I met my husband in September, and by January 7 we were married. It was three months and change. I planned the wedding in 30 days. I chose a cruise ship since it was mostly already arranged; you could just pick which cake you wanted, select from a list of vows. I was never one of those girls who spent hours fantasizing about a wedding, but this was not how I imagined it: the cheapest flowers, the fewest guests, the gown that wouldn't show that I was already almost three months pregnant.

Dear Fang, With Love

Dear Fang, With Love

When my husband and I got married, we were strangers. It was the biggest risk I'd ever taken. I remember holding hands with him at the prow of the boat as the captain read our vows, looking into each other's eyes, as we simultaneously realized he was reading the wrong vows, not the words we had chosen, but some other set of promises entirely. It immediately struck us both as funny, but of course we couldn't laugh, we could only look into each other's eyes and wonder what we'd done. There are upsides to having a small, rushed wedding where you are read the wrong vows and where nothing is supposed to be perfect and so everything somehow is. And there are benefits to marrying someone you don't know.

For one thing, we were putting all our eggs in this one rickety little basket, and so we approached every day with each other, every conversation, with the hope that it would go well. We didn't pick fights, we didn't criticize, we didn't make mountains of molehills-we were already in the mountains, we didn't need to create any more of them. And you know what happens if you don't pick fights? You don't have fights. If both of you are trying your hardest never to be nasty to each other, then, oh strange miracle, you are never nasty to each other.

Sometimes in dating, you push the other person, as if to test: is this real, is this person the one? What happens if I push them away? What happens if I choose to take that comment the wrong way? Sam and I were desperate for our marriage to work, and so we started every day, every moment, with this purposive niceness. We didn't expect that we wouldn't have to try. We didn't expect that love was something we could be careless with. We saw it as something to be cultivated.

In fact, not only did we avoid being unkind, even if it was only a slightly mean joke that might have gotten a laugh, we sought out opportunities to be nice. "Do you want a backrub?" he would ask. "That shirt looks so good on you," I would say. "You're amazing," we told each other. "I'm so grateful for you." It was like we were bathing each other in warm compliments to ward off the cold shakes of how scared we were. We knew intuitively to ease the worst of each other's fear with kindness.

The funny thing is that kindness becomes a habit, just as nastiness can. These days he is still quick to offer a backrub, tells me five times a day that I'm beautiful or interesting, compliments my crayon job on Spiderman was I'm coloring with our son. We're almost five years in and he has still never said a mean word to me. Not one mean word.

I'm sure he notices when I burn dinner. He is not oblivious when I gain weight. He is fully aware of how bad I am at parallel parking. But he does not say a word. He chooses not to. Because he has put is actions into a straight line with his intentions. He intends for our marriage to work, therefore he intends to be nice to me, therefore he is.

Other couples notice it. I have come to understand that our niceness is actually almost conspicuous. There are so many small ways in which men and women ridicule each other, teasing and eye rolls, jokes that are jabs: "Well you know Jim, he loves golf more than his own children!" Or: "Oh, Laura, don't go boring them with that story of yours again!" I think our relationship seems namby pamby to some people, or like a disguise to others. Surely it is just an act and when we go home, we are petty and nag like normal people. But no. with us the chocolate bunny is chocolate through and through, solid to the core.

"Maybe my husband and I should be nicer to each other," one of our friends said, after a few glasses of wine. The women were sitting together at one table and the men were off in the garage looking at something, the children were playing in the yard, hitting each other with pool noodles we had decorated to look like light sabers. She looked wistfully toward the garage. "I would be nicer," she explained, "but I won't do it unless he starts first, he has to go first."

But of course, you can't control anyone else but yourself. She can't make him go first. I couldn't make my husband marry me when I discovered I was pregnant. All you can control is yourself. You are in the boat: you get control of the oars, not the storm. But the oars, the oars can be everything.

Maybe the secret really was that the pressure of the situation forced us to abandon any ambivalence. Either we were doing this, or we weren't. There wasn't room to feel two ways, and so our intentions became purified and a lot more conscious than they might have otherwise been. The short time line made us understand that we had a choice- in fact, that everything was a choice. And we chose each other.