June 1, 2009

I Do

Sheba called me today to chat. A close friend of hers sent an invitation to her wedding this fall.

“She’s getting married! She’s my age! I can’t believe it!”

Sheba will be twenty-one soon and says that she is still growing as an individual. She is not ready even to be engaged to her serious boyfriend “Dave1.” She says they’ve talked about engagement.

Oh. “You have?”

“Yeah, but we’re not ready. I did tell him that if I told you I was engaged, your reaction would be ‘Oh. Alrighty then. Whatever makes you happy.’”

I laughed out loud. She nailed it, even the inflection with the words. She knows us well.

But apparently Dave’s parents would be apoplectic at the news, seeing it as a roadblock to his success. If it slows them down a bit, that’s not a bad thing.

Sheba and I talked for a minute about marriage. I told her that when I was younger I believed getting married would change nothing. I mean, I’m the same person before and after, right? Wrong. No one was more surprised than I. Abe and I were together for seven years before we married. And it was quite the awakening that our relationship changed a great deal as we continued together as a married couple.

Marriage contains a heritage that carries with it expectations2, part from our culture and part from our experience with family. We don’t even know what some of those expectations are until they are not met. I can see why the first year of marriage is the most difficult.

As the ability to marry expands to embrace all couples, I would encourage anyone considering marriage to examine closely (and verbally with your partner) what that might mean in terms of expectations. There are books written on the subject, so I will let the experts explain what that can mean. Meanwhile, I can recommend a few things:
  1. Honesty with kindness in all things, with yourself and your partner.
  2. Laughter in large daily doses, at yourself and with your partner.
  3. Forgiveness for yourself and your partner, for we will all fail at something.
  4. Communication with words and actions and touch.
  5. Planned time together and planned time apart.
  6. Patience.
  7. Change your expectations or your circumstances rather than submit to sorrow.
  8. Celebrate who your spouse is rather than bemoan who s/he is not.

There’s more, but that’s a good foundation upon which to build. Abe and I have lived through some very difficult years in our marriage. After 37 years together—thirty of them married— and all the trouble that comes from unmet expectations, do I still recommend marriage? I do.

1 Dave means “beloved” in Hebrew.
2 There are those pesky expectations again. They show up everywhere.


Laurie said...

What a great post! I've been divorced for 22 years, and am now in a very serious relationship. Marriage has been discussed and we are considering it...I am going to share your list with him, I think we can both learn a lot from it.

Congratulations on 37 years!

bigislandjeepguy said...

thank you for this post! my partner and i are navigating all of this, everyday. i doubt much will change after our commitment ceremony in september since, regrettably, nothing is really "legal" or "recognized". but i *am* looking forward to wearing a ring as a symbol of how i feel about him and what we have together.

Roxrocks said...

It makes me sad that many choose to not stay married...

I love it. Of course, I married Mr. Awesome! (And he married Miss Awesome.)

David said...

The bitter cynic in me wants to say something snarky here regarding me and any future involving marriage, but an exercise left over from my yoga retreat has today's commitment as "stay hopeful" so I will just say "how nice."

tornwordo said...

All sound advice. Planned time apart. Excellent.

THIS IS ME....ONLINE said...

Wise advise, my sage friend! Thanks for the reminder.

Greg said...

Wow. Yes to all of that, for sure. What a delightful post, Birdie. I do, indeed.

: )

Ur-spo said...

I agree, that was lovely. Thank you for posting it.

Bear Me Out said...

Forgetting the "legal" stuff about marriage, I think there is a significant spiritual piece to it. That's why it's "different" after the wedding.

I hope this is true for GLBTQ folk after commitment ceremonies, or blessings.

For me, fighting for gay marriage is much more that just equal rights, it's also about equal rites.