For Better, For Worse


We’ve moved from a culture in which we were told that sex is bad and dangerous and should only be had under very particular circumstances, to one in which we’re told that sex is pretty great, really – and if you’re not doing it, something must be wrong with you. The ideal of waiting until marriage is really only common among very religious people and it’s something they struggle with.

That’s Rachel Hills talking about the result of six years spent interviewing young people about their sex lives—and the disconnect between the fantasy they were promised and their actual experience. Her book, The Sex Myth, was published this week.

This week I also saw a wedding at our beach on Cape Cod Bay.

The juncture of these two events has me thinking about cohabitation, weddings and marriage.

Fully ten years ago, more than two-thirds of married couples in the United States admitted living together before marrying.

Why not?

Cohabitation is a test bed for harmonious interrelations, lifestyle affinity, sexual rapport.

But—I don’t get it.

Isn’t this a case of compatibility eclipsing commitment?

Come the wedding day, there’s no “there” there. They are already wed in all but name and law.

Commentators have gone so far as to equate pre-marital cohabitation to test-driving a car before buying it.

I’m of the generation in which virginity was valued, sex before marriage was frowned on and a life-long relationship was assumed. My wife and I, for example, met when we were studying at Fordham University and married within months of graduation. In a few months, we will mark a half-century of marriage.

Traditional marriage has been called a Hail Mary pass to a life with someone you hope you can live with happily.

But my wife and I have found, instead, that our marriage is an unending process of discovery. Like any kind of relationship, marriage progresses through three phases:

  • Romance, when all is fresh and exciting as we discover the ever-unfolding wonderfulness of the other—and cannot abide being apart
  • Disillusionment, when we discover the chinks and the cracks—and wonder what we ever saw in the other
  • Joy, when we discover the depth of the other—and become soul mates

Right now, with a new anti-cancer medicine leaving my wife exhausted just by crossing a room, I’m discovering that I feel not a burden but a joy in caring for her. In turn, she is discovering new things about me—the least of which that I can serve up a decent dinner.

For us right now, it truly is “from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

Oxford tells us that “wedding” comes down to us from the Old English weddian . . . which is rooted in the Scots word wed, a “pledge” . . . from the Latin vas, “surety,” which connotes a formal assurance that an agreement will be fulfilled.

So "wedding" means something ongoing.

Not just one day, but a way of life.

Not just a party that has to be perfect, but a surety whose fulfillment flowers in every present moment.

The happy, expectant faces of the newlyweds'  family and friends that I saw at the beach this week manifested hope.

Hope that this marriage will be for better, for richer, for healthier.

Hope that this couple’s commitment will complement their compatibility.

In my next blog, "Yada, Yada, Yada"

Read my newest book, Fat Guy in a Fat Boat, in print or Kindle from Amazon:

Also available is my e-book, A Light from Within, about the small moments of our lives that seem commonplace until they are examined under a creative lens.

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  • Nancy Carr
    commented 2015-08-08 11:08:34 -0400
    Peter, congratulations on your long marriage, and I hope your wife recovers to live many more happy years with you. I realized this year that I have been divorced 40 years, so I doubt I will ever remarry and at my age certainly won’t have a long marriage like you should I ever find someone I want to spend the rest of my life with. I am a minister and have officiated many, many weddings and renewal of vows on anniversaries. I can sit at a computer and easily create special ceremonies where the words seem to flow out of me. But, I myself have no idea how to be married. At my age which is probably close to yours, marriage is not on my mind. My own health care takes a lot of my energy, and I am not sure I could tolerate someone else in my life. I have three dogs which give me so much love every day, and we know each others routines and needs so well. When I was divorced 40 years ago I thought I would remarry. I have been engaged several times, however, never made it to the altar again. My life is happy and full which is wonderful. If having a partner for the rest of my life is in the cards for me, I am willing to do my best. Life certainly is interesting as we evolve. Thank you for your wisdom and again, congratulations and best wishes always.