A recently married couple wrote to an older married couple to thank them for the encouragement to get married: ‘We had been engaged for ages but weren’t planning our wedding. We remembered how important that you thought getting married was and in July we had a fantastic wedding. We are so happily married. Neither of us thought that getting married would change anything, but it has, hugely. We are so in love, so committed to the relationship and so glad that we got married.’
Many couples, who had lived together for some time prior to marriage, have told us in similar words, and often with some surprise, at the difference that getting married has made. Why is that? What makes the difference? The answer is one word: commitment. Marriage at its heart is all about the vows that as a couple we make to each other – promises to keep loving each other through thick and thin, through whatever life might throw at one or both of us.
It is this act of commitment that enables deep trust to be formed between us. From that place of trust we are able to be vulnerable with one another; we can disclose our deepest hopes and fears, our disappointments and our dreams, in the knowledge that the other will not walk away. This commitment becomes the protective casing around our relationship. And in that place of being real and being vulnerable with each other, true intimacy is formed.
Former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sachs, commented on the power of marriage: ‘A wedding is more than a formality and a piece of paper… because it involves commitment, a mutual pledge of openness and trust, a promise that neither will walk away in difficult times. From that covenant of loyalty and love, new life comes into the world…
‘Marriage is not just living together, a temporary partnership for mutually beneficial ends. Heaven help us if that is all we see in it. It is the point at which the ‘I’ of self meets the ‘Thou’ of another, transforming us into something larger, more spacious, more generous and tender than we could ever be on our own. In marriage at it best you see humanity at its best.’
Marriage, far from restricting us, sets us free. We can disagree passionately, as we often have, and know it does not spell the end of our marriage because we have made this lifelong commitment. As the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to his niece from prison on the eve of her wedding: ‘It is not your love that sustains the marriage but, from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.’
Celebrate marriage! If you’re married, look at the wedding vows you made, however long ago, and feel the challenge and the power of them. Commit again to loving the person you’re joined to till death do you part.