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Someone once said to me, marriage doesn’t begin on the wedding day, it begins the day after the wedding day.

I was engaged when these words were uttered to me; a few days away from marrying the man I love. I listened to these words, but I didn’t fully comprehend them. Actually, if I’m being perfectly honest here, I dismissed these words precisely because I didn’t understand them.

To me, marriage — my marriage — would begin on my wedding day. It would begin the moment the priest said, I now pronounce you husband and wife. And technically, this was true. In the eyes of God, the church, family and friends, my husband and I were married. We were officially husband and wife when those words are uttered. But at the same time, we didn’t really know what it truly meant to be married; what it meant to be a husband and wife, until much after the wedding day.

When things are going great in my relationship and I am on a “high”, marriage isn’t hard.  Being a good wife is easy. Remembering my wedding vows is easy. In fact, being married is downright simple and a no-brainer.

On the other hand, when things aren’t going so great and I am in a “low” period, marriage is hard. Being a good wife is hard. Remembering my wedding vows which becomes so tantamount during these times, is so difficult to do. And I’m not referring to the richer or poorer or fidelity part because if truth be told, maintaining those vows isn’t that hard for me. Rather, I’m referring to the part when I said I will love, honor and respect my husband. How tough is it to love, honor and respect someone who isn’t necessarily acting loveable, honorable and respectful (or vice versa)? It’s downright difficult and this is when being married also seems downright difficult.

This is also when those words said to me when I was engaged start to make a lot of sense. Marriage doesn’t begin on the wedding day, rather it begins the day after the wedding day (or a few months later as in my case). For me, it begins when I experience the ups, downs and in-betweens in my relationship with my husband. It begins when my relationship is put to the test during difficult times. It begins when I learn to place my own needs second to my husband’s needs. It begins when I learn to forgive my husband for the wrong and hurt he may have caused me. And it begins when I learn to love my husband unconditionally.

The irony of course is that I have to be married in order to understand what it means to be married. I have to have my patience and character tested (even without having kids!) in order to understand what it means to truly love someone. I have to fail as a wife several times over, in order to succeed as one. …And I have to grow and continue to grow in my relationship in order to be able to look back and truly understand the meaning behind those words — marriage doesn’t begin on the wedding day, it begins the day after the wedding day…