I Am Woman, Hear Me Write

Kate Carlson: In search of that happy ending, I turned to the real deal

Kate Martin Carlson on her wedding day with Nanna and PopPop, Joan and Carl Dorko.
Kate Martin Carlson on her wedding day with Nanna and PopPop, Joan and Carl Dorko.

When I became a newlywed, I had this perception that we were supposed to live in a blissful state of perfection. My generation grew up watching the fairy tales of “Cinderella,” “Beauty & the Beast” and “The Little Mermaid,” so of course, every love story has a happy ending!

But what happens when you enter the harsh reality that love stories don’t have happy endings without a lot of work and effort by both people in a marriage?

In my first few months of marriage, I went through this discovery process. In a society where brides are constantly being fed self-doubt, it can feel like a continuous battle to be that perfect spouse and have a flawless marriage. I go to the checkout line at the grocery store, and magazines are covered with headlines that only make me question every single action: “Is Your Man Happy?” or “Three Simple Steps to Keep Your Marriage Alive” or “Don’t Let the Fire Burn Out!”

How is the fire going to burn out when we just got married? Within the very early stages of our marriage, whenever my husband and I had the slightest blip in the road (“Honey, I burnt dinner!”) those fears started to creep into my mind.

I had to make the decision whether I was going to take my advice from the magazine tabloids or find another source of wisdom. I realized it was time I turned to the “real deal”: couples who found the “happy ending” and have been living it for a long time.

My Nanna and PopPop, childhood sweethearts since middle school, celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary this summer. Together my grandparents have raised four wonderful daughters while surviving medical school, a stint in the Air Force, a devastating house fire, numerous heart attacks and other medical traumas, in addition to all the other ups and downs one encounters in a long marriage.

Growing up, I loved watching their love story. They have always had a strong partnership and never-ending passion. But as I learned from my grandparents, that all came with time and hard work.

Here are three pieces of marriage advice my Nanna passed on to me that I think are much better than any tabloid you’ll read in the checkout line:

▪ On your wedding day, you don’t know how you could love this person any more than you do. However, as life progresses, you realize that this love just keeps growing deeper and stronger with time. This is what keeps the “excitement” in your marriage.

▪ Make sure your spouse knows they are the most important person in your life.

▪ When you first get married, you think you must do everything together as a couple. Soon you’ll realize how important it is to give each other space to grow.

My husband and I have been married almost two years, and I’ve since stopped picking up magazines with questioning headlines. I’ve learned to turn to the wisdom of the people in my life who have strong marriages and exemplify a true “happy ending!”

Kate Carlson is the director of public relations at It Works!. She can be reached at katec@itworksglobal.com.

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