And pledge our love for one another
Oh my darling, I will love you
From this moment, there will be no other
--Jody Gregorash, "On This Day"
Today is my fifth wedding anniversary, so please forgive the exceedingly mushy tone of this (rather lengthy) blog entry.
It is our annual ritual to take the week around October 14th off to recharge the batteries. I highly recommend this to any working couple out there: take the week around your anniversary off. It lets you re-connect as a couple and it's a low-cost way to recreate a honeymoon atmosphere.
I've had just cause lately to examine my marriage, because it seems that everywhere I look I'm confronted with divorce. In the past two weeks alone, I've run across several in-depth reports on divorce in various media. Even Dear Abby seems to be covering the topic more of late. Recent stats suggest that if you make it to your fifth year of marriage, there is only a 17% chance of marriage failure in the years to come (half of all marriages dissolve in the first five years).
What I've noticed is that many of the divorced or divorcing couples being profiled everywhere I look were never really married in the first place, at least by my definition. They were either
- friends who 'married' for convenience more than anything else, and have since drifted apart
- people who had mind-blowing sex with each other and thought that was the only building block necessary for a well-built marriage
- people who 'married' their mates to 'complete' themselves; who, when they say 'I love you', mean 'I need you'
- people who get married just because the girl's pregnant...just because they've created a life together, they think they can have a life together
- folks who get married simply to experience the perfect wedding day, forgetting they're going to wake up the next day
Marriage has very little to do with a piece of paper or a ceremony. Eva and I considered ourselves married long before October 14th, 2000; the paper and ceremony just made it legal. We got married simply because it was inconceivable to either of us that, having met, we should pursue any other course. Not all that long before I met the woman who was to become my wife, I was still thinking of a 'relationship' as a 'codependant' thing: you satisfy my needs and I'll satisfy yours. That's not what marriage is. Marriage has no need in it. Oh, sure, sometimes times get tough and you lean on each other for support, but if you fall into the trap of having various needs to be met, sooner or later your partner won't satisfy those needs and you'll be in trouble. Needs are a burden. Love isn't.
Less than a week before I met Eva, just as an exercise, I wrote down a set of questions to ask of any potential partner to assess compatibility. Here it is:
Do you smoke?
The ONLY acceptable answer to this is a resounding NO.
Name three television shows you try not to miss.
Here I'm looking for intelligent comedies like Frasier or The Simpsons, or intelligent drama, or educational stuff. Or "TV? I don't watch much at all." Serious black mark to any Beavis and Butthead fans; instant disqualification to anyone whose first words are "Jerry Springer".
Ever score more than 300 at Scrabble?
A no is okay if it's followed by "but I keep trying".
Who or what is GOD? Take as long as you like to answer.
Any answer will do here, but strong atheists should be tolerant and "fundycostals" will put me on guard.
Name three things you admire(d) about your mother.
I suspect the answer to this will age her 30 years. I only hope she can SAY three nice things.
Is one marriage vow enough, or do you see marriage as a continuing act of choice?
I think most people would answer the former. And I'd bet a good chunk of them will divorce. In making a commitment, I want it understood that I don't seee it as an obligation, spoken of once and then kept only because I said I would. People change. People grow. That's not to say that there is no value on my word. Actually, there's more value. Because I'll keep in mind, every day, just why I chose the relationship. And I hope she would, too.
Are you the hugging type?
The more enthusiastic the 'yes', the better.
Are you creative or pragmatic?
I'm neutral on pragmatists, positive on creativity, and the best answer for me would probably be "well, both, actually".
Rate the following in terms of their importance to your life, on a 1-10 scale, 1 being "not at all important":
- Money 4-6
- Health 7+
- Sex over 5 but not much
- Family somewhere between 3 and 8
- Security the higher the better
- Music 7 or more
- Books 7 or more
Anything from "no, never", through "maybe", to "yes, but only one".
Wow, that was snotty, wasn't it? But I showed it to Eva when we started dating, and she scored very highly on it.
My recollections of my wedding day, directly from the diary I kept then:
OCTOBER 14, 2000
(weather: variable clouds, clearing by evening. Temperature: high 18, low 10)
Up 7:47...I'm intensely grateful to Jen and Doug for having me...Doug spirits his wife off to get her hair done. I content myself with the same diversions I enjoy on any Saturday morning: a leisurely read through the weekend Post and a long, leisurely shower.
Jen takes about three years to get dressed but once she's presentable (more than, really: she looks really sharp), I submit to her attentions. Good to have a friend who works for Moore's the Suit People: I've not been dressed up this much in my life. Cufflinks. Braces. Little doodads that accentuate the buttons on my shirt. A simple but totally foreign tie. (Jen had never seen one like it either). Shoes on and off we go.
Jay pulls in just as we do -- Mac has predictably been here for a couple of hours. (If you show up this early, you by-God know you won't be late.)
We're headed down to the basement, but not before Dad gives me a sip of something from a wineskin to loosen me up. Tastes like Buckley's Mixture.
The music starts up...Mac and Jason compliment me on my taste in music and I barely hear them. Okay, folks, I'm nervous. Scared, more like. I'm not scared of the marriage, only the wedding. I have no idea who's up there. I'm sure my mother arranged a boycott -- we have received two retractions from that side [...] I'd hate to get married in a half-empty church.
Jason cues me halfway through Palladio and up I go, concentrating on my breathing. The instant--I mean the barest instant--that I turn the corner and face the audience, my vision dies. It's a weird feeling.
Looking casually over the assembled gathering, I at first don't recognize anyone. After a blink or two, a few faces suggest themselves, Aunt Dawna the first to resolve. But for the most part it's like somebody unplugged me--I'm considerably more blind than usual, and, at least for the moment, there's not a single thought in my brain.
Five seconds after the last stirring strain of Palladio dies, we launch into
PROCESSIONAL: SERENADE (TO SPRING) Secret Garden
and everything changes again.
I still can't see anyone in the audience. I no longer care, because I can see the aisle, all the world's an aisle, Emily Kains walking up the aisle, her pacing perfect, what is she? Four? Five? I was positive she'd run, but no, she comes to rest at the end of her phrase and her mother Jane starts up right on cue, then Susan; the barest nod to Chris who had asked for a cue from me, unneeded, she's determined the start of her phrase; the flute tootles and here comes Eva into view, looking resplendent, magnificent, star bright moonsoft radiant beyond words that dress is a masterpiece my knees are weak here might fall down don't care if I do: slow pivot to face Janice and the music fades and my vision is back to normal but my hearing is now shot.
Janice starts the ceremony and if there is a sound in the audience for the next 25 minutes I don't hear it. Even parts of the sermon fade somewhat.
I reach for the wrong ring when the time comes: easily corrected.
The vows come out a bit deeper than I'd intended, but the firm inflection seems to be there.
I lift the veil for the kiss and Eva whispers "it's HOT under there" which of course carries to every corner.
SIGNING OF THE REGISTRY: ILLUMINATION (Secret Garden)
Here's our first glitch, rather ominous if you choose to look at it that way: the unity candle won't light on the first pass. This kills some time anyway and we light it fine on the second attempt.
We are presented Ken and Eva Breadner and now it's time for the short walk down the narrow aisle.
Well, that went all right, didn't it?
It did. It still does. And it will for many years to come.