Monday, September 04, 2006
Thoughts on What Makes a Successful Marriage
If all the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players, our attitude toward that part of the drama which is marriage will be one thing. Our first and main concern will be entertainment and fun. Our objective will be to get that satisfaction commonly known as pleasure. Marriage will be one of these pleasure scenes. We shall certainly not put too much into this. In stage scenery, appearance is sufficient. We need not have a house in which people can live, but only what looks like part of a house. Even this need not be well constructed, since it is so soon to be discarded. We and those who play opposite us need not spend the time and effort required to become what we represent. We need only to appear convincing. No wonder we often soon tire of the same old routine, and seek to change the cast and the bill!
But if life has basic meaning and purpose; if its essence is creative achievement, marriage will be quite different. Fun there will still be. But our first task will be to build a home in which we can actually live, and which will last through the years. To build successfully will require adequate preparation, serious application and sustained effort. Such a task is not to be accomplished in a few months, or even in a few years. Not even a lifetime will suffice.
We shall select our partners with utmost care, for their ability and desire to contribute to, and share in the common enterprise. Some people will discover that, despite their best efforts, they have chosen wrongly, and will have to start all over again from scratch. Yet such a decision will be too serious to be made without the most exacting investigation by competent specialists.
To marry is to enter upon a building program. The job of each couple who marry is to construct a permanent home for themselves in which they can best raise their children. A good marriage, like a good house, must have more than attractive features and glamour. It must be constructed of good materials. It must be constructed soundly enough to be able to weather the winters and storms of adversity and disappointment as well as the summer days of pleasure. Building any sound structure means work. Often you must expect inconveniences and difficulties; unsolved problems and bits of adjustment not yet made part of the structure. There will be backaches and heartaches.
A good marriage should be livable. Our fathers were often satisfied with a marriage stalwart enough to stand up during the years. We of today demand more. We want our marriages to do more than to shelter and to protect. They should be so designed as to provide ample opportunity for rich and satisfying living. If marriages are to meet this demand, they must be carefully planned. Such planning requires not only intelligence, but technical knowledge. We shall wish to consult, at least through their books, our matrimonial architects.
What do we get for all this? Lots of fun, because building is fun; among the most satisfying of all activities. We get a house of relationships in which to live. It would be easier and cheaper to find some cave of selfishness to occupy. It would be quicker and less expensive to begin with, to throw up some shack of temporary sex relationships. But such expedients could not provide us with a home. And so we will continue to demand habitations of relationships fit for civilized people, because only so can we be most truly human.
As we continue to build through the years, more and more worthwhile developments result. The love with which we started grows richer, and deeper, less explosive, but warmer, steadier, and more delightful. The relationships grow more comfortable. A lessening of tensions makes it possible for us to give more attention to, and enjoy more fully the task of living. Those who build, rather than merely appropriate, testify that their marriages grow more delightful, and in some ways, even more glamorous with the years.
As marriages deepen, so they also reach upward. Much has been said about the importance of religion to success in marriage. Too much cannot be said about the contributions of a rich and developing marriage to religion. In our love within the family we touch the Divine. Through a successful marriage the everlasting purposes of a timeless Eternity emerge as a focal point in time. More and more the tasks of marriage become worship. Its relationships become sacraments. As we continue to build, there emerges something more than a human habitation. Increasingly we find in our marriage a Temple for our souls' fulfillment in which God has come also to dwell; a house not made with hands, Eternal in the Heavens.
Our discussion closes with quotations from a wedding ceremony designed to incorporate the deeper and more meaningful social and religious purposes and ideals of marriage:
We rightly approach a wedding ceremony with reverence, and with awe. For marriage has welled up out of the depths of personal and social need. In it the fundamental impulses of the individual and the race; biological, personal and social, come to an overt focus. The ceremony itself is the public avowal of a new relationship; the most basic that can exist among men. . . .
It is meet and proper that so awe-inspiring an occasion, when Eternity emerges as a visible point in the present, should be celebrated with dignity and solemnity. All races, tribes and cultures, from the most primitive to the most advanced, have made of this step ... an expression through ceremony and rite of profound social concern.
... For a wedding is more than the joining of two persons to each other. It is the closing of a link in the endless chain of human relationships; a link which binds the present to the past, and out of which the future can most advantageously emerge.
The wedding is properly a religious ceremony. For in marriage, basic forces which determine human destiny find their richest and most creative expression. The noblest sentiments and highest ideals of the human soul stand by in expectant concern for their future. The God who sustains all which is, ultimately presides….
Marriage is an oasis of refreshment and renewal in an often arid world; a point of stability amid the bewildering and often alarming changes of a rapidly shifting social scene. Your marriage will mean that each of you will have at least one person whom you can know and respond to as a whole personality. In all the welter of mass humanity and whirling shifts of friendships, you can find a stability. . . .
For you there will always be one relationship in which you can be as you really are, without risk of rejection. Marriage means, in part, the weaving of a rope of relationships upon which each of you can put the full weight of your own worst, without fear that it will break.
You will find a new security and richness in love . . . married love is above and beyond all other forms of human love. In it alone are intermingled the depth, intimacy and permanence essential for your greatest satisfaction and growth.
The wedding means a recognition and acceptance of new social obligations. To marry is to enter into partnership in a building enterprise….To marry ... is to create a basic unit of society. And in so doing you find your own greatest fulfillment.
The vows which you are about to take pledge you to fidelity, one to the other. This does not mean fidelity to taboos, or even to a person. The man and the woman who
live together secure in each other's love are being faithful to far more than to each other…They are being faithful to the basic foundations of the social structure in which all are formed and nourished. They are being faithful to the provisions which society makes for the protection and development of the deepest needs of persons. When you marry you do far more than to take unto yourself a spouse. You take a piece of the social future into your hands.
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How to Work Out which Social Crowd You Will Belong to After Marriage
Are you from the same or different social crowds? What crowd will you go with after your marriage?
For example, consider Jim and Mary. Mary's crowd is decidedly the "sporty" type. They swim, sail, play considerable tennis and golf. Their conversations center about horse-racing, ball games, and tournaments. Jim's group is more the "artistic-intellectual" type. They are interested in novels, plays, paintings, and discuss international and social problems with considerable zeal. We may well ask why Jim and Mary became interested in each other in the first place. Perhaps each wanted somewhat more variety than he was getting. In any case, here they are, about to marry. They will continue to live in the same town. With which crowd shall they establish their common social life? Perhaps the best way to answer this question is to ask another.
What will make the choice of a social crowd important or unimportant?
The seriousness of this problem will depend largely upon such factors as the following:
- The strength of the attachment which each person has to his or her group. If Mary's crowd is just a group which she has picked up recently in order to have some fun for a time, she may be able to drop them with little concern. Or, if Jim is already beginning to be "fed up" with his group, he may welcome the excuse to let go. But what if Mary has gone with her crowd since early childhood, and their families have constantly moved in the same circles? Or what if Jim finds his crowd his only relief from what is to him the "moronic drivel" of most everyone else? If the attachments of each are too strong and no satisfactory adjustment seems likely, there is a real question as to whether they should marry each other. In any case, the problems and possibilities should be carefully reviewed in advance.
- The extent to which social class is involved. If both groups are upper-middle class, for example, that will be one less thing to worry about. But what if Mary's crowd is upper class with definite status, while Jim's is a somewhat Bohemian crowd without definite status attachments, who do not "rate?" Behavior standards demanded. What if Jim's group are strong on Martinis and "broad-minded" regarding sex conduct, while Mary's group emphasizes physical fitness, temperance, and rather strict sex standards? If they go with either or both crowds, even part of the time, each will be subjected to group pressure to change standards, a situation which could add much to the difficulties of the marriage. The same issue often arises in the conflicts in standards of other groups. For example, a church group may have quite as much fun, but very different standards and ways of getting it from a "fast" group of another type.
If each member of the couple comes from a group whose standards conflict with those of the other group, the problem of social adjustment may prove to be really difficult. It is important that the couple should know the kinds of difficulties which they are likely to run up against, and to have at least temporary policies which they have agreed upon in advance, until more permanent ones can be worked out.
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