i was listening to that week's podcast of this american life and the first story agitated some thoughts that had been simmering in the back of my mind for a while. it brought up some heavy questions that i hoped i had the right answer to yet still found myself wondering.
the guy who was telling the story had talked about how he had been with his girlfriend for 13 years (or so), all through college and several years after. then, taking an idea from the amish custom of allowing teenagers two years to live without the restrictions of their culture, they mutually agreed to take some time apart and enjoy the freedom of being able to meet other people (and the things that go with that, but people with children read this blog, so i won't go any further.)
as he was concluding his story and talking about it with ira, the show's host, he said that when he does get married, he wants to have an agreement that, after seven years, he and his wife have to sit down and discuss things, and if they both want to keep at it, get remarried for another seven years.
this kind of bothered me. i wouldn't want that. i mean, i guess there's something good about being not feeling "trapped" with someone, and i maybe i'm just a deluded single guy who thinks that when you get married, both people actually want to be with each other. and i was beginning to wonder if maybe i had been looking at this love/relationship junk much too heavily. i mean, i didn't think so, but occasionally it occurs to me that i might be wrong about something.
ira's reply to him reaffirmed to me why i dearly love him and his show:
i don't know what i think of that. because i think, actually, one of the things that's a comfort in marriage is that there isn't a door at seven years. and so, if something is messed up, in the short term, there's a comfort of knowing, like, well we made this commitment and so we're just going to work this out. and, like, even if tonight we're not getting along, or there's something between us that doesn't feel right, you have the comfort of knowing we've got time, we'll figure this out, and that makes it so much easier. because you do go through times when you hate each other's guts, and the "no escape" clause, weirdly, is a bigger comfort to being married than i ever would have thought before i got married.i breathed a sigh of peace.
"really?" replied the storyteller. "i'd never thought of it that way. i like thinking about it that way. you just see so many examples of where people don't think that way."
and yes, he's right. as mike birbiglia put it on this week's rerun, "i never looked anyone that's been married for thirty years and thought, 'i gotta get me some of that!'"
but i believe in the safety of that commitment.
yea, Lord, help Thou mine unbelief.