In June of this year, one of my sisters' teenage sons was married. I wrote a short letter of advice to the newlyweds that might be useful to other young people who are just starting a life together, and so to that end, I've included here a copy of the original. It has been edited only for anonymity and to correct a few errors of grammar and style. Please feel free to share it with others.

Dear Newlyweds,

     Please pardon this typed note. My handwriting is atrocious and would likely make for no end of amusement as you tried to decipher it. That said, I am writing because in addition to the sentiments expressed on the card, I wanted to tender a small piece of advice. I suspect you're both full-up of advice right now, but don't fret, this is easy and simple—and it's important to hear now, as you begin your life together.

     Basically, as you both become truly independent of your parents and part of a new family grouping—casting off in your own ship, so to speak—it is very important that you never forget that you are and will always be independent people. I don't mean independent of one another, free to do whatever you care to without regard to your partner, but rather that you are individuals, neither owned nor owning the other. Marriage is not about surrendering who you are to be part of something else, nor about remolding either yourself or the other person to your vision of what the partnership should be. It is about finding ways to mold your separate and unique personalities and your individual wills to the common good of your new family. Although this may sound counter-intuitive, the truth is that people are not attracted to one another mostly because of their similarities. True, similarities do create common frames of reference and provide a foundation upon which relationships are built, but people are more often drawn to one another by the uniqueness of their personalities and their character, flaws and all. The differences are at least as important as the similarities, and sometimes more so.

     I know you have been together for a long while and probably feel you know yourselves very well. Likely you do, but never forget that people mature and grow through their lives, and neither of you is a finished product—few people ever are. You know yourselves well enough now, but you will become different people many times over as you encounter and overcome the many challenges life presents you, and as you grow together and individually. As that happens, the greatest challenge will be to find room in yourself for the changes you will see in your partner, and to learn to accommodate those changes while remaining true to and satisfied with yourself.

     Essentially, it comes to this: You came to love one another for reasons that transcend money, ambition, calling, hobbies, or religion. Never forget those reasons because they are the core of what makes you a family of your own. And make yourself remember those reasons whenever money, ambition, calling, or any of the other competing and divisive pressures of life start to push you apart. It is my greatest hope that you never find yourself distant from each other, but if you do, it will be the memory of the reasons you married in the first place that keeps you grounded and connected. Add to those memories whenever you can, at every opportunity. Do not allow the drudgery of life to keep you from doing things together, from spending time traveling, dining together, reading to one another, or just spending the last minutes of your day talking about things.

     Never forget that you are both individuals trying to make a life together. This will help you understand and be tolerant of one another's idiosyncrasies, but also never forget the reasons you decided to get married because that will help you see past the challenges of the moment. And of course never forget God because sometimes your own strength and wisdom and understanding will simply not be enough. He is always there.

     And with all of that said, I'll close. Of course, we all wish you the greatest joy, and we will pray for your health and happiness.

     God Bless & Congratulations!

~~~~~~~~~~

     Minor changes were made to this essay on 6 Dec 09
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