Friday, February 10, 2006

A Few Thoughts On Marriage

Funnily enough, when I search the First Things archives for articles on marriage, I don't find many that just meditate on marriage per se. This John Witte, Jr. essay is meaty, if a little academic. But most everything else is of the "center cannot hold" type, or concering same-sex marriage (which I prefer to call "imitation marriage", but that's another post). So let's set up with a George Eliot quote, instead:

What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined for life--to strengthen each other in all labour, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?
-- George Eliot, Adam Bede

When I consider my marriage, I'm pretty sure I've succeeded in my search for Real Love. But you know what? I think I am more blessed not so much by the fact that it's Love, but that it's Real. It's not imaginary; it's not counterfeit; Lord knows it's not perfect. Every season of joy and sorrow, every passing mood of affection and discord, every minor trial and tiny triumph has its residue, and all that residue floats down and forms a stratum, and all those strata create the ground under our feet. You just hope you're creating enough solid bedrock to sustain both partners for the long haul. But in my case, it could so easily have all been just nothing. Here's a rare personal glimpse into the private life of your humble host:

* Out of four years of university, the most fateful moment was a ten minute conversation with an acquaintance about three months before graduation.

* Further down the road that conversation took me, out of all the wonderful people I met, one became like a brother.

* Another chain of encounters led, much later, to a message in a bottle washing up to my particular desert isle.

* A long-distance storybook romance that had no business existing in the Twentieth-frickin'-Century led to my marriage. Break any link in the chain, and I shudder to think where either of us would be now.

Yet simply heaving a sigh of relief on having "escaped" into marriage is not the attitude I'm trying to put across. Somebody once said that young love was like a beautiful theatrical set, whereas mature love was the same set seen close up. And there is truth in that. But seeing through is not the same as seeing into. I see what's been done for me, and I see how and why (sooner or later at least), and I am always very grateful, and I hope I show it enough. As with anyone with an active imagination, it's always something of a jar for me when the real thing turns out to be substantially other than I imagined it. But, just like someone bopping his head against a wall to reassure himself that he's alive, I receive the high and low moments alike, for they are all reassuringly solid and real to me. It may sound like a rather minimal thing to be grateful for to you, kind reader, and if it is, in your case, then congratulations. You've got blessings oozing out your pores.

Have some more quotes:

Marriage has in it less of beauty, but more of safety, than the single life; it hath not more ease, but less danger; it is more merry and more sad; it is fuller of sorrows and fuller of joys; it lies under more burdens, but is supported by all the strengths of love and charity; and those burdens are delightful. Marriage is the mother of the world, and preserves kingdoms, and fills cities and churches, and heaven itself.
--Jeremy Taylor

One should believe in marriage as in the immortality of the soul.
--Honore de Balzac

All the molestations of marriage are abundantly recompensed with the other comforts which God bestoweth on them who make a wise choice of a wife.
--Thomas Fuller

Each one of an affectionate couple may be willing, as we say, to die for the other, yet unwilling to utter the agreeable word at the right moment.
--George Meredith

A great proportion of the wretchedness which has embittered married life, has originated in a negligence of trifles. Connubial happiness is a thing of too fine a texture to be handled roughly. It is a sensitive plant, which will not bear even the touch of unkindness; a delicate flower, which indifference will chill and suspicion blast. It must be watered by the showers of tender affection, expanded by the cheering glow of kindness, and guarded by the impregnable barrier of unshaken confidence. Thus matured, it will bloom with fragrance in every season of life, and sweeten even the loneliness of declining years.
--Thomas Sprat

A person's character is but half formed till after wedlock.
--Charles Simmons

1 comment:

  1. Lovely post. I'm approaching my eleventh anniversary myself, and am always a sucker for paeons to the joys and grandeur of marriage. (In my case a chance conversation at college orientation turned out to be remarkably important in the course of my life.)

    As to your only controversial sentence: I don't have a problem with same-sex marriage, as you'd expect. I think the center is a great deal stronger and more resilient than it's generally given credit for. It'll hold, and things generally won't fall apart. There are just too many good people with glue.


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