“One could find no other association more necessary nor more pleasant than that of men and women.”
A few Saturdays ago was one of those days around which the rest of life clusters—either as preparation or as consequence. I committed my beloved eldest daughter into the hands of another.
My wife’s and my life will not be the same now. But then again, what does this mean? Not the same as what? What have we been doing anyway?
Certain special days—if we let them—can bring into focus the underlying truths of human life. A wedding is such a day.
There is always more to marriage. More has been given to us and more demanded of us than we have realized. To do marriage well is to live life itself well.
When we got married, we knew it was big and permanent. It is surprising how little more than that we could see. And then our love was blessed with children. Raising our children—yes, and in some sense they were and are OURS—took all we had to give. In the scramble of attending to them, and trying to ‘make a living,’ sometimes—indeed far too often—I lost sight of my spouse, faltering and failing in the very relationship that is always the first reality.
Losing sight of her is just one way I have failed in seeing and living marriage. How often did I backseat my children to my own desires, or make them more of a vanity project than a person. Then, someone else comes and wins my child’s heart, and as a great emptiness opens in my home, I fall into focusing more on myself than on my daughter.
It is often painful, sometimes overwhelming. What is this thing called marriage? Is it really the most pleasant of human associations as Musonius Rufus asserted?
In the end, we need to learn how to take the measure of something. To take the measure of marriage, we simply must keep cultivating, keep moving forward. Somehow the struggling through it is precisely what marriage is. And so it reveals itself to us in the doing. More, it reveals us to ourselves as it forges us into our true selves.
And sometimes there is one of those special moments. An oh so unique and incomparable pleasure that somehow pulls back the veil, giving a glimpse of the whole in one great instant. A pleasure that does not obliterate the sorrows but rather fulfills them, showing them for what they were.
Such as when your daughter smiles, into her new husband’s eyes, on their wedding day. And the reality behind that smile is the one same reality we share, and which will endure.
John A. Cuddeback, Ph.D. is professor of Philosophy at Christendom College. His writing and lectures focus on ethics, friendship, and household. His blog, Life Craft, is dedicated to the philosophy of household.
Editor’s Note: This article appeared first on the author’s blog with a slightly different title, and it has been reprinted here with permission.
1. Musonius Rufus (25-95 A.D.) was a Stoic philosopher of the Roman Empire.