Recently, I attended a fiftieth wedding anniversary party for my friend’s parents. Until I met them, I did not believe the traditional nuclear family existed in America. With all of the statistics boasting about the high rate of divorce, increase of couples with children not getting married, but living together, single parent households, and stepparent families, I must admit that my outlook on marriage had diminished.
Curiosity prompted me to ask the couple to shed some insight into the secret of their success. Surprisingly, they replied in sync, “There is no secret.” The husband went on to elaborate that “marriage is what you make it. You only get out of it what you put into it.” His answers seemed so simple, even cliché, but true. The fact of the matter is that society has taught us that we must get married. Being single is frowned upon, and often pitied. As many single women over the age of twenty-five can attest to, the pressure to find a mate is great. You cannot go to a restaurant, alone, without being asked if someone else will be joining you. Even the tables are for two or more. Once, I went solo to a movie. Although I was in a relationship, I did not have a problem going out with me, myself, and I. There was a guy sitting behind me who took it upon himself to sit next to me, and strike up a conversation. Politely, I informed him that I was not interested, and preferred he get back up and leave. Rather than going back to his original seat, he moved over enough to have one seat between us. That was fine with me.
Although I understood the concept of what the married couple said, I still wanted additional information. The question for me was, “Why do some couples work, while others falter?” The wife pulled me to the side, and explained to me the depths of their commitment. First of all, divorce was never an option. For them, the vows they took before God, friends, and family, meant they would remain together until death. Secondly, they practiced forgiveness on a daily basis. She let me know that they had survived infidelity, deaths, boredom, arguments, mistrust, and disrespect just to name a few. It was not an easy journey, but they never gave up.
The biggest difference between their relationship and the slew of divorced couples out there is the commitment to stay together. I do not believe that people go into marriage with the intent of breaking up. Sometimes, we may feel it is easier to run from problems than to face them or to trade in a mate like we do our cars. Rather than fixing the problem, we try to fix the other person. When that does not work, we claim the person just was not right for us, and go on a journey to find the perfect person who only exists in our minds.
If we focused more on the relationship, and less on the wedding, perhaps we would have fewer divorces. I heard someone say that we should have family and friends invited to the divorce hearing the same way they were invited to the wedding, because we have a lavish wedding ceremony and a quiet divorce. Life is not a soap opera. Feelings change, but commitment stays the same. Instead of settling for whom you can live with, commit yourself to the one you cannot live without.
Copywritten by Dwan Abrams