My friend from school is getting married this weekend. After eight years with her boyfriend, they are tying the knot in a sweet little town called Dullstroom. It is wonderful and I am looking forward to the privilege of witnessing their vow to love one another for the rest of their lives. This event has, inevitably, set me to thinking about marriage again.
Getting married is a big step and a big deal in the cycle of life, especially at an age where your life is already well on track and your habits are really set. You choose now to share a life, a world, with another person, someone not of your blood, someone apart from yourself. I have great respect for people who decide to embark on the journey of marital pilgrimage. I call it a pilgrimage because that is what I believe it is. Dictionary.com defines a pilgrimage as “any long journey, esp. one undertaken as a quest or for a votive purpose, as to pay homage”
As we all know, in the common western wedding ceremony, the parties vow to love one another for as long as they both shall live. In the over-dramatized and often unrealistic Hollywood movies, this vow often becomes a promise to love beyond the grave. Now I will not spend time on the merits of life (and love) after death, suffice to say that in real time, loving and being with another person for the duration of your natural life is daunting – at least for me.
Realistic Jade vs. The Anti-Marriage Fallacy
I once attended a wedding where my (gay) date enquired of me whether I find the whole thing exciting (that was before gays were allowed to get married in SA). My response was no. I found it frightening at that point, and 10 years later I still find it scary. The learned ones and people who’ve known me a long time will relate my trepidation to my parents’ failed marriage or a myriad of rejection and abandonment issues, and they would not be completely wrong.
What they are wrong about is that my past and my issues make me averse to marriage. Being scared of getting married is not rejecting the idea; it is a realistic and maybe a bit of a jaded viewpoint. I mean, with the high divorce rates and worse still, the incredible pain people inflict on one another when removing themselves from marriage, is it any wonder so many people prefer to stay unmarried? Co-habiting in harmony for years without the “chains” of marriage, or simply deciding to never marry have become less of an exception to the rule. Why co-habiting is different from marriage is often basically a legal and religious thing (as in “don’t live in sin”). Or when you’ve lived together for six months you are considered “married” and can take legal action should the relationship turn sour. Therefore, pretty similar to traditional concepts of marriage. But I will leave the distinctions to the clever people, and keep to what I wish to opine about today. And that is the marital relationship.
Marriage Lite: Low in carbs and Fat-free!
I believe that a healthy relationship contains two people of equal status: equal rights, equal inputs, equal respect, and equal love. Maybe I am being idealistic here, but humour me. I have seen too many divorcing couples tearing each other apart. These are the same people who, ten years earlier, vowed in front of God and witnesses to be together for better or worse. They didn’t think they would ever get to the point where the sight of the other would make them sick. Or that that person, who lovingly gazed into their eyes over the rings and the cake and the register, would stare daggers into their heart.
I believe that fairy tales and movies have enhanced the idea that love conquers all the moment the two finally get together and get married. I believe many people, especially young women, grow up dreaming of the wedding dress, the cake, the doves and the self-written vows. The romance, the dreamy scenery and the sunset farewell en route to the honeymoon... What comes after, is seldom considered, and in the prelude to the wedding the hectic preparations very seldom include an “after the wedding” part. Or if it does, it is often done because it is required by the church or the pastor, and not for the purpose of actually preparing people to face the realities after the honeymoon is over.
Marriage is a dangerous pilgrimage. It has unforeseen bumps and rough terrain; it has misleading tunnels and dark side roads. To stay on it till the end takes courage, conviction, dedication and faith. Faith in each other and faith in God (if you are a religious person) or Fate (if not). It is not the wedding dress, or the vows, or the cake or even the honeymoon that makes a successful marriage. These things just make a great wedding, a “Marriage Lite”. A real marriage requires so much more. There is no short cuts or ”lite” version – the real thing is a full-course, nutritious and fulfilling thing. It is healthily organic and devoid of the pesticides of laziness, quick-fix and window-dressing.
Work it, baby!
“Love is a verb” I have often heard. Yes, that is true – more so in marriage perhaps that in serving others. I also believe that love is a choice, not only a feeling. Because you have chosen to spend the rest of your natural life with another human being: one with faults and issues and fears and joys and laughter and tears. A human being that you have chosen to love because of all these things, and sometimes even despite them. In the pilgrimage of marriage, we pay homage to our insecurities, our past hurts and our future hopes. We pay homage to the person next to us, who will be the one person to know and love us in ways no-one else will; in ways that expose our vulnerabilities. For me, that is the true test of lasting love: that you can trust that other person with your complete, naked, vulnerable self – and know that they will choose to not use it against you.
If I can have that, I think I will be ready for the pilgrimage.
I would like to end with an excerpt from “Don’t break my heart” by Vaya Con Dios:
“The anger and the fury
And the fears living inside me
Should you love me
Would you love them just the same?”
I concur with that.
1 month ago