Monday, December 16, 2013

CP 231 Of Marriage and Bad Mathematics

CP 231 Of Marriage and Bad Mathematics
Hi people, I was the celebrant at a wedding yesterday which was touched by an indefinable and uninterrupted joy. Sometimes it happens like that. And always, when it happens, folk come and talk to me about marriage and life. Conversations go beyond the shallow and bland ‘good chemistry’, as important as that is. People want to talk about ‘what-they-have-learnt’, not from books but from life. One of the themes at yesterday’s conversations was that one way of understanding marriage is as a shared bank account, into which both husband and wife can make deposits, and from which they can withdraw. In the ordinary course of events it is not a bad image.
I’ll add a proviso. It is lovely and good to have a sense of ‘shared input’ and ‘putting-up-with’. However it had better not become a scenario of ‘marriage is a 50/50 proposition’. Marriages won’t survive that sort of mathematics. There will be seasons, sometimes prolonged, when it will seem to be 100% one way, because half of the couple simply needs to be carried… and Cross-love will do that! At other times there will be no way one partner can make up a deficit, and forgiveness of debt will be the only option. This week’s snippet picks up a lot of this thinking.

Thinking about marriage 3.  
This comes from a Wedding Homily by Father William Bausch.

“But if it is important to become a good chemist to make the marriage work, it is equally important to become a bad mathematician.  First, you don’t keep score, because scorekeeping leads to balancing out rights which leads to victims instead of partners.  Second, in marriage each partner must be willing to put in more than they take out, a hard truth for those raised only on rights and victimhood.  Marriage is not a fifty/fifty proposition.  Each person has to do a little more than what he thinks his share is.

Lasting marriages, it is obvious, are not fifty/fifty, tit-for-tat propositions.  In another survey of 351 couples married for over fifteen years, the ones who were happiest claimed, “You have to be willing to put in more than you take out”.  Sometimes one member of the couple needs to give ninety percent while the other gives only ten percent, as in a serious illness, job loss, death in the family.  A lasting marriage is one in which each partner looks out for number two, not where each one is looking out for number one.

On the other hand, mathematics has its place in a marriage, because you have to be careful of withdrawals and deposits.  That is to say, every argument, every instance of uncaring is a withdrawal from the common love account.  To be happy, a couple must frequently make deposits of daily gestures of kindness and caring to balance the account.

Rabbi Abraham Herschel was once asked by a reporter: “What message do you have for young people?”  Herschel replied, “Let them remember that there is a meaning beyond absurdity.  Let them be sure that every deed counts, that every word has power, and that we all can do our share to redeem the world in spite of all absurdities and all frustrations and all disappointments.  And above all, let them remember… to build a life as it if were a work of art”.  That goes for marriage, too.”

Happy depositing.


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