Marriage Only Has Meaning if It’s a Lifelong Commitment

Adriana Cohen at the Boston Herald surveys all the heartbreak in the world, and proposes that marriage licenses be issued for ten years, renewable.  This is my reply.  Prayers for a blessed Valentine’s Day, Adriana.


Dear Adriana,

This past weekend my husband and I lay in bed together, the lights dim, the room quiet, his head against my side. And he was crying. We were in the emergency room observation ward. He’d stopped in to check on me in between getting groceries, cleaning the house, and taking care of the kids. Like most men, when there’s a task in front of him, he’s good at setting aside his emotions and doing what needs to be done. But like any decent man, he also loves his wife dearly.

He’d die for me, I’m sure of it.

Are we extraordinary? No. We’re not. We’re a man and a woman who really liked each other, and so we got married.

If we’d gotten married under your ten-year-plan, I’m sure we’d have been married ten years and called it quits. We went through some difficult times at about the four-year mark, and if we hadn’t both been committed to lifelong marriage, we would have given it up then. I recall year twelve wasn’t so easy either. Frankly year seventeen or so is when we finally worked through a few of those problems that would have been the end of our marriage if only we’d believed in ending marriages.

The very fact that we knew we had to stay together is the reason our marriage is so beautiful and intimate. It’s the reason our children have happy parents who love one another, and do their best to create a joyful, peaceful home.

This is what marriage is. It’s not a hobby that you take up for a bit and then leave off when it gets old. It’s not a business partnership, or even an ordinary friendship. And even though we did a bunch of dumb stuff when we were young, the very fact that we both knew marriage ought to be lifelong meant that we worked pretty hard at choosing a spouse we’d want to be with lifelong.

Can you know the future? No, you can’t. Can you be utterly deceived by a sociopath in courtly disguise? Yes, you can. Bad things, terrible things, can happen when you live dangerously. Marriage is not about living cautiously. It’s about discerning carefully, and then throwing yourself in whole heartedly.

You hold hands and jump over the ledge together, and there’s no going back. It’s not a vacation, it’s a lifelong quest.

I’m sorry that you are so afraid of marriage. I’m sorry that someone’s given you the idea that all you can have is a very nice boyfriend. I’m sorry you don’t think it’s possible that a man could love you so much that he’d give anything – anything – to have just one more day with you.

But you really are that lovable.

Don’t sell yourself short.