Wedding rings as a symbol of life
I’ve photographed close to one hundred weddings and I love doing it. For the most part, a wedding day is one of the happiest days of someone’s life. The energy and enthusiasm is infectious; it’s an emotional high simply to be present as an observer.
But let’s be honest; weddings can also be cheesy. Like, really cheesy. Filled with well-meaning but sappy talk of soulmates and never hurting the other and not going to bed angry … words which will not survive the birth of your first child, if they aren’t disproven much sooner.
No matter who we marry or how our relationship came to be, we have all had the experience of waking up one day to realize that life with our significant other is not all sunshine and roses or sex and pancakes. The truth is, being married — even to our “soulmate” — can be a hell of a lot of work on our best days together, let alone once kids or in-laws enter the picture.
However, of all the flowery words I have heard uttered in the course of a ceremony, one thing in particular stands out from a recent wedding I photographed. I’ve seen it before but it really stayed with me this time.
The pastor used the analogy of the wedding rings as unending circles and observed that for unending love to flourish, it must be accompanied by unending effort as well. There can be no end in effort; no break.
That’s true of marriage; we must continuously invest in the sometimes difficult work of loving our partners — of listening, empathizing, compromising, respecting, supporting and honoring — in order to reap love’s rewards. In order to stay on course and arrive at its destination, a ship must always make slight corrections to its course as it’s buffeted by winds and waves, whether sailing through a tumultuous storm or even on a calm, sunny day. Marriage is no different.
Of course, as time marches on, people change too. I’m certainly not the same person I was five, ten or twenty years ago and I bet you’re not either; we must continuously renew our relationships in the face of these changes and everything else that life throws at us.
I love this analogy of an unending circle, not only as a helpful way to think about marriage, but all of life. Think about it: why do we stagnate in our marriages, as parents, in our careers or our personal lives? For the most part, we simply stop trying. This rarely happens overnight, but rather slowly and imperceptibly, one day at a time.
The honeymoon is over and we drift, bit by bit, until months or years later, we find ourselves a thousand miles away from our partner.
Our jobs become comfortable and we settle into a routine of “good enough” or doing just enough to stay out of trouble.
Life gets hectic and we stop reading or working out or making time for ourselves.
This isn’t “your” fault, by the way. The human brain is always looking for ways to ramp down and preserve energy. It’s as much a part of our biology as fear of lions or desire for water.
It isn’t your fault, but it is your problem. It’s mine and everyone else’s too. Each day, we get to choose whether or not we’re going to take one small step toward our goals, or to allow the winds and waves of life to knock us one step away from it.
I encourage you to start today; take 10-15 minutes and think about how you will continuously renew life’s most important relationships and reinvest in your most important goals.