I was 9,930 days old when I married Karen Anne Klickstein on December 30, 1989. As of March 8, 2017, I had been married 9,930 days–half a life.
That day’s approach had me reflecting on the meaning of marriage. I spend much of my time working with people in unhappy marriages. Sometimes they are certain their marriage is over and are ready to move on (and elsewhere). Sometimes they struggle over whether and how they might repair their marriage. Sometimes the end of their marriage comes as a shock that makes them question the very validity of their perception of how they’ve lived their life. No one–even the folks on their 6th divorce–ever really expect to be in my office when they first arrive.
The institution of marriage is both deeply unnatural and deeply human. Intimately living with a single other human being for the majority of one’s adult life is extremely rare are among sexually reproducing animals and does not appear to come naturally. Yet almost every culture has developed some form of pair bonding for household creation.
The concept of marriage is not necessarily tied to parenting. In Genesis, both the first human couple and the first Jewish marriage did not initially anticipate child rearing. God created Eve as a helpmate for Adam–sex and childbirth not becoming part of their relationship until after they ate the forbidden fruit. Abraham marries a quite elderly, and apparently barren, Sarah. While child rearing clearly had some impetus for the creation of marriage, even the ancients recognized a significant companionship aspect to marriage. Even if one marries with the expectation of raising children together, one also marries for companionship.
Choosing early in one’s adulthood to have a companion for life is a remarkably optimistic act. Every lengthy marriage will be filled with frustrations and disappointments. Before one marries one can try to anticipate what those frustrations and disappointments might be–and forgo the marriage if what one anticipates is too much to bear. But humans have a remarkable ability to surprise. Every wedding is a leap into the unknown.
I was nine years into legal adulthood, and a long way from maturity (likely still am), when I decided whom to marry. While I thought I put a great deal of thought into whom and when to marry, my 54 year-old self is shocked at the brashness and naivety of my 27 year-old self. This doesn’t mean I regret the marriage–I don’t at all. I am simply shocked that I ever felt ready to spend 50+ years in close quarters with another human being–and was quite thrilled that another human being might feel ready to do the same with me.
For someone who makes a nice living helping folks tear their own marriages asunder, the concept of marriage continues to fascinate. I’m completely uncynical about weddings. Hoping and expecting that one’s life may be immeasurably improved by spending countless days [yes, I know I’ve counted–humor me] in close proximately and mutual co-dependance with another person may be the defining characteristic of being human.