Temporary is a way of life in today’s world. We are actually conditioning people to be temporary, do you realize that? Let’s give this some thought for a minute….
Hopefully, we raise our youth to honor their commitments. We must have said those very words to our sons a million times. But what exactly does that really mean? According to Webster’s dictionary: commitment: noun; a promise to do or give something; a promise to be loyal to someone or something; the attitude of someone who works very hard to do or support something. However, most of the examples in their world, OUR world, condition even their commitments to be of a temporary nature. Their formal education has a finite time frame at each level, their fashions, fads, and music choices change with the wind, their sports teams organically end with a season or a change of team, their employment landscape is a leap frog affair of job hopping to find the right one. (According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker currently holds ten different jobs before age forty, and this number is projected to grow.) Locations are determined by changing jobs, following a relationship, or desires for adventure. Even their friendships tend to rally around a season of life. SO, we are facing a dilemma of epic proportions. How do we teach permanence? Where do they get an example of something that is beyond temporary? How do they know what to shoot for when they have never had an example of what it looks like? That is a tough one.
Marriages have become a victim of the temporary monster. How do we teach….until death do us part? I really don’t know how to answer that either. However, I think the most obvious and viable endeavor at our disposal is show them what it looks like. Think lab rather than lecture. If you have managed to stay married for a lot of years, I encourage you to become a mentor couple and take a young couple under your wing. We need to band together and form armies of WE. We veterans need to show those just starting out a form of permanence that they may never have had the opportunity to observe. Over half the youth in this country began their formative years in a one parent family. So even if one member of a young couple came from an intact family, for the other…it may be a unicorn. When those two from different households and different examples have to work together on their marriage…this becomes problematic. Those young ones need to interact with couples who have bumped up against the hard knocks of life, gotten up and kept on walking together. They need to realize that there is no perfect marriage out there….because there are no perfect people out there. We need to show them two imperfect people refusing to give up on each other. We need to show them that there can be a beauty in imperfection. We need to help them to see that long term fulfillment trumps short term discontent. We need to help them understand that they are certainly not going to agree about everything, but intentional preparation with mentors before marriage could prevent some of the symptoms that arise later. Sparking deep, messy, uncomfortable conversations about all topics is critical before saying I do! It alleviates that I didn’t know what I was getting into kind of reaction as a preparation for bailing. I think that there is NO question that shouldn’t be asked and no rock that shouldn’t be turned over. There can be some ugly things under some of those rocks. Marriage should never be entered with rose-colored glasses firmly attached to one’s nose, or because it is the logical next step of a relationship. So, what if they are already married and on a sinking ship? Another great question! We walk along side and give as much encouragement as possible and show them what we’ve learned the hard way in our years together .
Steve and I didn’t choose premarital counseling, it was a mandate set forth by our minister before he would marry us. I am thankful that it was non-negotiable, because we might not have chosen it for ourselves. It is one of the best things that happened to us. I am not saying that is what has kept us together, however one takeaway has stuck with Steve all these years. It was a simple comment that could have gotten lost in the shuffle of all those other topics: Divorce is not an option. You can either have a happy marriage or a sad marriage. It is your choice. That is food for thought. We were given control over our permanence. It was a choice we could make…..every…single…day. However, it is a choice that both people have to make – the mutual determination to stay together for life and WE have to help spread that message.
So, I don’t know how you teach it , but for those who somehow have managed to do it, you can not walk away!!! You need to step forward and show them what it looks like. Tell them your stories. Tell them your successes and how you celebrated. Tell them your failures and how you overcame them. Tell them why you chose to stay, when you could have chosen to go. Using your 20/20 hindsight, give some examples of what may hang in the balance. Just Pour!!