*I attended a wedding as a guest of a close friend. It was held at one of the most grand and majestic churches in Los Angeles. I didn’t know the bride or the groom.
But I sensed from the host of relatives and friends that were there to support the betrothed, that this young twenty something couple held a special place in the hearts of all who attended. And it was clear, no expense was spared to herald this hallowed day.
Anticipation filled the air as many tried to refrain from fidgeting in the church pews as they anxiously awaited the commencement of the wedding, which started a fashionably thirty minutes late. I fidgeted a little bit too.
So I started to watch and read the faces of those around me. You know, a little people watching to past the time. I’ve always believed that every face tells a story base on life’s journey of triumph and travail.
Some folks were pretty easy to read. They were the ones who tilted their heads in wonder as they gazed adoringly at the altar – that sacred place where two lives ceremoniously become one. Sighs of delight were audible as these folks simply took it all in. They were clearly “living in the moment.” They seemed to swirl in the ambiance of the church setting and they probably were dreaming about how their wedding day would if they could only find the right person. There’s a certain pageantry and magic inherent in weddings and it can sweep you away – especially if you’ve never taken the march toward the altar before. For these folks, this day allowed them to live out their fantasies, vicariously.
Then there were the individuals who donned a stoic gaze. They seemed touched by the pageantry of the moment although they tried to mask it. They appeared reflective. Maybe they were thinking about the day they marched down the aisle and how their lives have changed since then.
These are the kinds of folks that recognize two lives become one in the trenches of marriage – and not by simply saying “I do.” They’ve been there and they’ve done that, or they are still trying to get it right. If asked, they would tell you unequivocally that marriage is not always a bed of roses. It is sometimes a bed of rocks and boulders. I would guess that many of them are either still trying to make it work, or would consider giving it a second try if the circumstances were right. These are the ones who have not given up hope in the institution of marriage. They have just given up on the fantasy.
The cynics were a dead giveaway. Why? Because they fidgeted more than I did. They appeared to suffer in silence those thirty minutes before the wedding. Some got up and down a few times. They appeared visibly distracted and somewhat disinterested in the symbolism of the moment. They were clearly there to show their support for the beloved couple, and that was all. For them marriage was probably like a pair of ill-fitting shoes, snug and uncomfortable. They would never discourage this young couple from taking their vows. But if their faces could speak, and to me they did, they would say “don’t join the institution, escape from it while you can!”
While it is heartening to see people make this life altering commitment, unfortunately the odds are against them staying married. According to recent U.S. Census data at least 43% percent of first marriages end in separation or divorce within 15 years. That’s more than enough time to have a few kids, strap on a mortgage, and amass enough debt equaling the gross national product of a third world country. And divesting from a failed marriage can be sheer hell. No wonder the cynics are cynical.
So why get married? I am in no way an expert on marriage. But experts and researchers say there are some real benefits to being happily married, and note the operative word is “happily.”
Married people were found to be healthier and have an increased level of nutrition. They tend to need less health care and recover better from illnesses. Married people tend to be more calm and less anxious about life. Marriage hones skills necessary for successful living such as sacrifice, humility, flexibility, empathy and the ability to delay gratification. And married people have more intimacy, have better sex and more of it (I’m sure you can find many who would dispute this finding).
But the real beneficiaries of marriage, according to researchers, are men. Studies have shown that married men are generally healthier and liver longer than their single counterparts. Married men also have a lower incidence of mental disorders. Conversely, that same study found that divorced men are more likely to smoke, drink excessively, eat poorly, develop Alzheimer’s disease, commit suicide or die prematurely. Why would any man want to remain single in light of these findings?
Well, the ceremony was lovely. And I have to admit I got all misty eyed as the wedding commenced. In fact I cried three tears – one for the gazer, one for the stoic and one for the cynic. Because many of them brought more than gifts to the wedding – they brought their baggage from disillusioned and failed relationships. But they also brought something else. They brought hope. Hope that maybe this couple had the stuff to keep it all together. Maybe this couple will defy the odds and not end up aggregated in the next census divorce statistics. And maybe they can create what has eluded so many – a happy and successful marriage. I wish them well.
(If you have comments about Veronica’s View, email them to [email protected]).