LOVE AND MARRIAGE, LOVE AND MARRIAGE, GO together like a horse and carriage. This I tell ya, brother, you can't have one without the other." An earlier generation of Americans learned the connection, but pugnacious husbands and wives on popular television programs like Fox's long-running Married ... with children, transmitted the notion that you can't have one with the other. Which view is right?
The next section of the song showed us a modern way to arrive at an answer: Use a focus group. "Love and marriage, love and marriage, It's an institute you can't disparage. Ask the local gentry and they will say it's elementary." Four months ago I asked the local gentry, the readers of WORLD; in last week's issue I categorized some of their responses. But readers had much to say about-in Mark A. Bryan's words -"the sweat and tears, worry and fears" that emerge once the honeymoon is over, and the "exuberance and ecstasy" that result as problems are worked through.
Readers noted that patterns within marriage form a complex symphony, not a bubbly song, and some were specific about troubles. Lyn and Cindy Geronimi observed, "We have experienced the joy of birth and the extreme pain of losing a child. Who else can know those feelings, but a husband and wife? Who else could understand the scope of life, but two who have loved, prayed, cried, and laughed together for a lifetime?" Donald P. Jackson, married for 56 years, commented, "My love and commitment is stronger to God and to my wife today in spite of her progressive dementia."
Those who are stricken are often among the most grateful. Ward Graham noted, "Last year I was diagnosed with a serious cancer. As I've experienced the impact of this illness and its treatments I have come to appreciate my wife of 48 years more than ever before. She has been stalwart in her support, a constant attendant to physical and emotional needs without whom I would suffer significantly greater difficulties. My love for her has deepened.... Without marriage, I would be facing this extreme test alone."
Apart from God and spouse, people even with top-notch support networks tend to feel like they are floating away. Jeanne Damoff wrote, "Almost seven years ago, our oldest son nearly drowned at fifteen, leaving him in a coma for two months. Since then, he has slowly progressed through the stages of brain injury. At 21, he remains dependent and may always be. God has preserved our marriage through these and many lesser trials. As we've clung to Him and to each other, we've seen our faith grow and our love deepen. For every sorrow borne, we've been given far greater measures of joy and delight."
Widowed readers wrote unregretfully about their long marriages. Joan G. Martin noted, "Because we promised 'till death do us part' separation wasn't an option, even with our worst fights. He led; I followed. I trusted him; he protected me.... Sex remained exciting because of commitment and real old-fashioned, unselfish love. My husband was my best friend, lover, mentor, and a great father to our three sons. We practiced love, kindness, and most of all forgiveness till death parted us." Janice Barney wrote, "During some particularly challenging days, I took a hard look at my choices. It dawned upon me that if God is God, He would be able to make His grace and His mercy effective in our experience. We stuck it out to the glory of God and the benefit of our four children. When my husband died suddenly of cancer, I was so thankful we hadn't heeded the siren call of our culture that lures couples toward easy divorce."
In contrast to the Hollywood view that portrays long marriage as something people settle for when initial hopes prove unreal, many readers wrote that marriages became better as the years went by. Craig and Karen Wille, married for 32 years, "have continued to provide comfort to each other that was beyond our comprehension at the time of our marriage." Lonnie and Paula Marcum wrote, "We weren't fully aware of His bountiful blessings or the wideness of His mercy. But now 30 years and six wonderful children later we stand amazed."
Amazement. Shock and awe. That's how WORLD readers with long marriages often express their gratitude at how it has worked in their lives, and sometimes their surprise. It seems that a good marriage, like the Bible itself, is something we taste and eat-and only as we chew do we realize, "It's good."