TAKING MARRIAGE SERIOUSLY
My friend Jane and I have a fair amount in common. We have the same sign of the Zodiac -- Leo. Both of us are white, but fairly dark-skinned. Both are graduates of a high school class of ’77, college class of ’81 and law school class of ’84. Both are politically progressive. Both are religious, but not necessarily traditionally so. We are also part of a group of families who have spent parts of ten summers together by a lake in Wisconsin at family camp called Brosius.
Another thing Jane and I share is that we take marriage very seriously. Indeed, we revere the institution and the idea of monogamy on which it is based. Jane and I have been together with the same person since the late ‘80s. But while I have been married throughout that time period, she’s been married for only a couple of years, because, before then, marriage wasn’t available to her. You see, another thing we have in common is that, in both cases, the love of our lives is a woman.
Jane and I used the same vows in our respective weddings. They came from the Book of Ruth: “Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May God deal with us very severely, if anything but death shall separate you and me.” These are very common vows, with one exception. Most people who use them leave out the last line. But Jane and I did not. We and our respective spouses left it in to make it very clear that we were serious. We didn’t have in mind a casual, Hollywood-type wedding. This wasn’t going to be a mere “first marriage.” This was going to be a “first and last marriage.”
One thing that Jane and I do NOT have in common is that only one of us is a judge. And as a judge, she has been able to preside over two weddings I’ve been privileged to attend. During a wedding this summer, her words were so beautiful that I asked her to send them to me so that I could share them with each of you. They not only have something to teach us all about marriage, but they also are a reminder of what is at stake when judges and legislatures decide whether “people like Jane” are entitled to get married. I say, if we are going to strip anyone’s right to be married, pick celebrities and other big-shots. They seem to need two or three trial runs before they get it right – if, in fact, they ever get it right. As for humble, hard-working people who just happen to be homosexuals, they have as much of a right to be married as anyone else.
Here are Jane’s words:
Nate & Angie.
I am honored to stand here with you at the beginning of your lives together. I have known one of you since you were just a small boy. (that rules out Angie).
And I recall that small boy giving directions in the car as we drove around Indianapolis, and the scary thing was, Nate always knew where he (and we) were going. Now it’s my turn. I get to give Nate some directions as he and his new bride step off together on the wonderful, wonderous, and, OK, sometimes scary new journey of life together. Angie, I’ve got your back…
Rule number one. Don’t tell each other how to drive.
Rule Number two. Always love. Always. You’ll notice that I’ve used ‘love’ as a verb. That’s because you need to actively work to keep and deepen your love. Even when one or the other of you is not being so loveable. Find a way. Always. Focus on the good stuff that made you fall for her. His goofy, fun, side. The protective care that you give each other. The heart-melting times you have shared. You love each other for a reason – you both are good, strong, loving, fun, and caring souls, and you can rely on that – and on each other. Always. You both love each other deeply. Nurture that love as your most precious treasure.
Rule Number three. Your spouse comes first. That applies to both of you. A good relationship is selfless and that works if both of you follow the rule. This is a tough rule to live. Live it anyway.
Rule Number four. Don’t forget the fun. I know this is startling advice from the ‘fun director’, but humor me. Fun is good. Essential. And fun. Every relationship thrives on it. Play together, laugh, relax, and enjoy your time together. Go to concerts and movies; go to the beach, go to Brosius (or not), watch sports (Angie I hope that you really, really like watching sports…), spend time with friends, and delight in each other. Find things you both like and milk them for all they are worth. Find the things one of you likes that the other can abide and learn to enjoy those too. The dividends will roll in.
Rule Number five. Laugh. Laugh a lot. Even, maybe especially, at the tough stuff and the frustrating stuff and the stuff you’ll discover once you have kids. Laughter is essential. It keeps your lives light and hopeful. It saves you when things get tough. Never stop laughing together.
Rule Number six. You are both part of a community of friends and family. See all these folks sitting behind you here today? They’re here for a reason. They love you and care for you endlessly. Enjoy them. Rely upon them. Turn to them when you are struggling. Expect them to challenge you when you need a push. Depend upon them to share in your joys, sorrows, and challenges. Know that you are both an important part of us all, and that we surround you with love and support. Always. Give us your love, laughter, and support as well.
Rule Number seven. Forgive freely. Don’t hold grudges. Be generous with one another. You will both screw up at some point. We all make mistakes. Recognize those mistakes, own them, learn from them, and let them go. Don’t let them fester. With love, there is nothing that the two of you can’t live through.
Rule Number eight. Both of you are distinct, different individuals and that won’t end when you say “I Do” in a short while. Be true to your self. Your “self” has gotten you far in life, and if you abandon yourselves now, you won’t be happy. You can still pursue individual interests and friendships even if your spouse doesn’t share your passion for those interests or friendships. Give each other the gift of freedom to pursue separate parts of each of your lives. It may seem counterintuitive, but doing that won’t threaten the joined life you are embarking upon today. If you respect and nurture each other’s individual interests, even if you don’t share them, your marriage will flourish.
Rule Number nine. Marriage depends upon trust. Trust isn’t easy to build, but you’ve got it or you wouldn’t be standing here together today on the threshold of marriage. Trust is the key to allowing each other many of the individual freedoms I’ve just told you are so important to your marriage. Never, ever jeopardize that trust. Don’t squander it. Don’t lose it. Don’t throw it away. As difficult as trust is to build, it can be destroyed in a careless minute, so don’t be careless with it.
Rule Number ten. All of these rules circle back to honoring your love. Love each other, as you do today, and all will be well. The most important rule is the simplest. Love One Another. Always. Forever. Sideways, Upsidedown and Backwards. Keep your Love alive. If you do that, you will have a long, sweet, marriage. Godspeed.