Once upon a time, there was a girl who spent untold hours at a meditation retreat visualizing every detail of her future storybook wedding.
That was me in 2007 at my first silent Vipassana retreat. A lot can change in six years. Compared to the birth of a newborn child, matrimonial ceremonies are a bit anticlimactic.
Yesterday, I got married. Yes, I love him. Yes, I am thrilled to be in a loving, content, committed relationship with a wonderfully kind, intelligent, creative person. Admittedly, our legal marriage was wholly instigated by immigration issues and our desire to be able to enter the United States, to visit during the summers and maybe, though probably not, someday move there as a family.
Life is not a fairy tale, but when we met, it did feel like one—at least for the first week.
I was living in Guatemala City at the time and had gone to visit Lake Atitlan to spend several days quietly reflecting on 2011 and celebrating the start of 2012.
My amazing friends in San Marcos, a Colombiano and Mexicana power hippie couple, basically set us up to house-sit together. There was only one bed. Those long, lazy, luxurious days were filled with cooking, eating, yoga, reading, writing (me), jewelry-making (him) and lovemaking (us).
Long story short, our daughter Jade was born in January, 2013.
A lot of my views have shifted over the past six years and I no longer desired a white wedding. Although I am a supporter of the legalization of gay marriage, official matrimony just wasn’t a personal priority, much less holy matrimony in the Catholic church in which both of us were raised.
Upon registering and filing for Jade’s passport at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City, I asked about my mate’s eligibility for a tourist visa.
He’s a self-employed, cash-only, semi-hippie kind of guy who doesn’t have documentation to prove that he will not stay in the United States and become a terrorist, so marriage was the logical next step.
We are summering in his home country, Colombia, where we recently filed all the requisite notarized, certified, translated, stamped, sealed and signed paperwork. Yesterday, the matrimonio civil took place before the Notaria, which is the Colombian equivalent of a Justice of the Peace.
Ironically, in order to be allowed to marry, we had to pretend that we have no children. (Admitting that fact would involve even more paperwork, lawyers and fees, while not admitting it hurt no one and would not be traceable, since our baby’s birth is only registered in Guatemala and the U.S.)
Although we’d hadn’t planned any big fanfare around the event, his family naturally refused to let it go unnoticed. A million photos were taken, rice was thrown, meals were shared and everyone ate cake. As is apparently the tradition, we, the novios, said a few words at our lovely little reception. I choked out a gracias to my nueva familia before breaking into sobs while trying to gracefully express how fortunate I feel to have met and now married their son/brother/nephew/cousin.
Even though now I’m officially a señora, you can still call me señorita.
My own parents just celebrated their 35th anniversary last week and they continue to be a great example of an enduring partnership that has weathered some pretty intense storms over the years.
I solicited advice on cultivating a lasting, loving marriage from my friends. The consensus seems to be that compassion, communication and laughter are key. My husband (how weird it feels to write that!) and I are lucky to have much in common: we are vegetarians who will eat fish if we must, we are vociferous readers, we are laid-back, we are spiritual but not religious, we like to travel and, most of all, we are co-parenting a precious little girl.
My top marriage advice tidbits come from two expat friends I met in Guatemala City. A few years ago, at his 36th wedding anniversary party, when asked what makes his marriage work, Phil said:
“It’s not easy. You take it day by day, moment to moment.”
And the other day, in response to my inquiry, “What makes for a lasting, loving marriage?” Kat poetically reminded me:”
Live in that question tomorrow and the next day and the next day and you will have a lasting and loving marriage. It can only deteriorate if you view it as something you did or have. Treat your relationship as a living being and it will continue to grow!
And thus, they lived happily ever after—in a non-fairy-tale, day-to-day, moment-to-moment, middle path kind of way!
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Ed: Catherine Monkman