Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Marriage is Not a Noun

photo by Jo Christian Overhauls / flickr

"Dearly Beloved...we are gathered together to join holy matrimony..."

It’s wedding time—mostly. Brides-to-be have picked up their dresses and they hang in some closet carefully wrapped. The place for the ceremony has been chosen with great care. The Mother-of-the-Bride has selected her dress and is trying to hold her weight down. The bridesmaids know what they will be wearing. The Father-of-the
Bride is looking at the mounting stack of bills and scratches his head. The Groom, of course, hasn’t a worry in the world. Neither do his groomsmen. The Bride’s mother runs her fingers down the list. Church. Pastor. Invitation list. Invitations. Florist. Reception place. Caterer. Wedding cake. Bridesmaids’ gifts. Honeymoon site. Wedding present registrations. Thank-you notes.

The average wedding in this country costs $29,858 which is higher than the 2009 figure of $19, 581.00. In Upstate South Carolina a wedding will cost somewhere between $17,843 and $29,739. What’s wrong with this picture? Lots.

After the wedding and the honeymoon are over, the couple settles down for a life together. What then? Fifty per cent of those marriages will end in heartbreak and divorce. I never counseled a couple about to be married who did not believe that their relationship would last forever. They walk down that aisle hopeful and sure that the knot they tie will hold.

Many couples make a serious mistake. They spent all their time and energy on the big day and what comes later is often a letdown. A great many confuse a wedding and marriage. They are not the same. Marriage is not a noun—it is a verb. And if I remember my English—a verb is an action word.

What follows the wedding is the relationship. This partnership is foremost in any healthy marriage. Somehow the “for better or for worse…in sickness and in health…”has gotten lost for many in our time.

Many spend more time buying a car or a house than is spent on marriage. A wise marriage counselor of another day, Dr. David Mace has said that every couple is given a plot of land and two deck chairs when they get married. After the honeymoon if the couple just sits down in those two chairs and just holds hands—that little plot of land will slowly become a jungle.  But if the couple decides to prepare the ground, work the soil, plant seeds, fertilize and tend their little half-acre they can expect a beautiful garden. But Dr. Mace added the problem is that many couples just sit in the chairs and let the plot called marriage go to waste. The weeds and the bugs take over and heartbreak ensues.

Once my wife and I spent a week in Miami on vacation. At the swimming pool one day there was an old woman, very close to her eighties in a bathing suit. She and her husband were having a great time. I will never forget watching her stand on the edge of that swimming pool. Those eighty years had taken their toll. There were varicose veins and more bulges and lumps than a real figure. She called out to her photographer-husband who was about to snap her picture, asking if she looked all right. His words still move me: “Honey, you look great—you really look great!” They had learned through the changing years that real love is a verb after all. Real love is hanging in there through thick and thin. Real love is forgiving one another. Real love leaps across the very real differences in any relationship and makes it work. Real love hangs in there on good days and bad. Maybe beside every wedding altar we ought to place two deck chairs, a shovel and a bag of fertilizer among the candles and the flowers.  

photo by Garrett Wade / flickr

--Roger Lovette /

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