Like many girls of my generation; I was raised on a steady diet of rom-coms and teen magazines.
I had small town, conservative Christian, and traditional Latinx cultures all reminding me that it was best to marry young, and that the greatest and most honorable thing I could ever do was be an excellent mother to my (many) children.
In college, my friends and I would stay up late in the night, fuelled by fantasies of these perfect lives with these perfect men who were strong and handsome and could make us laugh and love Jesus and be loyal and provide for us and our families and and and....
All the while implicitly developing expectations for ourselves as wives and mothers : beautiful, wonderful homemakers and hostesses, devoid of ambition, desire, and need outside of the ambitions, desires, and needs of our husbands and families.
Eventually, all of my friends got married. So I moved. Admittedly, to find a husband somewhere else. It's all I knew.
By the time I got married, four years after leaving home and four years before today (well, last Thursday, to be exact), I had no real idea of what saying that particular "Yes" would mean.
There were moments when it was brutal; the uncharted territory of trying to learn someone, after two years, I barely knew, the loss of complete control of my own life, the loneliness that gnawed at me still. And, not to be forgotten, the overwhelming fear that because our marriage wasn't "working" the way I was taught it was "supposed" to, that we were failing--that I was failing.
It took another two years and a baby for me to loosen my grip on these things. Well, maybe two and a half years. The first six sleep-deprived months of motherhood made me a raging heap of hormones and paranoia. But after that things were fine.
I mean, they weren't just magically fine. Maybe for the first time, Ryan and I started functioning as a pair, instead of individuals wrestling over where and how we spent our energy, money, and time. Those resources, obviously, were being gobbled up by our baby.
And we were left behind as two bedraggled, exhausted people somehow able to see, through the spit-up and sweat, each other more clearly.
It took parenthood to make me realize that Ryan wasn't just some prize that I got for being so "good and faithful" and for "saving myself" for marriage, or even a prize for "sticking to my convictions" and "not settling." He suddenly wasn't a prize at all, he was just a human with flaws that are harder to hide without a full night's sleep. Just like me.
I don't think that Ryan would mind me telling you that, for most of his life, he's been fixated on being "perfect", on being exactly what you need him to be, on being "good." He wouldn’t mind because he's open and honest and true. But I never really would have known the extent of that if he didn’t have to give up on being perfect after becoming a father.
In the past two years, I’ve learned more about my husband than any before. He has unconventional (read, generous and un-American) ideas about how to spend our resources and live our lives. He embraces limitations and failures and human-ness, including his own. He has healthy, realistic expectations about life. He’s the most gracious person I know.
And that grace has brought me freedom. Freedom from the expectations I had of marriage and motherhood, expectations of what I should look like and how I should act. Freedom to be funnier and smarter and more skilled than I am beautiful and polished and domestic. Being with Ryan has freed me from the grip of the woman I thought I was supposed to be, and ushered me into the burgeoning fullness of who I am.
A good love will do that to you, I suppose.