June 23, 2017

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Saying ‘I do’ should promise a happy future when we mean it

Cynthia DewesJune used to be the prime month for marriages. After all, June promises a beautiful, warm and pleasant season ahead, which sounds like an auspicious beginning for a marriage.

Many young couples today see no reason for marriage. They just move in together, sometimes with the excuse that they’re seing if it will work. The moral imperative of not having sex outside of marriage is simply not on their radar, so why not?

Sometimes, young couples view marriage as some kind of trap. The men may feel they’ll be legally responsible in some threatening way if they marry, and the women fear losing their independence or identity. Either scenario is enough to discourage tying the knot.

Such dire predictions about marriage, as with most of our opinions, are based on the young people’s experience. Somehow, they’ve never learned what marriage really is. Instead of valuing the freedom a marriage can create, they think of it as a hindrance. They’ve never learned the sacramental aspect of marriage because sacraments in general are often not on their radar, either.

Perhaps we could berate the parents of such young folks, saying they should have done a better job of teaching them about religious morality. But it seems to me that their example as a married couple is much more instructive. If kids see a healthy relationship between the married couple they know best, maybe they’ll grow up to repeat it in their own lives.

This is not to say that every marriage must be ideal to set a good example for the children. The kids will observe other couples as well among their relatives and friends, people who often demonstrate an even better model for them.

I speak from experience, since my parents did not have a good marriage. However, they never made me feel it was my fault. And I baby-sat for people who personified a loving marriage commitment. It was they who provided the inspiration for me later in choosing a life partner.

So the question is: how do we achieve such a good marriage relationship?

First of all, we have a physical attraction to someone. But there is more. Sex is but one component in a good marriage. We also need to share values. It takes time to ascertain what others’ values are, so it’s important to spend enough “courting” time to determine them. In doing so, we can only become closer.

Sharing the same ideas about the value of work and the standard of living we hope for are also important. And then, there are ambitions for the children we may have, the size of our family, and our relationships with friends and relatives to consider. We can’t be in lock step with our beloved about everything, but we should be in reasonable accord.

Being in a good marriage makes us free as individuals. We can feel free to be ourselves, to make friends with others without sexual tension or inhibitions, and to pray with someone who knows God, if not always formally. We should never feel controlled by the other.

Probably we all hope that “someday our prince [or princess] will come.” We all want to be happy in life, and if we’re married that requires careful preparation and continuing effort.

When we say “I do” we’d better be prepared to mean it, because the rewards for ourselves and our kids can follow into eternity.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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