Friday, 4 August 2017

pre-wedding advice

I've thought a few times recently about this thing I once said in an email nearly twenty years ago, and this evening I managed to unearth it, preserved in a document in a folder copied from computer to computer over the years.


It was written after a rather civilised stag night, a meal out, at which we were asked what one piece of advice we'd give to our groom-to-be. I didn't say anything very satisfactory on the night, but this is what I said subsequently within a longer email. It is along the lines that I remembered, except possibly shorter (I fear I have grown more long-winded as I have got older), and I think it is probably still what I would say, were I called on to give 'one piece of advice'. I shall leave it as it was, except to remove the name to protect the innocent.

"I felt very strange when I realised that I was the 'old hand', marriage-wise. In fact it made me restrain myself from giving you one of my serious one-sentence pieces of advice, because I didn't want to make things very heavy. ('Give and take' is the true cliche which I did mention.) But I'll give it to you now: 'Love and commitment is an act of will'. There will be many days when you are in the company of a woman who is more beautiful, or more charming, or more witty, or more intelligent, or more sensitive, or more caring, or more funny, or more sexy, or more spiritual, or more 'on your wavelength', or basically more attractive in one of any number of ways than your wife-to-be. But you must enter into marriage, thinking, 'Yes, I know there will be days like that, and I have made my choice and my commitment in that knowledge. And it is my choice and my commitment that my love for my wife-to-be is and will continue to be different from and beyond the love I will feel for or give to any other person or thing, for the rest of our lives.' And believe me, it will be different and beyond. And it will be very good."

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Later PS: when I posted this on Facebook, around the same time as this post, Douglas said, 'interesting to hit an idea that I have never encountered before. But I have known a few who have been haunted by the opposite- what happens if I meet better?'
I replied, 'One is perched precariously if one is relying on never meeting 'better' (by any definition). I have a twinge of anxiety, for example, for those who say they are marrying the most beautiful person in the world, and hope that they never spend any time on London's pavements and public transport, where they will see people more beautiful than their spouse every day.'

John G said, 'Such sound advice. If only more people were prepared to see it. But we have been conditioned to see love as a transient emotion and to seek short term gratification. It is, incidentally, for those of us who are Christians, also true of our love for God.'

Douglas also said, 'My niece introduced me to this text at her wedding. It sprang to mind when reading this -
'Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,’ then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from ‘being in love’ — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. it is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.
C.S. Lewis'

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