A Case for Marriage

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The other day I was at a restaurant with dad and I talked to the waiter. Crystal or my daughters will tell you that I always talk to the waiters (well people in general). I can’t help it; I’m just interested in people. Somehow the topic turned around to the people in his life. He mentioned the woman he had been living with for the last three years. He sounded very pleased with her. ‘She sounds wonderful’, is what I believe I responded. I know better than to ask about marriage plans. I mentioned my wonderful wife of thirty-eight years. Dad was with me. I don’t think he could hear much of our conversation. I introduced them and the waiter took our order.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t frown on freedom of choice or other lifestyles. I just think the pendulum has swung a little too far. If you have a TV or live in the world, you know what I’m saying. These days a common response to ‘I’m getting married’ is ‘why?’  I would be the biggest hypocrite in the world if I said I didn’t understand the advantages of the trial run. Rent versus buy is one of the first things I learned to compare in my economics classes in college. Members of my family have lived with ‘significant others’. It is just the way of today.  Truthfully, I might have lived with Crystal before marriage, if she was a modern woman of the s1970s. Of course, if she had been that modern, I might not have wanted to make the commitment to spend my life with her. Commitment is a good word. We will get back to it.

The point is simple. Marriage has been on the decline for years. Success rate is only about 50%. Many of my best friends have been divorced. Divorce is painful, ugly and costly. Why take that chance. If you live with someone, in theory, you can simple wave goodbye and it’s over.

I’m sorry, maybe I am old fashion. I just don’t buy it. Our book is all about three couples who defied the odds and had successful marriages. I believe that even in the 21st century there must be some positives to marrying the one you love. So, over the next couple of blogs we will do our best to oppose popular social morays and build a case for marriage.

Today we will talk a little about marriage’s popular alternative. Why do people choose to live together monogamously? I believe, for some, it represents a step toward marriage. Others believe it is a way to test the relationship; while still others may use it to postpone a commitment (there’s that word) they are not certain, they are willing to make.

One problem with cohabitation, as I see it, comes in when you and your significant other have different goals or levels of commitment (again). To one, the arrangement may represent a temporary end game. To the other, it may represent a never ending audition for marriage. In many cases, neither is being totally honest about their true feelings. Of course, they may not know themselves.

Next, if you go into a relationship wanting to make sure there is an easy out, it will most likely end in one. If marriage is the goal, note that statistically, the chances of the trial run leading to a successful marriage are lower than marriage without the trial run. A relationship founded on convenience and” maybe we do, maybe we don’t”, is not a basis for lasting love.

OK, that’s enough of my soap box for today. It’s time for a story. Crystal and I met in 1975 at a fifties party (that’s 1950s) at Bradley University. When the party was over, she went back to her dorm room and complained about me to her roommate. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight for either of us.

Our relationship wasn’t much different. It took a while for us to get serious. We were both dating other people. However, when we finally realized how well we worked together, we became inseparable. We studied together, went on walks, and even ate most of our meals together. It soon became obvious to us and all of our friends, we had something special.

We talked about someday getting married. When I say we talked, I mean we talked. We talked location, apartment vs. home, engagement period, and even number of kids. I said one. After all, I was an only child, and practically perfect in every way (yeah, I know, don’t call me Mary). She wanted four. I almost had a heart attack. Eventually, she won that debate. We had three. We probably would have had four if her baby making equipment hadn’t broken down.

Once in my mind, I was certain we were committed (again) to spending our lives together, I took the next step. My roommate at the time was George. He was a brilliant fellow Chemistry student. While I struggled with all of the concepts, he hung around with professors, and acted as if college was a mere formality of life. George was a true renaissance man. He not only knew chemistry, he knew a lot about many diverse subjects. He, however, had a bit of social awkwardness until he knew you well (picture Sheldon Cooper, but much friendlier and nicer). Naturally, George was the first one I went to when I started looking for a ring. He immediately started talking cut, facets, clarity. Do you know the origin of the term carat? He did and so did I at one point.

We went to the Hertzberg Jeweler at the new Peoria Mall. I looked at the rings trying to decide what Crystal would like, and I could afford. George talked to the Jeweler like he worked there.  We finally came across this beautiful white gold ring set with multiple small chips and a small but certified perfect main stone. Perfect, I thought, just like our love. Did I mention I was sappy back then? Anyway, I knew that was the one.

I plopped down what was easily three months wage at the government lab where I worked part time. Once we left, I started planning my strategy. Everything had to be perfect. I wanted Crystal to remember the moment for the rest of her life, and then some. When I first met her, I told her I was an optimist and a romantic. She was skeptical at the time. This was the time to put up or shut up.

Finally, it came to me. I had all of the questions answered. It was a beautiful fall day. The sun was shining and the birds were singing. Classes were over. I suggested a nice walk in Laura Bradley Park. This beautiful forested hilly park was a block from campus. We walked there often so she would suspect nothing. We walked past the playground, past my favorite climbing tree, down the hill and past the tennis courts. We crossed the little foot bridge over the creek. We talked as we walked. A good part of the conversation was cleverly steered toward our future married lives together. I had to make sure Crystal was in. I was certain that rejection would prove terminal. Everything was go for Mission Proposal. We reached the predetermined spot. In the middle of a small grove with flowers (well pretty weeds) and trees next to the creek there was a large rock. I signaled Crystal over and gently hoisted her to sit on the rock. Back then I could do stuff like that (gentle hoisting). I assumed the position (one knee) and presented the ring. The reaction wasn’t quite what I expected. Crystal was definitely surprised. Actually shocked would be a better description. She did say yes. She smiled pleasantly as I put the ring on her finger. I took her back to her room, but was a little disappointed. I knew her pretty well by then. I thought to myself, she would have reacted with more enthusiasm if I had a chocolate in the case. Oh well, at least we were engaged. Cross that off my list.

The next day Crystal gave the ring back. Apparently, while she had every intention of marrying me, she couldn’t be engaged while we were at school. She couldn’t split her focus. I told her that the engagement didn’t change anything; but she didn’t see it that way. This should have been a clue to me. Crystal and I were vastly different people.

Around six months later (after graduation) I tried again. This time it was in a restaurant and slightly less romantic. I pushed the box across the table and told her this was her last chance. This time she gratefully accepted the ring. She was in.

There were a lot of things, a lot of differences, we learned about during our early years of marriage. Looking back I see where, at least in our case, many have become strengths. As far as handing the ring back, I now think I understand it a little better. Crystal realized something I didn’t. I saw marriage as our happily ever after. I now realize that only works in fairy tales. Crystal saw it for what it was. This would be the biggest single commitment in her life. It’s a far bigger commitment than buying a car or even a house. I told you I would get back to commitment. She went into it thinking, once done it cannot be undone. Marriage requires two people who are totally committed to making it work, for the rest of their lives. She was not willing to take that step until she could devote 100% of her focus to it. I think if more couples thought that way, there would be fewer divorces, and greater satisfaction in marriages.

Our next blog will be the 100th on this web site since its inception. It’s party time!!!! Know that you are not alone. Some days over thirty people read our site. I think rather than sit here and pat ourselves on our backs.  Crystal and I see this as a statement of interest in the topic covered. The goal of our blog is to talk positively about marriage and family issues. If we can, at the same time, occasionally entertain with real life stories, so much the better. Thanks so much for your patronage.

Crystal’s Corner

I am glad that Ron has written this blog. I think that many couples are confused about living together and marriage and the differences between them.  I will give you a little history lesson now.  In the 1970s, following the crazy free love 1960s, more couples were living together.  We were not seeing happiness in their relationships.  We were seeing more of them crash and burn.  Even though women were becoming more career minded, educated and independent, when it came to men, they were wishy washy and insecure.

Many of my friends and coworkers were living with boyfriends who I thought would never marry them.  I was engaged right after college and working downtown Chicago.  I was one of the happiest people there, definitely “walking on sunshine”.  Ron was sweet, romantic and thoughtful.  We were very busy planning our wedding.  I knew he would marry me anywhere and anytime.  He wanted to be my husband and the father of my children.  I had that happiness growing in my heart which was bursting a lot of the time.  I would quote things that he said until my sister told me to stop it.  She didn’t think he was a great philosopher, but she knew that our love was strong and growing. I was also raised to value myself and to value the relationship I had with God and my family.  My parents had a strong loving fulfilling marriage.  We show this in our memoir.  My father was also very loving and supportive of his children. I was living at home and he was driving me to the train every day.  He thought I could wait awhile to marry Ron. He liked Ron, but I had been away for two years at school and he liked having me home again.  Also, my brother was going through a divorce.  My brother, however, liked Ron and could see how happy I was with him.

I had been asked before I met Ron by a boyfriend to come and live with him in another state.  I had turned him down.  He said, “So you are waiting for Mr. Right and a happily ever after.”  I told him that I was, but really I knew that God had a plan for my life.  When I met Ron at that 1950s party at school, God told me “This is your husband.”  It shocked me quite a bit, but can God be wrong?

When Ron proposed at the rock, I had no idea that it was going to happen.  We had had some problems during the summer and actually had broken up.  A big part of the problem was that we were apart and I was having a terrible summer and ended up in the hospital.  Now we had gotten back together and were on the right track.  I also was having the most difficult semester of my whole college career and I was running out of money.  I also had health problems.  I was putting everything I had into school and trying to graduate Summa Cum Laude.  He was having an easy semester and didn’t have financial problems.  I should have been honest with him about what was going on with me.  It is something we learned later.  He didn’t understand that when girls get engaged, everyone starts asking them questions.  I couldn’t plan a wedding and a future life and get through my hardest semester.

Even though I didn’t wear his ring, I still wanted very much to marry him.  This completely confused him and he was very upset for awhile.  I think he realized he had some things to learn about women.  But we stayed together and after he graduated in Jan. we became engaged.  I went back to school to fight my way through to graduation and he went home to find a job.  It was a difficult time for us to be apart, but our commitment and future plans kept us together.  I worked in the campus library, and my fellow workers knew, by my smile and by my step, when Ron was coming to visit.  They would console me on the weekends that I was alone.

Our memoir talks about our first date, our courtship, our wedding and more.  I am very glad that we wrote it all down for our girls and future generations to read.  I would have loved to read a memoir or diary or journal written by my great grandmother or my grandmothers.  They believed in marriage and sadly were widowed.  My grandmother Johnson, who was Irish, would say to my mom, “Isn’t love grand?” For Ron and me it is, in our marriage and our commitment to each other and to God.

Crystal's fall 2015 013

Swans are a symbol of fidelity and everlasting love. Like us though, in real life, they are not always faithful.

Category: Make Marriage Last

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