was conveniently halfway to the hotel from the gazebo. We'd rented out the detached pavilion (complete with an open bar) on the property of the hotel.

From then on was visiting with the guests, cutting the cake, dinner (the highlight being a cashew crusted chicken with maple cream sauce), and speeches. Each member of the wedding party gave a speech, including my wife (which I wasn't expecting). Even my older brother, who is generally a very quiet person, gave a speech, which was very meaningful to me that he would even consider standing up and speaking in front of a crowd.

After literally everyone gave a speech except me, a table with some of my family members started chanting my name and asking for me to give a speech as well, so of course I improvised something along the lines of "I don't know what to say except thank you".

Even after all of that was said and done, I was extremely nervous. I had been drinking a little bit to calm my nerves, but I was also being careful to maintain a very low level of drunkenness (almost nonexistent, actually). The reason for this is that our first dance was still to come, and we had been taking lessons for a little over a month in preparation. We didn't have a "routine" per se, but we did have a handful of moves that we would then improvise the order of based on the space of the dance floor and the timing of the music.
Photo of my wife and I performing our first dance together as husband and wife.
Luckily everything went very well. Our song "I'll Be (Acoustic Version)" by Edwin McCain proved to be a good choice, and even though I stepped on Corine's dress two or three times (we hadn't practiced with such a long dress) when I look back at the video footage it's impossible to notice; we played it off like pros.

Tweet: First dance went off amazingly!

Immediately after the first dance and father-daughter dance were finished I unbuttoned my vest, went to the bar, and ordered a stronger drink. The rest of the night was an amazing blur of dancing and wild fun with everyone young and old. Even my grandfather, who is in his 80's and was recently in the hospital, got onto the dance floor and had a great time. Honestly when I look back at the photos I can see that everyone had a good time, and I wouldn't have changed a thing.
Photo of my 80-something year-old grandfather getting his dance on!
At the stroke of midnight, my wife and I thanked our DJ (who did an absolutely amazing job playing to the crowd, which was no small feat considering the huge age range) then made our way to our hotel room where we relaxed in the hot tub for half an hour before going to bed, absolutely exhausted from the amazing wedding.
Tweet: Best night ever.
Luckily, the fun didn't stop there. Our week-long honeymoon was yet to come.