Love, Marriage: Quaint, Out-of-date Customs?

March 8 2011

A few evenings ago while my husband and I were out to dinner with a group of people, I happened to eavesdrop on a tiny bit of conversation between a woman and her nearly-thirty-year-old son. The topic was marriage.

Without craning my neck across the young man’s back, I couldn’t catch every word, but I managed to hear him say, “I don’t see what difference it makes whether you’re married or not.”

His mother answered, “Marriage is a promise.”

I glanced down the table at my husband, the man I promised to love. After so many years I don’t remember the words we said in our marriage, but cherish must have been in there somewhere.

A lush, romantic, vivid, active verb, “cherish” stems from the French word, “cher,” meaning dear. Here’s how my Webster’s Dictionary defines cherish: “To hold dear; feel or show affection for; to keep or cultivate with care and affection: nurture, to entertain or harbor in the mind deeply and resolutely.” Hold dear, show affection, keep with care, nurture, harbor in the mind resolutely: there you have the perfect vows.

I cherish my husband. He’s the rock that doesn’t budge, the guy who holds me when bad, sad, or just plain annoying things happen. The guy I can talk to about anything. The one who forgives and/or tolerates my temper and my impatience. The man who thinks I am beautiful, even after my skin has somehow sprung loose from my body and my neck has transposed into a twin of my mother’s. Here’s the bonus: my man laughs at my jokes. Added bonus: he makes me laugh too.

Perhaps God works a bit like a romance writer. In the stories I write, I try to show how love can grow between two people. Maybe God begins the way I do. “Hey,” God muses, “There’s this young woman who thinks she’s doing fine without a man in her life. And over here there’s this guy who doesn’t have time to waste on a woman, a man who doesn’t believe in love. Why don’t I just plunk them together and see what happens to their hearts?”

At our wedding my husband and I promised to hold each other dear, to show and cultivate affection, to entertain and harbor each other in our minds deeply and resolutely. Moving in with someone, sharing furniture, rent, insurance, and even a car, doesn’t quite build the same foundation.

That cherish part? That’s the real deal.