“From This Day Forward”

Sit by me, my beloved, and listen to my heart; smile, for your happiness is a symbol of our future.
                        – Kahlil Gibran

I love weddings! What’s not to love about them? What could be more heartwarming than to witness a young couple (or an older couple for that matter) standing hand in hand before God, family and friends, exchanging vows and committing the rest of their lives to one another! I can think of nothing more beautiful except perhaps the birth of a child.

This past weekend my wife and I were guests at the wedding of a close friend’s son. He was the first of their four boy’s to take the plunge. Now there’s an interesting idiom. “Take the plunge” how did that term ever come to mean getting married? It ranks right up there with “getting hitched”, “tying the knot”, “setting up housekeeping” and my favorite, “taking on the old ball and chain.” Where did these terms come from anyway? Who the hell came up with them? I have to admit they’re kind of funny, but don’t truly capture the true essence or intricate subtleties of marriage. They lay a burdensome quality on the act of matrimony.

Come on, “taking the plunge” sounds as though the couple has fallen or jumped off into some great abyss. “Tying the knot” and “getting hitched” make it sound as if they are now conjoined or bound together and have forsaken individual freedoms forevermore. That is not what marriage is about, it is not a punitive measure, but  a union entered into by two willing, loving participants, a lifelong commitment built on trust, compromise and respect.

Okay, scratch the life-long commitment part. Sadly more than half of  today’s marriages end in divorce, and most don’t make it past the first year. Why? Well the list of reasons is endless, from communication issues and irreconcilable differences to finances and unmet expectations, but the one reason I’ve heard more often than not  is simply “I married the wrong person.”  Come on, really? You married the wrong person? I don’t think so.

I think the real reason for the high divorce rate and why some spouses believe they married the wrong person is that many couples just don’t know how to be married. They don’t really understand how much work is involved in making a marriage work. Unless your Catholic there are no marriage classes, lectures or test required before you “strap on the old ball and chain,” except maybe a blood test. But the Catholic Church requires a couple to attend marriage preparation classes before marrying. I’m not certain what’s involved with these classes but I would hope they cover more than spirituality and the churches role in marriage, and touch on the psychological, social, and economic issues involved in a marriage partnership. now that would be beneficial.

Perhaps couples would stay together longer if getting a marriage license involved passing an exam just like getting a drivers license, you know, a written test followed by a practical application exam to prove you understand the complexities of sharing a life together before actually “getting hitched” and moving in together. Maybe even a trial period of living together should be part of the process, 60, 90, 180 days, depending on your test score. I know it sounds crazy, but wouldn’t it be better to enter marriage with full disclosure and all the cards on the table rather than discovering later that one of the spouses has an ace or two up their sleeve or an ax to grind? You bet it would.

Most of us enter marriage on a hope and a prayer, knowing very little about our future spouses or how to be married to them.  Oh we think we know them but face it, you can’t really know a person until you’ve lived with them for awhile. We all assume we can ‘adjust’ to one another, but sometimes, even with compromise, try as you might, you simply can’t. It can be quite devastating to learn that the fairy tale, ‘happy ever after’ vision you had of what your marriage would be like goes south and you discover its only a fairy tale after all.  Disillusioned and brokenhearted,  your marriage begins to fail and in no time at all, the dream becomes a nightmare and who the hell wants to stay in a nightmare?

“Oh, believe me, I know there are times when marriage can feel like a bad dream or some sort of cosmic punishment. I’ve been married for nearly 39 years and been through a few of those periods. But both my wife and I are very stubborn and neither one of us was willing to throw in the towel. I think our bullheadedness actually worked in our favor. In time I realized what it was I truly wanted from marriage and learned what what was important to me. I realized what I wanted from my spouse regarding our relationship and life together. Once I got my beliefs and values in order it all begins to make sense. In time we were able to make adjustments and compromises that worked in our favor and here we are all these years later. Oh, we still have our moment every now and then, but in the big scheme of things they’re just that, moments. It would have been wonderful to know these things before I got married. Learning them along the way is a tough way to go.

So as I watched the young couple Saturday afternoon, standing there gazing into each others eyes exchanging vows, I was overcome with a sense of awe and reminded of my youth, my wedding day and the long journey my wife and I have undertaken on the road to discovering the true meaning of everlasting love, true friendship and just how important we are to one another. I found myself hoping that God would see fit to grant them a wonderful marriage journey of discovery and prayed that their travels will be less arduous and painstaking than my own.

Just a Thought…

JS

 

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