Thursday, July 07, 2005

Contrary to popular belief...

"do not seek a happy marriage."


I came across this headline in an alumni magazine from Western Maryland College (now called McDaniel College, I believe) called The Hill. It's a feature column within a story about a man named Ira Zepp, written by Kim Asch. It's a wonderful piece.

(The emphasis throughout is my own.)

Zepp's Advice:
'Do Not Seek a Happy Marriage'

It's easy to marry the person you love. The hard work is in loving the person you marry.

Not a very romantic sentiment, but that's why Ira Zepp has incorproated it into the thousand-plus wedding ceremonies he's conducted over the past half-century. Love, he says, is a verb. It is not an elusive state of being that's synonymous with romance or happiness.

And "resolute love," the kind required for that deepest of all human relationships called marriage, is better defined by down-to-earth words like respect, trust, honesty, gratitude, fidelity, honor, kindness, patience and commitment.

"This is not easy. For most of us it is very hard to put this kind of love into practice," says Zepp, who will celebrate his golden anniversay with Mary Dodd Zepp in June. "But I often wonder, wouldn't we have more successful marriages if love were understood and practiced this way?"

Zepp's advice to newlyweds, what he calls the "Three 11th Commandments," have moved not just brides and grooms, but pews full of guests, to loving action. Invariably, long-married couples in attendance at a Zepp wedding find themselves holding hands and vowing not to take each other for granted.

Ready for a refresher?

  • Don't suffocate one another
    You are together but - and Zepp says what comes after the but is very important - there should be spaces in your togetherness. As Kahlil Gibran wrote in The Prophet, you should not drink from the same cup or eat from the same loaf. Instead, nurture each other and let each other grow.

    "There's this pathological thing that Hallmark does with greeting cards that say 'I can't live without you,'" Zepp says. "You know that's not true. You are two strong independent people who came together and you bring that individual uniqueness to the relationship. Never lose it."

  • Do not seek a happy marriage
    Zepp often tells newlyweds, "I hope you don't ruin a very good relationship with this marriage."

    He begs them not to make a happy marriage their goal. "If you seek it, you'll never find it," he cautions. "Instead, what will make a marriage happy is doing a lot of other kind of important things that serendipitously and accidentally and surprisingly produce a happy marriage."

    Pay attention to the little things, he says. "Do random acts of love for one another more often than you're inclined to. Don't go to bed angry. Hold hands forever."

  • Redefine love for the rest of us
    "Love is a meaningless word," Zepp says. "I want some redefinition of love."

    For instance, he says, sign notes to each other: with deepest respect; with deepest trust; with deepest loyalty; with deepest fidelity; with deepest like.

    "In this redefinition, remind us of what it means to love," he continues. "There's this wonderful line in Corinthians 13 where love is patient, love is kind, love is not rude, love is never arrogant, love is not gloating over other people's faults, and then -- I love this line -- love keeps no score of wrongs."

    There's no math in love, Zepp concludes. There's no computing in relationships. "Because in marriage, each is expected to give more than to receive."

  • I hope "seek happy marriage" wasn't on anyone's weekend to-do list! ;)


    Frema said...

    I made it to the end. Hooray!

    Roger Stevens said...

    I guess that's all about right. marriage - you gotta work at it.

    Are you married then?

    Becky said...

    Not at all, Roger.

    Not at all.