One of my favorite songs since getting married has been ‘Enough’ by Tyrone Wells. The chorus goes like this,
“If all I heard was your promise,
and all you felt was my touch.
If all we had was each other,
We’d have enough.”
I had the pleasure of actually meeting Wells at a concert in Chicago because I was working the show selling merchandise for another musician that was playing that night. I didn’t realize initially that I was sitting next to his wife for most of the show, but after a little while she was called up on stage to sing a lighthearted love song with her husband and I realized that she wasn’t simply another groupie like myself, but truly his biggest fan, his wife. Learning that Wells was married illuminated the meaning of his song for me because I now knew that for him, the promise that he was singing about wasn’t just a mere uttering of words without a stronger meaning. His promise was the promise of marriage, and it was enough because it was a promise for keeps, not something that could be taken back on a whim.
My best friend’s little sister recently married her high school sweetheart after several years of serious dating. My friend, I know, couldn’t have been happier for her sister. But I also know the happy day was a little bittersweet because my friend wants this same happiness for herself. But it’s just not a reality right now. My friend has been dating the same guy for a while and they’re sublimely happy with each other. The only downside is that she wants marriage, and he doesn’t.
My friend and her boyfriend have been living together for a couple of years and they have an understanding that they are, in fact, committed to each other in dating. But their difference in desire for marriage leaves even their committed relationship somewhat unresolved. She knows that his feelings about marriage don’t mean that he doesn’t love her. But if the promise of marriage means so much to her, why won’t he consider it?
My friend has recently laid out her feelings about marriage on the table to her boyfriend. She wants to know if he’s all in—“in sickness and in health, until death do us part”, and if he doesn’t want to promise his love to her in marriage, she told him that she will ultimately need to make the hard decision of calling it off and search for a man who also wants marriage.
Why is that? Why does a relationship not feel like enough until the commitment of marriage?
One study on cohabitation and the recent decline in marriage says this,
“While most cohabitors expect to marry their partner, there is a substantial proportion who disagree about marriage, and a high proportion are concerned about the stability of their relationship.”
I think the important distinction here is not that the couple disagrees about each other, but rather, they disagree about marriage and what it would mean for their life.
Sometimes people worry that the party is over when marriage begins. To this, I would have to strongly disagree. My ‘plan’ for getting married was to wait until my late twenties at least so that I could work for several years before starting a family. But things just didn’t work out that way, my plans changed when I met my husband. After just a year of dating, we knew we couldn’t fight our desire for marriage, and we were married 5 months later.
But, even though my plans for my twenties are starkly different than what I had in mind for myself, the party of life really began the day I said ‘I Do’. Two kids and five years later, I can honestly say that I never knew happiness quite like this before in my life. The party is different now, but it is hardly over. I go to sleep each night feeling totally full, even despite the stresses that come with raising children and learning how to actually budget for my family. I know that because of the promise that my husband and I made to each other – the promise to love each other forever, I have all I truly need in life.
My father-in-law once said (and my husband repeats regularly), “Promises are only for things like getting married and becoming president.” And I think maybe he’s right. It’s easy to make promises here and there and ultimately the words lose their meaning if plans change. But in marriage, the promise to commit yourself fully to another person, isn’t something that we can flip-flop about and that ultimately helps give marriage its power.
And so, marriage is the promise. It’s a promise that my friend wants from her boyfriend, and it’s one that I received from my husband before I even had a chance to see it coming. But no matter when it happens, it has the potential to fill our hearts and lives with real happiness and joy that we can hold onto forever. And for me, that really is enough.