The young lady standing in front of me at the ATM machine was shifting nervously from one foot to the other. She was obviously waiting for her male companion to finish his transaction.
While I’m waiting, I attempt to make light hearted conversation by telling her ? “Surely you’re not cashing a check, let him pay your way’ that’s what dating is all about? ” She looks back at me and smiles with a look in her eyes of age way beyond her years.
She tells me? “It’s sad to say, but it doesn’t work that way anymore, today it’s a fifty-fifty world we live in” and with that she and the guy hop in their car and drive off. I give her a wave and she smiles and waves back, lost in thought.
My wife and I are on our way out of town to an anniversary party given in honor of some friends of ours who have been married for forty years. During the drive I begin to think about the differences our society has gone through in those forty years from then until now.
What the young lady said to me is probably true; today’s relationships are all too often viewed as being fifty-fifty, when in reality they need to be one hundred and ten to hundred and ten. In fact each side has to contribute one hundred and ten to one hundred and ten percent if it has a chance to work for any length of time.
Our society has adopted the same attitudes toward relationships as we have to fast food. Hurry, hurry, hurry’ if we don’t like it…we’ll go someplace different. We have become an instant gratification nation committed to the premise of total personal happiness without any long term commitments. We have become a disposable society. If this doesn’t work, so what’ I can always get another one. Our media pounds us with daily doses of ‘you can have it now and ‘have it your way’. We are bombarded with more information than we need about the lifestyles of the rich and famous who move from one relationship to another in the wink of an eye. Today’s true love is tomorrow’s court combatant. It makes you wonder if we are becoming a world incapable of true love. Is it possible for the youth of today to ever really know the meaning of love without understanding what goes with it’ Even more important, what is required of both parties’
My wife and I attended the party and had a great time, later on that evening we were in our hotel room talking about what it is that keeps people together for long periods of time. We summed it up in three words, concern, communication and commitment. Having attended a wedding the week before we were able to think about what we heard in the wedding ceremony and then look forward into the future to see if the kids we saw married last weekend will stay together as long as our anniversary friends this weekend. The wedding vows tell us that we are to be together “in sickness and in health”. That’s concern for one another. When people are dating, the nasty aspects of life rarely come into play. People who have been married know what ‘sickness and in health’means’. It means fevers, vomit, hospitals, worries along with joy and happiness’ all rolled into one. If you have children it means worrying when they get sick or hurt and crying in relief because the doctor comes out and tells you they’ll be ok. It means holding hands and staying in there when one of you is facing death or a long term recovery from an illness.
We hear the words for better or for worse’when people stand up to get married. That takes communication. For a marriage to survive, both parties must be honest and truthful with one another. If you’re broke, then you’re broke’ get on with your life and figure out how you can survive. If you’re scared, and who isn’t from time to time’ Then admit it to one another and think about those words you spoke’ marriage isn’t just about the good times, it’s about the bad as well. I sometimes think we are the closest when the tough times come around. Relationships have to have a strong sense of communication to weather the storms of life if they are going to survive. You can’t have flowers without the rain.
The final word is commitment. In the marriage vows the phrase is expressed as ’till death do we part.’That’s commitment. That’s long term commitment, not just for week, month or a year, but for life. To look someone in the eye and verbally express in front of other witnesses that you will love and honor this person till death do you part takes a lot of willingness to commit to making a marriage work.
Our long time married friends are an example and an inspiration to us that we should respect and admire. Marriage is not all wine and roses, sometimes its vinegar and weeds. But for it to work, as it has for our friends, then we must enter into relationships with one another for the long haul and an eye on the goal, years and years away, not just for tomorrow.
John and Carol’ good job, well done.