Many years ago I was doing premarital counseling with a young couple that sought me out to perform their wedding ceremony. As we were spending some time discussing what they expected marriage to be like, I threw out a question I ask many engaged couples. “What will be different in your relationship after you are married?”
They both sat there, silent for a moment, and then verbally walked through their options with me. The two of them already lived together, already shared their finances, and even had a wonderful, beautiful baby together. Without being able to come up with anything of significance, they agreed with a sense of satisfaction, answering, “I guess nothing, really.”
“I understand,” I said, “that all of these circumstances will remain the same after your married. But I want you to think deeper for a moment. If nothing is going to change after the ceremony, then why get married?”
This is a question that begs consideration in our time. We live in a culture that makes relationships both easy and difficult. Easy to get into, and difficult to maintain. It’s easier than ever without being married to change our circumstances and move in with your significant other. It’s not uncommon to get intricately involved in each other’s schedules, money, children and more. And so the question arises again. If we can structure our lives and circumstances with a significant other to be just like that of a marriage, why then the need for the old tradition?
“While circumstances,” I said to the young couple, “ may or may not change, the one thing above all else that changes on a wedding day is the level of commitment.” No longer a circumstantial, day-by-day, month-by-month, or even a year-by-year relationship, marriage is a commitment to love, serve and cherish as long as two shall live. While this commitment alone does not ensure that your marriage will be one of the 50% that makes it, try making it these days without the kind of commitment that marriage vows offer. A few do, yes, but most don’t last.
What Did We Get Ourselves Into?
The truth is that none of us really knew exactly what we were getting into when we exchanged our vows. A few years in and we all began to see and learn things about our self and our spouse that we never saw or knew before.
Marriage, we find, is not a smooth and easy journey, but a wonderful and beautiful one when we both share an understanding, love and commitment that allow us to work through the unclear and tough times, the times when we are learning, sometimes painfully, things about our self and our spouse.
It is in this journey that we are confronted with the reality that the highest level of relationship requires the highest level of commitment. Yes, marriage does still matter and is still a legal and/or sacramental vow of commitment that expresses to the highest degree the desire and hope of both for life-long love and companionship.
Thus, it makes all the difference in the world when we remember that a good marriage is not something we are entitled to, but something we give ourselves to. Just for fun, how long has it been since you have taken a look at your wedding video, or read anew your marriage vows. Remember, each day is a gift to start again.
Take a minute and consider the following questions.
How has your view of marriage and commitment grown and/or changed over the course of your marriage? Can you think of a time when your marriage commitment kept you from giving up or doing something potentially harmful to the relationship?
When is your commitment usually put to the test? Do you have something you can turn to, a photograph, a song, a poem, and old letter, Bible verse or card or something that encourages and reminds you of your love and vows of commitment to each other in these times?
Is there something now that is threatening your commitment and marriage, and if so, how are you seeking to work through this or remove the threat?
What is something you can do today that expresses and shows your spouse your appreciation and involvement in the relationship, and in who they are?