[Opinion article published in the Yellow Jacket Newspaper on Oct. 30, 2014]
Last week, I attended a commonly overlooked Howard Payne ceremony: the renewal of vows. This is an event that takes place during homecoming weekend in which married alumnus re-commit themselves to their spouses. “It’s about saying ‘I said I do, I have, and I still do’” said Dr. Donnie Auvenshine, the HPU professor who officiated the ceremony.
For a large percentage of the world’s population, marriage has become obsolete. There is an extremely high rate of divorce, in our country especially, and it’s something we’ve become accustomed to. In contrast, it was beautiful to see couples who had been married for nearly 50 years still enjoying one another and continuing to put effort into making each other happy.
Couples who have been married for 50 years have spent nearly two-thirds of their lives with one another. There is a level of comfort that comes with being with a person for that long. After spending the majority of your life with someone, it would be unnatural to try and live without them.
What struck me was the middle-aged couple who renewed their vows after 5 years.
My parents have been happily married for 25 years. For as long as I can remember, they have had a very positive and encouraging relationship. However, my mom recently told me about a rough patch she and my dad went through when I was small.
“Year 7 was the hardest,” my mom said. By this point, my parents’ honeymoon phase had worn off and they had 3 children to take care of on a tight budget. “Things were really stressful and it was easy to become short tempered,” she remembered. My parents chose to work together to resolve their difficult phases because they were committed to each other.
When a relationship is between the giddy newness stage and the comfortable sense of normalcy stage, couples may find their marriage undesirable. It was inspiring to watch the couples in Grace Chapel who were likely in this stage of uncertainty still look at each other and boldly state their intentions of keeping the promises they made years ago.
Marriage often holds a higher status of importance within religious communities, but it can be very important to secular people as well. Since I became agnostic three years ago, the value of marriage has become increasingly more important to me.
When you adjust your belief system, it is sometimes necessary to re-evaluate what it is you live for. As a Christian, my life revolved around serving God and enlightening others of His greatness. When God was taken out of the equation, my relationships with people took the highest priority. I value my encounters with all people, be it a laugh with a cashier at the supermarket or an intimate moment with a trusted friend. People and the relationships I share with them have become the most important aspect of my life. Recognizing that the relationship I have with my future spouse could possibly become the most significant bond I experience has caused me to take marriage very seriously.
Simply tying the knot with a person does not guarantee a spectacular relationship. But making a lifelong commitment to a person with whom you share a mutual sense of respect, trust and admiration can give you the opportunity to thrive in a relationship that is insurmountable.
Aside from the positive feelings you should have towards your husband or wife, spouses share many monumental events together. They live together and usually spend more time together than they do with anyone else. They manage their finances together and make important joint decisions about which country, state, city, neighborhood and home they want to live. Spouses often have and raise children together and grow alongside each other in their parenting skills. They vacation together, go through struggles together and are present for every curveball life throws.
Of course, these milestones can be shared outside marriage, but marrying gives a couple a sense of security in their relationship by making the commitment legal, verbal and public. Firmly stating a desire to be together through the highs and the lows gives couples encouragement to press on, even in moments when the relationship is not enjoyable. It may be difficult to love your spouse when he or she is being selfish or irritable, but it should be comforting to know that your spouse won’t stop loving you when you are selfish and irritable.
Marriage is a truly beautiful bond that should be taken seriously. In a world where marriage is so often seen as a joke, it was encouraging to watch the couples at Howard Payne say to their spouses “After all this time, I still do.”