My dear friend Richard is a rare man in this day and age. He’s about 60 years old, and has been married to the same woman since he was 22. Richard goes out with us to the theater, yoga workshops and dinners. Having Richard go out with us is a bit like having a father figure who forgets his glasses and wanders off occasionally. Why does he spend time with us? Apparently, if he were in a pub with a bunch of men, the conversation would be a bit like this “so, how big is your penis?” With us, conversations vary from the differences between his generation and mine, spirituality, world cultures, healing, yoga and life in general.
A couple of weeks ago, we somehow managed to get on to the topic of marriage. Richard was commenting on someone he knows who is spending tens of thousands on getting her partner’s home in shape and planning the perfect wedding day. It got me thinking about the amount of importance we put on the wedding day. Does our generation focus more on the wedding than the marriage?
What do we think of when we think of settling down? Are we thinking of that big day or the years that come after? I suppose the wedding day is the proclamation of commitment, and the promise you make to each other to spend the rest of your lives together. Of course, when you do that, you would want your nearest and dearest with you. In a day and age when everything is a status symbol, I think weddings are the same as well. It seems like if you don’t have $30,000 you can’t get married. Gone are the days when you have the ceremony in your chosen house of worship or a court house, and then have the reception in your parents’ backyard. Now it has to be a posh venue, with luxurious food, and of course, the brides dress usually costs at least $1000.
To be completely honest, when I was in my twenties, and in that last year chasing the “I want to be married before I’m 30,” all I thought about was the wedding. It almost felt like once I got married, I could relax. Now that I’ve spoken to married friends and relatives, I realize that although it’s an ending to your single life, it’s the beginning to a very difficult process. Where a wedding is two people coming together, a marriage is a process of trying to entwine two whole separate lives. No matter how much you have in common, there are bound to be differences, and within the security of marriage is when someone’s dark side usually starts showing itself.
Weddings have now become a multi-million dollar industry, and so has divorce. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a certified (but not practicing) wedding planner so I really do love weddings, but I’m not sure about getting a bank loan for a wedding. Marriage is hard enough as it is, and you really don’t want to start it in debt. As great as weddings are, they are almost like a big stage performance where you practice for months for a production that lasts for a day, and once the stage lights and makeup goes off, is when the marriage really begins.
When I think of a wedding, I think of dresses, shoes, a lovely meal, family and friends getting together, beautiful speeches and celebrations. When I think of a marriage, the crowd disappears and it’s about two people who not only love each other, but respect and appreciate each other, it’s about being good together whether you are alone at home making dinner or being out with friends, respecting each other’s families, learning about each other’s interests, the passion and the friendship beneath it, allowing each other to grow but being there should the other fall. It’s about compromise and being able to forgive mistakes. It’s about accepting the other person as they are and from there, letting them grow on their own while you grow together. Sometimes it’s about being the support, sometimes being the kick in the ass, and sometimes just giving them space to grow. Sometimes it is about keeping quiet when you want to scream and staying when you want to walk out. Sometimes it is about remembering the good times during the hard times.
As Richard said, “people nowadays focus so much on the wedding they don’t even think of the marriage… and marriage is hard work.” And since Richard has been married for 37 years, I do believe him.