When I was younger I was filled with thoughts of romance and finding my maiden in a tower. That one day I would stumble across a damsel in distress that I could prove my love for and we would live happily married ever after. That was pre puberty when love meant hugs and kisses and proving it meant killing dragons.
During the hormonal shift of my youth, with the help from the father figures in my life, I started to morph the killing dragons into opening doors, lifting heavy boxes and prying lids off of pickle jars. Definitely not as grand as killing dragons but it was still an opportunity to prove my valor. To be honest, I was good at it. I would often earn praises and comments like “some day you will make a great husband”.
Oh those were the days… when it was as simple as being polite and playing the roll of a valet to secure my ingrained need to be chivalries and fulfill my masculine role. Then high school and equality hit and opening the door for someone became an insult. If we offered to open the pickle jar we might as well had called her weak. High school happened and the quest was derailed.
What happened to this 14 year old boy who had been told he would be a great husband? Confused and having lost his ability to fulfill the role he had been raised to do, he started to listen. He started to watch how the media painted women; powerful, sexy, single, etc. He started to see the women in his life mirroring these rolls as promiscuity in culture, everywhere from dress code to porn, started to become the status quo. Gone was the vision of his youth were the men would fight for their honor and in its place was a melting pot of young adults, hormonally charged, hopping and skipping out of high schools.
Through the ensuing years, I fell in and out of different relationships, with the confusion rising. From girls that tried to save my soul to girls who wanted to dance with the devil all night long. I started to buy into the picture that the sitcoms were painting; that we can’t live with them and we cant live with out them and that the opposite sex was to never again make as much sense as saving a maiden from a tower.
However, dancing eventually gets monotonies especially if it is the short dances of a shallow relationship. So I decided to try once again for the holly grail of marriage and hope that maybe the praise I had received; that someday I would make a good husband, might have some validity to it.
After many failed attempts I found someone who was willing to take that leap with me. No she wasn’t in a tower, there were no dragons or curses, just a fellow human being as confused about the opposite sex as I was but as equally willing to commit to the vision of marriage.
The wedding was a dream; friends, family, love and later the honeymoon. Here I was, getting married and moving forward with chalice in hand. More often then not a fellow grail holder would pause and impart words of wisdom from their definition of marriage as they shared in our joyous day.
Married life was wonderful. I was drinking out of the grail and the water was great. Every once in a while my wife and I would put on the boxing gloves come to the center of the ring and touch love but other then that we road the crest of the honey moon phase for two whole years! Two years of good old fashion twitterpation… and then the water went dry.
In retrospect the water slowly went dry but the increase of responsibility had distracted us from noticing it. Upon realization we did a pulse check; do we still love each other? Yes. Do we still choose to be with each other? Yes. But the honeymoon phase was over, the grail empty and in its place was the same question.
Which brings me full circle; what is marriage? What were we committing to? I pulled up the vows that we wrote and read aloud at our wedding. They were beautiful words of a never ending love, for all eternity, no matter the trial or tribulation. There were words shared by the minister about through sickness and in health, some tears were shed and then “you may kiss the bride”.
If you would have asked me right after the kiss what my definition of marriage was, it would have been “marriage is a choice, a choice to be with one other person.” The beautiful woman across from me would have given a similar definition, plus or minus some more elaborate words about eternity.
However, the longer we were married the more it became apparent that each of our definitions on marriage were bigger then originally thought. They started to include things like to be married means; you agree, you care, you listen, you come home right after work, you cook, you don’t walk away when I am talking to you, you don’t yell when our son is around, you have to do something with your life, you don’t freak out in public and you don’t act crazy.
I thought I had moved from dragons to doors, from pickle jars to shallow dances, and then leaving it all behind to dive into the depths marriage. Three years later I realized that I hadn’t moved on. Instead, I had brought all of these experiences into my marriage and more. Not only had my need to be chivalrous joined my definition but past histories combined with the many definitions that television, movies, churches, family and society had so graciously added to our definition had created an obstacle course for my wife to dance around.
As friends and family joined the tradition of marriage, I found my self speaking my grail definition, joining the echo of those who so generously spoke at our wedding. Let me ask you this dear reader, what is your definition of marriage? If I were getting married today, what would you tell me about marriage?
Upon the realization of my ever expanding definition of marriage I was tempted to wipe the slate clean. Marriage is undefined, there is only love. I shared this wonderful epiphany with my spouse and she sarcastically replied saying “If it isn’t defined, doesn’t that mean you can cheat on me”. This snide remark showed the large holes in my new plan, had me throwing out the clean slate approach and left me to contemplation.
A few weeks went by as I continued to chew on this question of marriage. I inquired into the relationships that didn’t last and what tore them apart. I observed the relationships that stood the test of time and asked what made them so resilient. Each person shared their picture of marriage with me.
Each relationship was different but in the relationships that seemed to have a grasp on the grail, there were some reoccurring themes. These insights gave me hope; I picked up my sword and put my shield back on. Not to fight dragons, not to open the door and most importantly; not alone.
I had been on this journey for the grail by myself since my youth and even though I had said I do, I was saying I do to my description of marriage and my wife to hers. I was close when I was attempting to wipe the slate clean. Not to leave it empty in the vast see of definitions but to create a new definition of marriage with my spouse. Weave a detailed tapestry that defines what we are choosing to create, bring the beauty from history, the clarity of the moment and using it as a guide post for our future.
Instead of using my armor to protect myself from her overwhelming definition and my weapons to push my description on her, we stand side by side with a creed in our marriage that embodies our relationship. Instead of needing to agree so that we might feel complete in our role, we create the foundation on which we choose to stand and let the rest do as it may.
Needless to say, this new quest is not easy and we may never arrive. However, now we have a direction, our direction! And I can’t think of a more beautiful way to spend a life long journey then with my wife.
I pray that your relationship does not get lost in your definition. Instead, I leave you with this blessing; that you might spend the rest of your life defining the depths of marriage with the one you love.
John C. Rogers – This article is dedicated to J and Megan Looney. Thank you for being an inspiration and a light in our marriage for both Mimi and I.