Weddings are big business. The average cost of an American wedding is a touch over $35,000. While folks are getting married later, they are spending plenty more on the nuptials. There are at least ten slick magazines devoted to the sport (and I consider it such). Untold articles in women’s magazines about love and getting the guy I(or gal) to pop the question, hand over a ring and do the deed in front of some mugwump with the authority to tie the knot.
Where you get married also has an impact. For example, if you marry in Manhattan, plan to more than double the cost of your shenanigans. If you head way down south, take about ten grand off the total.
People really want that WOW factor. Something that makes their day ever so much more special.
Like non-traditional vows.
You’ll Never Cry Another Tear. Come ON, Man.
Recently during a radio program I listened to a marriage counselor describe the over-the-top vows that she hears, or that her now-divorcing clients use to brutalize each other during counseling sessions.
“You’ll never cry another tear.”
“You’ll never spend another moment alone.”
“I’ll never ever leave your side forever more.”
“I promise to keep you happy for the rest of your life.”
In other words, the kind of ridiculous, unreasonable and un-keepable promises that no human being can possibly make, should ever make, to any other human being under any circumstances for any reason whatseover.
You want a surgeon to attach the two of you at the hip? I didn’t think so.
There is no way anyone could possibly prevent another’s pain. You can, and one hopes you willl be there when life hands your partner a beatdown or a cancer diagnosis.
Charming Idiosyncrasies or Annoying Habits?
No one can be there “forever.” And frankly, you honestly don’t want them there. It’s suffocating to have someone in your face 24/7. You can’t breathe, think, or function. In fact, if someone actually did spend that much time with you, in no time you’d likely be looking for an escape hatch. People’s charming idiosyncrasies quickly become incredibly annoying in no time at all.
Before we find out about someone’s really bad habits (or the bloodstained axe they keep in the hallway closet) everything is perfect, wonderful, fabulous. Then the novelty wears off and we get to deal with the entire package. Underwear hanging on the shower curtain. Laundry all over the house. She borrows your best razor even after you ask her not to. Bad spending habits. In other words, we turn out to be achingly human.
People get sick. Die. Jobs pull folks apart. You have kids. Money problems.
To say nothing of spending most of your time- including in bed- on your cell phone rather than rolling around having lots of fun.
Life just happens.
Part of the great appeal of romantic love is its wildness and the fiery desire to be physically together. The problem is that it’s unrealistic. It lasts about as long as one of you can bear to keep holding your farts in, and after that, all bets are off.
The fundamentals of friendship and trust are what keep a marriage together. Creating unreasonable and unsustainable vows in the heat of romantic love is a setup for anger, resentment and heartbreak. An ability to laugh at just about everything, to believe what the other says is true, and to count on one another through tough times build lasting bonds. Without those pieces, you don’t have a connection. You have sex. Period.
Sex isn’t love isn’t sex.
Great Lovers but Bad People
I’ve found great lovers too often to be unimaginable assholes. Pity. What a waste. Too bad all that energy expended being terrific in the sack doesn’t always translate into character, trustworthiness, kindness, or other human traits worth having. I was crazy about a terrific lover for nine years who was as shallow and full of shit as a kiddie wading pool. But women end up marrying great lovers anyway, and find out that they confused great physicality with a quality human being. Ended up hugely disappointed because Casanova can’t keep it zipped up. Or, that was pretty much all he had to offer. Or, for that matter, it was the woman who was superficial, but talented between the sheets. Happens a lot.
Sex isn’t love isn’t sex. Love is incredibly hard, slogging work sometimes. It takes character to make it last. What makes it even more challenging is the proliferation of dating sites that give folks the comfort that that they can, as my ex sister-in-law said just before she married my big brother years ago, “Well, I can always just divorce him.” And she did.
We are going to be traditional marriage season soon enough. Before you write up over-the-top vows which could end up becoming weapons of destruction, think ten or twenty years down the road. When the possibility of jelly bellies or kids or mortgage debt and car payments and limited options have dimmed the dementia of physical love a bit. Care taken now might pay off in more care given later.
The Evolution of Two Unique Souls
Marriage — with or without vows — is nothing more than the beginning of millions of shared steps along the way. What we promise in the moment is just that- in the moment. Vows that acknowledge the perpetually-flowing nature of time, personal growth, the evolution of two unique souls, those are vows that we can honor. Vows that don’t jail us to a time in our lives that will never be again, but embrace the inconstant and precious now, and the unknown and hopeful future.