Despite some inconsistencies in it’s popularity, I truely believe in marriage. As children, my siblings and I took our parents’ happiness for granted. Routine and tradition punctuated our lives in a way that helped us to feel safe and secure. Months, seasons, and years passed: my family bonded over hard work, recreation, and mutual growth. Siblings left for college, but we knew they’d come home, and we’d be together for holidays and summers. As we grew, little arguments between our parents were not uncommon, but they always passed, and we found comfort in this consistency. While friends’ and neighbors’ families fell apart, we knew our family was safe. Being deeply religious, we had faith in the covenant our parents had made with each other and with God to love each other, and us, forever. My parents taught me to believe in marriage; to believe in eternal love.
The night our family changed was rainy and dark, but the lights inside our home gave it a warm glow. The entire house smelled like Mom’s famous spaghetti and, at 22, I came home to the warm familiarity I had loved for so many years. My dad took me aside and admitted an affair with the kind of nonchalance he always used to hide embarrassment: he didn’t love mom anymore. When the initial shock wore off, I explained, “but dad, we love you.” He only shrugged in response; like love was as insignificant and easy to throw away as yesterday’s newspaper. I felt angry that my mom’s love—that his children’s love—wasn’t enough to keep my dad at home.
The portrait of marriage I had spent 22 years creating had been defiled and torn, and I initially didn’t have any desire to piece together something new. However, after months of confusion, the clouds of sorrow started to lift and I began to really look around me. What I saw were friends, religious leaders, and neighbors who I knew loved and honored their spouses. Looking to the light of their examples, I realized I still believed in marriage; I still believed in eternal love: the unconditional kind that lasts forever.
I don’t know where my parents started losing each other; but I do know that when they promised to love and honor the other forever, divorce was the farthest thing from their minds. In a society so deeply interested in consumerism and individualism, it’s not uncommon for couples to quit because their spouse is providing a “poor marital service.” But people aren’t items to be purchased with a “money back” guarantee. Marriage is a promise to accept your partner’s humanity, including all their imperfections. You pledge to work together and to be a team, for better or for worse. I believe in marriage: marriage can work, but marriage is work. Love can last forever, but it’s not meant to be easy. Nothing of value ever is.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.