Wednesday, September 26, 2012

On Marrying Young, and On Staying Married

First, I wanted to share a wonderful article in a magazine called Verily. This piece, called "Married in a Single Society: Here's to the Adventure!" was written by Eva Haine, a Princeton University graduate, the new sister-in-law of a friend of mine. (pictured here on her wedding day). Second, I wanted to share some of my own reflections on staying married, as my husband and I embark on our twentieth year of marriage.

I've only met Eva Haine once, years ago at a parish function, and I am sure she has no memory of meeting me.

In her piece, Eva talks about how she was engaged her junior year of college and how many peers questioned why she wouldn't want to have fun and explore her passions before settling down. Eva explains that she and her husband have fun together and explore their passions as a couple. Marrying early did not prevent that, she explains.

I love this piece because I think so many of us believe we need to travel the world and settle into careers before settling down with a lifelong companion. Marriage rates in the United States are at an all-time low, according to the Pew Research Center. Little more than half of adults are married now.

I married my husband a few days shy of turning 31 and frankly, I didn't wait that long out of choice. I truly hated being single, hated dating, hated having my heart broken more than once by young men who didn't get me or find me appealing.

I wish I'd met Greg in college, a problem he jokingly blames on my not attending his alma mater, the University of Virginia. (I had been accepted, but went to the University of Michigan instead).

No, it took me until my late twenties to meet my beloved. (Here we are, heading off to our honeymoon) I remember a family member saying at the end of the reception how sad it was that our beautiful day was over. "Nothing is over," we both said at the same time. "It's just beginning!"

Marriage is, as Eva says, a grand adventure. From the standpoint of nearly 20 years, I can say Greg and I have experienced the fullest life imaginable. We have traveled a lot, even if means camping trips and staying with our far-flung and large extended family, and going off season to resorts. (I am thinking about how we visited Narragansett, Rhode Island deep into January when our boys were four and one year old and being the solitary guests at a large hotel.)

We have suffered some tough losses, and also have the privilege - the joy - of together guiding our sons through childhood.

Still, we find ourselves increasingly at odds with the larger culture. A survey by Pew and Time magazine in 2010 found nearly 40 percent of those surveyed said marriage is becoming obsolete. Forty-four percent of those 18 to 20 said it already is obsolete.

So, I relate well to what Eva Haine said. The single society she describes applies not only to college-educated professionals in their twenties, but to more and more of folks from every age group and income level.

Greg is the best friend I have ever had, or ever will have, and he feels the same way about me. I am so grateful the two of us set out on this journey together. We complement each other; when I am angry or emotional about a situation, my husband steps in as the thinker and problem solver. When he is feeling low or anxious, I find I am able to guide us to sensible solutions. We are, as my sister told me "evenly yoked."  And we really believe in our heart of hearts, ours is a match made in Heaven.

Still, staying married takes work. I am really grateful my husband is willing to put up with me and there are moments I think "gee, he is lucky I put up with him." I can't pretend to know the secret to a good marriage. The fact both our sets of parents still are married after more than 50 years certainly is helpful. The fact we talk and talk and talk makes a difference. The fact we pray and hope together and can laugh at ourselves are factors too.

To stay married, I think, is to understand that the vows we made, those words we said before God and our families, become real every day as we live out our vocations.

I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. 
I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.

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