Above: My parents, Lew and Mary, in the early years of their relationship
I'm getting married in September.
In the meantime, I'm understudying a role in Belleville at Steppenwolf Theatre here in Chicago. As understudy gigs go, this is a pretty sweet one. And the play is a fascinating one - a deeply psychological look at the relationship between Zach and Abby, two American expatriates in the early years of their marriage, living in the Belleville neighborhood of Paris.
One of the currents that runs through the play is the idea that even in marriage - one of the most intimate and complex relationships into which one can enter - so much goes unknown about the other. The play implies that, even after years of marriage, what each doesn't know about the other could fill a book and, for Zach and Abby, the ramifications of these secrets and the shadows of their personalities are devastating.
This is curious play play in which to be involved just a couple of months out from the start of my own marriage which, for the record, will be the second time around for both of us. I know first hand the astonishing difficulty that "unknown variables" can cause in marriage. And even when most of the cards seem to be on the table, even when it seems the biggest problems seem brought to light, it's impossible to know how even those will evolve and come bear two, five, 30 years down the line. It's impossible to know.
Part of my vows will read:
I take you to be no other than yourself,
loving what I know of you,
trusting what I do not yet know...
Marriage is a crapshoot. There are some unknowns that will always be thus - sometimes x and y will always be x and y. That's the nature of people, and therefore the nature of relationships. And that's scary. I can't promise that I won't puke before I walk down the proverbial aisle. But isn't that one of the most beautiful things about marriage anyway? (The unknowns, not the puking). Think of it; if you already know how the story's gonna go, why go?
One of the coolest things about life is that you can't plan it. You can try, and good luck to you, but this ride is ever-shapeshifting and ever-evolving, complete with unavoidably wretched moments and moments of unfathomable splendor.
So it is with marriage. At best, you get a decent idea of what you're getting yourself into. Then you get into it. You try to grow and change together with as much grace as you can. You make and take the revelations in stride. You fear not what's yet unknown.