My outlook on commitment comes from a chat I had with my grandmother. My grandfather died when I was a teenager, and a couple years later, when I was in college, my grandmother told me one day that some of her friends had suggested that she find a second husband. We were drinking coffee in her pastel blue kitchen that overlooked the peonies and grapevines in her yard, and she said that she couldn’t do that. “I loved my husband. Another man might not be as good as he was,” she said simply. For many years afterward I wondered if I would ever meet someone whom I would love that way, not merely until “death do us part,” but rather forever.
I have since met that person. As I grow in our relationship, I understand more what my grandmother said to me that day. There is something that seems instinctual about knowing I’ve met the right person. Perhaps we call it “love at first sight.” But somehow we just know. For my grandmother, that clarifying moment came when she was in high school—she met my grandfather at a school dance. After that night my grandparents were together until he died more than fifty years after they had married, or—to see it in her mind—until she died twenty-six years after him.
For me, that moment occurred when I was in my early 40s, when my date and I sat on the steps of the library on a sunny, winter afternoon, drank coffee, and shared a chocolate bar, and he asked me if I’d go out with him again. His eyes and the tone in his voice were what tipped me.
I believe that commitment should be outwardly expressed. Weddings are important and beautiful ceremonies in which we publicly share our joy in being partnered with the person we love. But, no matter how two people express their love to each other, commitment is a covenant between those two people, a most treasured gift in their lives.
So, on a chilly afternoon in November two years ago I bought a simple, stainless-steel ring in a shop on Castro St. in San Francisco. I wore it on my right hand for many months, and then, one day, I put it on my left hand and have worn it there since then. “So that everyone knows that I am in a committed relationship with you,” I told my partner. That was all I needed to do for ceremony. I felt married.
Commitment is, above all, a state of mind—of whole-hearted affirmation, affection, and acceptance of one’s partner—knowing that nobody could ever replace that person, not even after “death do us part.” It is what my grandmother felt about my grandfather. Death separated my grandparents for twenty-six years, but that did not end their love for each other. Love can survive death. I believe that we are morally bound to honor commitment between two people. This life brings many gifts—some only once, and the greatest gift is to love and to be loved in return—the heart of what we celebrate at weddings. When commitment can survive anything, including death, it speaks to the essence of the relationship and the partners in it.
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