Saturday, May 30, 2009

What is marriage?

______, I take you to be my wife/husband from this time onward, to join with you and to share with you all that is to come: to give and to receive, to speak and to listen, to inspire and to respond, and in all circumstances of our life together to be loyal to you with my whole life and all my being, until death parts us. -adapted from the Lutheran Book of Worship

How do you define marriage? I'm not talking about the Prop 8 debate. What I would really like to know is how you define your marriage. What is important to you? Why did you get married? How did you choose your mate? What value do you place on marriage? Does religion or faith affect your view of marriage?

Our marriage occurred on Nov. 4, 2000 in a Lutheran Church. We formed a covenant marriage which includes three individuals- Dave, me, and God. Faith does figure into our marriage. It was (and is) important to me to have God as part of our relationship. Together, the three of us, can handle any challenges.

Legally, all of our assets are combined (although Dave keeps telling me that in the event of a divorce he gets to keep my college dishes- since I gave them to him while we were dating when I bought new ones). We share our bank accounts, our pantry, responsibility for our children, housework, yardwork, and cheesecake. There is not much individual ownership within our household. Within the confines of our own walls we are a benevolent socialist dictatorship. Dave and I make the laws, most goods are shared, individuals recieve commodities based on their needs rather than their contribution to the household (everyone contributes to the household).

After almost nine years of marriage we are no longer newlyweds. Life has sometimes been challenging, sometimes fun, sometimes sleep deprived, and always joyful (except when it's not). We had our first child right before our first anniversary (missed it by three days!). Our third child was born two weeks before our first kid turned four. That means we have not spent a lot of time alone during our marriage. I think our biggest challenge will come when the kids leave home and we're simply a husband and wife instead of Dad and Mom.

I love my husband and love does enter into our marriage. We have been growing children for all but 3 months of our marriage, but I don't think marriage is about the children- they're just a byproduct of our union (wow, that sounds vaguely pornographic).

Marriage is a relationship more enduring than mere friendship. We are committed for life and beyond to this individual we each chose back when we were young, thin, and lacking maturity. Together we have grown, changed, and endured. Endurance sounds bleak and a bit harsh, but it isn't. Endurance is what it's all about.


Amy said...

These are the vows that I was telling you about, that Terry and Kate used in their wedding.

Hands Ceremony

Kate, please face Terry, and hold his hands, palms up, so you may see the gift that they are to you.
These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and vibrant with love, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as he promises to love you all the days of his life.
These are the hands that will work along side yours, as together you build your future, as you laugh and cry, as you share your innermost secrets and dreams.
These are the hands that look so large and strong, yet will be so gentle as he holds your child for the first time.
These are the hands that will work long hours for you and your new family.
These are that hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, for a lifetime of happiness.
These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes: tears of sorrow and tears of joy.
These are the hands that will comfort you in illness, and hold you when fear or grief overwhelm you.
These are the hands that will tenderly lift your chin and brush your cheek as they raise your face to look into his eyes: eyes that are filled completely with his overwhelming love and desire for you.

Terry, please hold Kate's hands, palms up, where you may see the gift that they are to you.
These are the hands of your best friend, smooth, young and carefree, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as she promises to love you all the days of her life.
These are the hands that will hold each child in tender love, soothing them through illness and hurt, supporting and encouraging them along the way, and knowing when it is time to let go.
These are the hands that will hold you tight as you struggle through difficult times
These are the hands that will comfort you when you are sick, or console you when you are grieving.
They are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, for a lifetime of happiness.
These are the hands that will give you support as she encourages you to chase down your dreams. Together as a team, everything you wish for can be realized.
Bless these hands that you see before you this day. May they always be held by one another. Give them the strength to hold on during the storms of stress and the dark of disillusionment. Keep them tender and gentle as they nurture each other in their wondrous love. Help these hands to continue building a relationship founded in grace, rich in caring, and devoted to reaching for perfection. May Joseph and Nancy see their four hands as healer, protector, shelter and guide.
Give the highest priority to the tenderness, gentleness and kindness that your connection deserves. When frustration, difficulty or fear assail your relationship - as they threatened all relationships at one time or another - remember to focus on what is right between you, not only the part that seems wrong.
In this way, you can ride out the times when clouds hide the face of the sun in your lives - remembering that even if you lose sight of it for a moment, the sun is still there.
And if each of you takes responsibility for the quality of your lives together, your life together will be marked by abundance and delight.
Inasmuch as you have consented together in this ceremony to live in wedlock and have sealed your vows in the presence of this company and by the giving of these rings, it gives me great pleasure to pronounce that you are Husband and Wife.
Congratulations, you may kiss the bride!

Mambinki said...

Hi Janet!

It is inspiring and nice to read this as I'm preparing to marry in October. I'm 31 and my partner is 37 so we're both mature enough now, I think, to recognize our relationship to be fun and loving, but it is also work. I'm excited to have a ceremony with our loved ones as a symbol of the effort and attention we are willing to put into a life together.

Amy said...

Alright now for my real comments.

I agree with a lot you said, the only difference it that I would have to say I don't see God as being in our marriage but more as the ultimate witness to our marriage and the vows we made to each other.

Your post also reminded me of what my parents say when people ask how they have stayed together so long. (almost 40 years) They don't have this mushy gushy statement, although I know the love is there. Instead they just say they're both too stubborn to give up during the hard times. I've always thought that this was a lesson some couples really needed to learn.

When I got engaged to Andy I had several friends who had these idealized versions of what it was going to be like to be married, the grand passion, the romance. Anyways these friends kept asking me how I knew Andy was the one, and I would tell them that he was one of my best friends, and when I was away from him, I would still have fun, but I'd also be thinking I wish he was here or I'll have to tell him about this later. They would look at me like I was crazy and ask what about those "prince charming type things". I just kept thinking I'm marrying a real person, not a fairytale prince. Yes I love him, but it's for WHO he really is. So many people marry expecting the courtship to continue and then just give up when it doesn't instead of really knowing the PERSON they are flaws and all.

So when we said our vows (we used the same as you, or did you used the same as us, since we married first) we knew that sometimes it might be just our stubborness getting us through the tough times, but like our parents we were in for the long haul.

I know it's not a very romantic view, but we do love each other very much and there is a certain comfort in knowing that neither of us have unrealistic expectations and that we aren't going to runaway when it's not perfect, because this is life.

Janet said...

One of the things I am most grateful for is that during one of our marriage counseling sessions (before the wedding) the pastor asked if we said, "I love you." Of course I am a woman and I talk (a lot) so it's something I say a lot. Dave- not so much. His response when Wendell asked him how he showed his love (since he's not good at saying much about emotion) was, "I do the dishes." Years later it's easy for me to see the actions he uses to express his feelings. There probably would have been a bit more strife in our early marriage if this hadn't been addressed during pre-marital counseling.

Amy said...

I really think Wendell is a great premarital councilor. He brought so many practical things up in counseling that there weren't many things a couple wouldn't have talked about by the time they got married. Plus I just love to mention to my conservative friends that our pastor recommended getting a sex manual, and said that there wasn't anything you couldn't do as long as you were both comfortable with it and weren't hurting anyone else. It just shocks there.

Barbara Frank said...

Neat post, Janet. My first thought when you said you were married in 2000 was, "They're practically newlyweds." And then you said you weren't, LOL. I guess it's because of my perspective; we'll be married 30 years this summer. So 2000 doesn't seem very long ago at all!

We also got married in a Lutheran church, and God is part of our marriage. We had four terrific childless years before embarking on the parenting voyage. Since our youngest is dev. delayed, we may always be in a parent mode. That's cool; God knows what He's doing. But we do have great memories of those long ago years when it was just us two.

Thanks for sharing your marriage story :)

Janet said...

Barbara, I still think of us a newlyweds too. It was as I was thinking about the dates while writing the post that I realized we've been married most of a decade. I don't feel 9 years older...

It's nice hearing about other people's happy marriages. We hear so much about unhappy marriages. I really wanted others to share what this commitment means to them!

jugglingpaynes said...

Beautiful piece, Janet.

For me, marriage is about selflessness. I married my best friend almost 18 years ago and I believe we are still deeply in love because we both consider the other's happiness to be of great importance. I think we are considered unusual because of that. :o) My husband was in counseling a few years ago because of job related stress. The counselor had me accompany him at one session and said our biggest problem was that we are too protective of each other. :o)

Peace and Laughter,

Jake camping in the living room

Jake camping in the living room