The dating anniversary VS the marriage anniversary

“Happy anniversary,” people said to me on the first and second anniversaries of the day I got married. “Thanks,” I said, secretly thinking, It’s not *really* my anniversary.

For the first two years of marriage I really believed the real anniversary was the day we started dating. That was the day our relationship started – not five years later when we had a big party and signed a piece of paper. The love and commitment were there long before.

But my third wedding anniversary just passed and I’ve changed my tune on this one.

the left hand of the bride over the left hand of the groom, wedding rings prominent
Photo credit: McLaughlin Photography

It took about a year for me to really feel married. They say the first year of marriage is the hardest – I was like,  What is so hard? It’s the same as dating. I have a different last name and our money is more combined, but that’s pretty much it. We’d been living together for several years at that point.

But you know what? It really is different being married. Here’s why:

You Have a Spouse

I don’t have to say “boyfriend” or “fiance” anymore, both of which I grew to dislike over time. As you get older it seems really juvenile to say “my boyfriend” and then really cumbersome and snooty to say “my fiance.” Before we were married I used to want to say “my partner” but that would imply I’m gay (which would be fine, of course, but I happen to be with a man).

“My husband” sounds just right. I am an adult. I have a husband. It’s a firm, permanent sounding word.

Your Money Isn’t Your Money – Or Is It?

On the one hand I feel like I have more money than I’ve ever had before. But on the other hand, I feel like it’s not really mine at all. It’s shared. All of it. I maintained my personal bank account when we got married so I could feel like I had my own money, but it’s a mirage. It’s not mine, and I rarely even use that account.

There are pros and cons to this one, of course, but sometimes it’s just weird. Like when you buy gifts for each other.

It Would Be a Pain in the Ass to Break Up

Yeah. Now, if you say, live together, own a house together, own pets together, have children together, or maybe even work together, of course all of those things would make a break up more difficult than it otherwise would be.

But when you’re married, if you split, it would be a Big Deal. It wouldn’t be just a break up – it would be a “separation” and maybe eventually “divorce.” Those words have much worse connotations than a “break up.”

A “break up” almost sounds even healthy. “We’re breaking up,” you could imagine yourself saying all maturely. “We’re doing the right thing. We’ve decided to part ways. We wish each other the best.” Other people would nod approvingly and you’d feel validated.

“We’re splitting up” or “We’re getting divorced” just seems to equate to, “We’ve failed.” People wouldn’t nod admiringly at your decision to be independent. They’d probably be feel awkward and unsure of what to say. Because it’s Serious.

(Not that breakups aren’t serious or a big deal, of course. But with marriage, much more so.)

You Can’t Make Any Big Decisions on Your Own

This is the big one, folks. This is the one that really makes me feel married most of the time.

Got a job offer for your dream position in another state? Can’t just move. Always wanted a Great Dane? Can’t just bring a gigantic dog home. Saved up money for a vacation? Can’t just go where you want to go, and can’t just do what you want to with “your” money.

The Love is Permanent

This is (obviously) one of the perks of being married. You’ve committed yourself to this other person until one of you dies. That’s a pretty long time. It’s probably not going to be roses and romance  for decades – there will inevitably be some not so great times. But you’ve vowed – literally – to getting past those not so great times, and to do it together.

This year our dating anniversary passed and it didn’t feel like as big of a deal as in past years. But our marriage anniversary did feel like a big deal – like our real anniversary. Like marriage isn’t just an extension of dating anymore.