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Marriage Lessons

Reflections on year one

By Rebecca Padgett Frett

 The box in front of us, sized to the exact specifications of a wine bottle, is made of wood from my childhood home and components from one of my father’s tackle box. My father, who built my childhood home, created it. It holds my and my husband’s wedding day mementos — our vows written in parchment booklets, letters we wrote to one another on tear-stained pages and a bottle of wine to be enjoyed and selected anew each year.

Zan and I were married on Dec. 12, 2020. I knew then that a year later we would open this box and participate in this ritual. And we did. We uncorked the wine and refamiliarized ourselves with the vows and letters.

We weren’t charged with the current of excitement and nervousness of a wedding day. We weren’t wearing expensive outfits with a crowd of people on the other side of the doors waiting to witness our ceremony. We were in the comfort of our living room and clad in sweatpants with cats as our audience.

Still, the exercise would prove meaningful and emotional.

Sarah & Paul Photography

After a swig of wine and a deep breath, I begin. Almost immediately, I am transported back to that church were we shared our hopes, wants and needs for our marriage. My husband reads his letter and we are both misty.

I am not exactly humble. When I say his letter is better than mine, I mean this. We repeat the exercise, but with our vows, handwritten in booklets. It’s possible that more tears fell on our one-year anniversary as we repeated our vows than they did on the day of our wedding.

I realized why; we had lived out what we wrote down. Our actions matched our words, for better and for worse.

Sarah & Paul Photography

At the start of 2021, we purchased and completely renovated a second home as a rental property. This experience was an exercise in patience and problem solving. Of decision making and money management. Of using our hands to transform something and furthering our ability to create. We laughed at how many paint splatters a pair of pants could hold and cried over the frustrations of an uneven foundation and the cost to fix it. We applied the importance of a solid foundation to our own marriage. We fulfilled our vow of always being equals through teamwork.

Within the year, my husband’s mother and grandmother passed away. These women molded my husband into who he is. I am indebted to them for the great compassion with which they raised him. He and I will never be healed of their passing. We are still actively working to understand how the other processes grief. We showed up and slowed down for one another, acknowledging the value of a life, the ripples it can make for generations.

We encouraged each other’s creative and career aspirations. We dated one another — planning vacations, trying new restaurants, attending concerts, throwing down tequila shots and enjoying movies on the couch. We put our relationship first, placing it ahead of our multiple jobs and creative pursuits.

Sarah & Paul photography

Our vows are not uppermost in my mind every day, but reading them was a reminder that fulfilling them is effortless because I found the right person.

There’s not a line I would change in our vows. Instead, I hope to continuously add to them. I vow to continue learning about my husband. I greatly value education. Possibly, it’s the teacher in me. Mostly, it’s the joy of being a lifelong learner.

I am comforted by the fact that I don’t know him fully yet. Throughout our lives, he will continue to teach me who he is and who he hopes to become. I look forward to those lessons.

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