My sister is getting married in September and recently asked me to write some reflections on marriage based on experience. I came up with the following. It's still kind of rough, and there is certainly more I could say, but I sort of like this, and thought I'd share.
On a day-to-day basis, being married means sharing life with your very best friend - the person who you are closer to than anyone in the world, the person who knows you and whom you know as intimately as you know yourself. This means playing and having fun when all is well, holding each other close and propping one another up in the challenging times, and celebrating the best times. Being married is sharing - all of the moments of life, from the mundane to the very high peaks to the very low valleys.
It also means giving of yourself. Some consider marrying a sacrifice, or a loss of oneself. I don't see it that way. I see it as growing into a more fully developed person by giving up little individual foibles to be more open to your partner. In exchange, you also gain a fuller partner as s/he gives up his/her own trivialities. True, this doesn't always happen without conflict. But when conflict occurs, the ability to step back and recognize what is most important in the larger picture of your partnership will ultimately lead to an improvement in the marriage. We are all imperfect people, and I believe that a good marriage with the right person helps us to become better.
Although I was asked specifically about marriage, I'd like to share one thought on love, within a marriage. Love is so often misconstrued as a "thing." You have love or you don't, and it is a capricious thing that follows its own whims. But this just isn't true. Love is a verb, it is an action. We choose to love. We may "fall in love" during initial romantic attraction, but continuing to love is a decision we make. We all get older and in doing so, lose some of our young attractiveness, in many ways. But continuing to love one another once the romance has faded is a conscious choice. We go on loving because of commitment, because of a shared life and experiences, sometimes only because we vowed we would. The happy thing is that being in such a commitment - a daily, intentional bond - most often results in joy, comfort, contentment, and happiness beyond that first experienced during romantic attraction. It is a happy and joyful existence for the most part. But the reality is that we all have dark times, individually and as partners. Sometimes it is just hard to be good and giving, sometimes we are needy and selfish. Although this is something that will need attention and work, the commitment to continue loving one another is what carries us through these times.
Marriage is an obligation and it is work, but it is also fun and comfort and joy. After earning a Ph.D. and accomplishing several other personal achievements, I can still say that being a part of a strong and happy marriage is my biggest success, and truly the one that makes my life good.