Marriage is an underrated institution. Popular culture finds it an easy target for comedy and tragedy. But Alisa and I have a differing opinion. Our 18 years together have proven marriage to be the world’s greatest conspiracy.
My late grandfather, Andy Sokol, whose name remains a blessing, offered these words when Alisa and I told him of our engagement:
“It doesn’t matter what mama says. It doesn’t matter what papa says. It doesn’t matter what friends, bosses and even children say. It’s the two of you against the world.”
"It's the two of you against the world."
We’ve found that when we remember these words, our marriage is strengthening. When we forget them, our marriage is weakening.
Oh, and we find that it’s best never to confide in others with details about our marriage. So, you can ask, but we don't kiss 'n' tell.
I always ask two questions of women getting married. It can be awkward, because they are very direct questions — and sometimes I'm asking a newly engaged woman I have only just met.
Here are the questions:
- Does he ever raise his voice to you?
- Has he ever hit a woman?
Usually, I hear, "Oh, no! He is always very sweet to me." Then, I drop the subject and try to repair our conversation.
But sometimes, I get surprising answers.
- Does he raise his voice to you? Once in a while someone will say, "Oh, we argue. That's just how we are." Hmmm, I think. And I recommend working on why they are arguing, because that isn't just how they are, it is how they are choosing to live. And they don't have to live in a House of Argument.
- Has he ever hit a woman? Once, I asked a man, "Have you ever hit a woman?" And he blithely answered, "Sometimes they want it." He is a batterer. "No, they don't," I said, ending our conversation for the rest of our lives.
Don't ever get hit twice. If he hits you once, get out. Don't stay for more. You can stay on our couch for a night.
Nice Talk For A Happy Occasion
I probably lose a lot of wedding invitations during this interrogation.
But the questions must be asked and, frankly, I'm obliged to be the asker.
But let's have some happier talk on this happy occasion...
Keep your eye on the prize.
Courtship is great. Marriage is wonderful. But the engagement? That is the least enjoyable of the three.
The longer the enagement, the lower the probability that there will be a wedding. Why? Because too much time invites too many people to be far too helpful. (And the happy couple don't need any help.)
Consider how long Prince William and Kate Middleton were engaged. The engagement was announcedand the marriage followed in less than five months. (And this was no shotgun affair.)
Sure, the Middletons are party planners, so they could get the napkins printed quickly. And Will's grandmother helped book the Church. But the lesson is clear: too many helpers means the sooner, the better.
So here is some unsolicited advice for the happy couple.
- Trust your radar. If you (a) are an adult, (b) don't usually make bone-headed, self-destructive decisions; and (c) if you aren't operating your life under the constant influence of drugs and alcohol, you should trust your radar. Your internal radar is picking up signals. Trust them. If your radar says run, run. If it says marry, marry.
- Speed to implementation. If you think something ought to be done, then it should be done. If something should be done, sooner is better than later.
- It's not for you. A marriage is for the parents and community. When you have kids of your own, you'll understand. For now, get married to make everyone else happy. Welcome to the conspiracy.
- Keep your eye on the prize. What is non-negotiable for you? Only this: that you are married to this wonderful spouse. Nothing else matters. Don't get lost in the details — china patterns, guest lists, scheduling, location — all of this can bend to others' needs. All you want: to wake up the next day married to the person you love. So defend only when someone challenges your choice of spouse.
I have never regretted giving other people what they wanted at our wedding.
May you be surrounded by love, encouragement and sense of shalom, completeness.