I went to a wedding over the weekend. I wasn’t particularly enthused about it, not knowing the bride or the groom, but as it was someone my husband works with — and an opportunity to get the hell out of Dodge — I packed a nice dress and heels and my good manners and we went.
It also absolved me of any commitment to my 25th class reunion, so bonus.
I know a little of the backstory of the bride and groom, considering that my husband is not only a coworker of the groom, but also a former coworker of the groom’s father and stepmother (who, incidentally, is younger than the groom). You could make yourself crazy trying to unknot the various familial relationships in this particular group of people, but suffice it to say it’s a Jerry Springer show. I made up my mind that I would be pleasant as long as I could, which would then end right about the time the booze got flowing good and everyone else became unpleasant.
There are times to be the sober one. This was one of them.
But before all that, there was the wedding ceremony. It was an outdoor wedding, which in the month of August in this part of the country can be pretty dicey. We had the advantage of a nice breeze off the lake. Since I didn’t know the bride or the groom or any of the members of the wedding party, I took the opportunity to be an impartial observer to the whole thing. I always find it interesting to hear the vows, because the vows tend to reflect the personalities of the couple. For instance, my own vows omitted the word “obey,” because there was not going to be any of that archaic nonsense in my marriage… much to the chagrin of my father. The difference between the 50’s and the 90’s, I suppose.
The vows at this wedding were pretty typical — love, cherish, honor, richer, poorer, etc. Having been married a few years myself, I know how hard it is to uphold these sorts of vows, and how we all start off with good intentions. And yet I’ve seen marriages fold like a cheap tent when minor things happen. It’s easy to commit, and hard to be committed.
Every time I read a news story about someone who’s fighting a major illness or disability, nine times out of ten, if there’s a marriage, it ends up kaput. Loving, honoring, cherishing… all seem fall prey to the sickness part of “in sickness and in health.” Does that mean they were any less committed? Or does it mean that they didn’t know just how hard things would be?
For all my griping about living here in Podunk Central, I at least have had the advantage here of seeing so many commitments played out over the course of lifetimes. So many people here living marriages of 50 years or more, many in my own family. Some remaining committed through the most horrible things imaginable, the loss of a home, the loss of health, the loss of limb, the loss of a child. What does that say about their personal reserves of strength? What does it say about the vows they took, and how seriously they took them? What does it say about the expectations that surround them?
On the flip side, I also know quite a number of people who would need both hands to count the number of former spouses. Podunk has its Peyton Place, too.
I’m not going to lie. I’ve had those thoughts, the ones that say “run.” I can’t really put my finger on the reason I don’t run.
What goes on inside a marriage is not for the faint of heart, usually. Nearly 25 years ago I stood and watched my best friend make a committment to a man neither one of us knew well, and over they years I have come to believe that I was witness to a very large mistake. And yet she remains. The why of it is a mystery to me. Is it the words spoken during the vows? Is it the expectations of others around them?
At the end of the day, the words we speak to one another in a wedding ceremony in front of our friends and family are really only words. We agree to things and declare things during the high of the moment, and once the rose petals are swept up and the caterer’s bill is paid, we begin to live our lives within the framework of these words we’ve spoken. What makes some of us march through the mud and others of us stop when our feet get wet? Are some of us just quitters?
I wish the happy couple all the best, of course. But closer examination of the familial ties surrounding them would suggest they have a tough row to hoe.