Tag Archives: wedding

The most important quality in a marriage (2)

This post is a continuation of the discussion we began on Friday about the most important quality in a marriage. Below is an excerpt from the memoir I am working on. It recounts a conversation Mike and I had via skype before we got engaged, when he was  in PNG and I was in LA.

…Even when we were talking, on our carefully scheduled skype dates, it wasn’t guaranteed to be smooth and happy sailing. Occasionally we’d be talking away easily one minute only to find ourselves mired in a messy miscommunication the next. Or we’d be laughing and a moment later one of us would have blundered unexpectedly into a virtual minefield.

This was the situation I found myself in late one night, about a month before Mike was to arrive in LA in May. We’d been talking for an hour already, but before we wrapped up I suggested we dip into the question box.

The question box was a tool we used sometimes to help move us past the whats, whens, and hows of our days. A solid plastic rectangle, it held hundreds of small cards each with a different question printed on them.

What is one special holiday memory from childhood?

If you had to move to a foreign country indefinitely, which one would you choose?

What’s your favorite flavour of ice cream?

This night, however, the card that I randomly selected touched on a topic much weightier than ice cream.

“What’s the question?” Mike asked, after I’d been silent for a couple of seconds, debating whether to throw it back and pick another one.

“OK,” I said, deciding to stick with it, “what’s the most important quality in a marriage?”

“Commitment,” Mike said almost immediately. Then he paused and talked around the concept for a while, trying on words like honesty and forgiveness.

“No,” he finally said decisively. “Commitment.”

Sleepy and relaxed I opened my mouth and started to think out loud.

“I don’t think so,” I said. “I think it’s affection, or warmth, or… kindness,” I finished with assurance. “Yeah, kindness. I’d rank that above commitment.”

There was silence from the other end of the skype line.

“Hello?” I said.

“Is that because commitment would already be there?” Mike asked.

“I guess so,” I said. “I can’t easily see a relationship that’s full of affection and kindness not being built on some foundation of commitment, but I can envision it the other way around – a committed relationship lacking kindness. And that’s just ugly.”

Again, silence.

“Hello?” I said.

“I’m a bit paralyzed right now,” the distant Mike finally replied. “I think I’m better at commitment than I am at affection. I just don’t think I can discuss this any more at the moment. I have to get back to the office over here anyway.”

“Oh,” I said, completely startled. “Uh, OK. That’s not one of my fears in relation to us by the way, that you’re not good at affection, but alright.”

“We’re OK, it’s not you, I’ve just stumbled over some of my own inner furniture,” Mike managed to reassure me before signing of. “We’ll talk soon.”

We did talk soon, but not before I’d spent an uncomfortable day or two wondering where I’d gone wrong. Perhaps, I ventured to my parents after thinking it through, it was the moment when I opened my mouth after Mike had bared his soul and basically insinuated that I didn’t think commitment was that big a deal and that I’d be in a marriage only as long as I thought the other person was being kind.

“Yeah, that might have done it, I’d say,” Mum said.

“Mum!” I said.

“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” she said, negating any reassurance the statement might have delivered by laughing immediately afterwards.

“I do think commitment is hugely important,” I said. “And I know any commitment – to marriage, to a place – is going to have times when it’s tested. I was just saying that I’m not sure commitment is the be-all and the end-all. I mean, would I really want to stay in a marriage indefinitely if sheer single-minded commitment was all it had going for it? Commitment might be an effective glue but surely kindness or something else has to be present much of the time to make it worth holding something together?”

Mum didn’t venture to touch that one.

“What do you think is the most important quality in a marriage then?” I asked her.

“Balance,” she said.

“Balance??” asked my father, who’d been listening in from the other side of the study.

“Balance,” my mother repeated. “What have other people said?”

“Well, two of my colleagues said trust,” I said, “and another one said good-will – the commitment to hold a good image of that person in your mind even when you’re not liking them in the moment.”

“Does anyone want to know what I think?” Dad asked in my favorite tone of voice – that of the patient martyr.

Apparently it’s Mum’s favorite tone of voice, too, because she was quicker off the mark than I was.

“Not really,” she said breezily.

“Yes, Dad,” I said, rolling my eyes at both of them. “We want to know what you think.”

“A commitment to love,” he announced. “It combines commitment and kindness.”

“That is not a single quality,” Mum replied.

“And balance is?” Dad asked.

Over to you… any further thoughts on this topic? I’d love to hear them. Or, uh, what’s your favourite flavour of ice cream? I’d love to hear that too. Hope your week is off to a good start.

Advertisements

Two years ago today

Two years ago today Mike and I put on fancy clothes and stood up in front of many people that we love and made a whole bunch of very serious promises about, essentially, loving one another. It was a wonderful, glorious, happy-filled, day that still makes me smile when I think of it.

To be honest though, it wasn’t all bubbles and champagne that day. I threw my back out the morning of the wedding, forgot to put together a reception run-sheet for our long-suffering MC’s, Emma and Asha, until four hours before the ceremony, and felt more serious and stressed out than giddy and love-struck right before it was time to walk down the aisle.

But there was advil for the back, and thankfully the lace-up style of my wedding dress acted as a very efficient brace that allowed me to forget the pain and move relatively freely once it was on. One of my bridesmaids came and sat down beside me where I was lying at noon, flat on the floor, waiting for pain killers to kick in, and helped me plan out the reception program. And there, at the end of that walk down the aisle, was Mike.

As the ceremony progressed and we got through all the serious stuff I felt myself start to relax, to inhabit the moment, to float, and from the moment we finished out vows and walked back down the aisle together it was bubbles and champagne. There were smiling people we loved everywhere I looked. The day was a sultry sort of gorgeous. The wine plentiful and cold. The Thai food, amazing. The marquee in the lush garden setting of my parent’s backyard, very Arabian nights. The dance floor under the stars, magical.

I’ve been thinking about that day this morning, and about the promises we made to each other, so I thought that I’d share them here. But first, here’s an excerpt from the book I’m working on at the moment where I write about these vows…

… “We wanted to write our own wedding vows, Mike and I, and we also wanted to be in sync with what we would promise each other on the day. So we each put some thought into the vows separately, and then came together with our drafts to blend them into one unified declaration.

I think my favorite section of our vows is what we settled on for the ring exchange: As I give you this ring, I give you my heart as a sanctuary. I give you myself as a faithful companion to celebrate life with. I give you my promise that as I choose you today, so I will choose you tomorrow. This is our covenant.

To get to these four simple sentences we each had to make a compromise that, initially, felt quite painful.

“We can’t say it that way,” Mike said, when he saw my draft. “The second sentence ends with a preposition.”

“What’s a preposition?” I asked.

He looked at me, suspicious. “You,” he said, “are a novelist. How can you possibly not know what a preposition is?”

“Hey,” I said a trifle sharply. “Six countries. Six schools. English grammar got lost somewhere along the way – possibly while I was busy learning Shona in Zimbabwe.”

“You can’t end a sentence with the word with,” Mike said. “It’s just wrong. Another way to say it would be, ‘I give you myself as a faithful companion with whom to celebrate life.’”

“That sounds lame,” I said, displaying a vocabulary every bit as impressive as my grasp of grammar.

“Well at least it’s correct.”

“But it sounds dumb,” I said. “Clumsy. Formal. It doesn’t fit the tone of the rest of our vows. Who cares if it’s correct if it sounds dumb?”

Mike eventually shifted on that issue, and I shifted on this one: when I first drafted this section I put an extra sentence in there, right before: This is our covenant. That sentence was: You will be home to me.

“I don’t like that,” Mike said, when he saw it. “It doesn’t work. I don’t want it in there.”

Although I was initially disappointed there was something in me that sensed he may just be right, so I took it out without making too much of a fuss. But I’ve thought about that a good deal in the last little while, and I do think he was right, after all. For one thing, that phrase is arguably less a promise than it is a statement, or even a demand.

I hadn’t intended that. I had intended for that sentence to evoke all that is most positive in the ideal of home – comfort, continuity, understanding, haven, refuge, rest, encouragement, wholeness – the sum total of all that is most precious and valuable in life. I had intended it as a promise along the lines of, “I will seek these things in you, for you, and with you.”

The problem here lies in the first part of that promise that I was trying to craft – the idea that it’s possible to find all of that in someone else. It’s too much to expect (or even hope for) from any one person. Even your lover. …”

So here are those vows that we worked on together. Two years down the track I would make them to Mike again today without hesitating.

I, Lisa McKay, choose you, Michael Wolfe, as my life partner, the one I commit to love. I pledge to cherish and honor you regardless of circumstances, in the pressures of the present and the uncertainties of the future, loving what I do know of you, trusting what I do not yet know.

I promise to grow in mind and spirit with you, and support you in fulfilling your hopes and dreams. I promise to remain with you, whatever afflictions may befall. I commit to sharing with you life’s joys and sorrows, pleasures and pains from this day forward until death do us part.

As I give you this ring, I give you my heart as a sanctuary. I give you myself as a faithful companion to celebrate life with. I give you my promise that as I choose you today, so I will choose you tomorrow. This is our covenant.



Weddings, rabbits, and laughter

You’d think there would be more to write about when we’re on holidays, not less, but we’ve been having a thoroughly lovely week and thoroughly lovely weeks do not generally good blog fodder make. As I have now been missing in action for the last ten days due to a remarkable lack of internet access points in Barwon Heads and the entire state of Tasmania, however, I will soldier on in the face of the adversity of an over-abundance of happiness and good fortune to provide some sort of update.

So, the wedding last weekend. It was lovely, as weddings generally are, each in their own special way. Amber was stunningly beautiful. Tristan fought back tears as she walked down the aisle. Mike made a very handsome groomsmen and was in good international company – three of the four groomsmen had flown in from overseas. We came from Laos, Tristan’s brother, Ash, came from Yemen, and another friend, Aaron, flew in from Canada for the weekend. (Total insanity, that last one, the very thought of enduring that trip just for the weekend makes me shudder.)

I was asked to read a reading from the Velveteen Rabbit (by Margery Williams) that Mike and I chose for our wedding so that was a fun deja-vu. I’ve loved the idea of this reading at a wedding since I first heard it at a wedding I attended in Washington while I was still in high school, and it apparently struck a chord with Tristan and Amber when they were researching as well.

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but Really loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get all loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

I like the idea that growing in love takes time, but that the end result of the process is an authentic sort of realness more valuable than unmarred physical beauty. On the other hand I don’t agree with Skin Horse that when you are Real you don’t mind being hurt. Perhaps you mind it less, or perhaps you can look past the immediate to see value in the hurt, but I think we generally still mind. On the whole, however, this reading captures some of what I hope for Mike and me in our marriage – that our love will transform us by rubbing off some of the sharp edges of our selfishness and teach us, bit by bit, to better see and value true beauty.

Oh, and I hope we laugh a lot along the way, and don’t leave each other lying neglected by the fender for too long. Talented photographer that he is, Tristan took these photos during our own wedding rehearsal, almost two years ago now. I can’t remember what we were laughing about, but by the looks at it I made fun of Mike for something and then fully expected to be rewarded with a kiss. Long may the laughter, the love, and the kisses continue for us and for the couple of the week, Tristan and Amber.

While we’re on the topic of weddings, what is something you’ve heard read or said at a wedding that’s stuck with you? Why did you like (or dislike) it?