As I was growing up, my mother worked at the corporate headquarters of Budget Rent-A-Car. The President of the company was Julius Lederer. I mention this because as a bar mitzvah gift, I wanted a signed picture of Ann Landers, who was Mr. Lederer’s wife. Even as a preteen I read Ann Landers’ advice column, which appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times. Ann’s identical twin sister was Dear Abby, whose column appeared in the Chicago Daily News.
Why am I bringing you with me down my memory lane? Because in last week’s San Francisco Chronicle the following question appeared in Dear Abby’s column: “What are your thoughts on marriage? Is it antiquated? I don’t know if I want it, or just because society and social media deem it important. Signed, Cindy via Twitter.”
Before I even got to her answer, I was surprised to learn that Abby takes questions via Twitter! As a wedding officiant, I was intrigued at what her response would be. Over the years, both Dear Abby and Ann Landers had become staunch supporters of not simply tolerating LGBT folk but advocating on our behalf.
Abby wrote: “Dear Cindy: I don’t consider marriage to be an antiquated practice at all. In a sense, marriage is a ‘team sport.’ It won’t succeed unless the team members are dedicated to a common goal and are willing to sacrifice selfish needs to achieve it. When you meet the right person, you won’t be ambivalent about spending your life and creating a family with that individual.”
Her words reminded me of a paragraph that I include in most every wedding ceremony I perform: “By entering into this marriage, you are pledging yourselves to a lifetime in which each will enrich the life of the other. You will be partners standing together to cushion the difficulties of life. Rejoice in your partner’s graces. Nurture your marriage carefully and watch it grow gracefully. Marriage is a point of honor. Marriage is a full-time job.”
At the lunch reception of a wedding I recently officiated, the mother of the groom told me that she wished more officiants would tell their couples that marriage is work. Everyday life is far more complicated and fraught with possibilities for conflict than what comes come up while planning even a lavish wedding. A quote by Rabbi Barnett Brickner, which I include in most every wedding ceremony, states “that success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate, but through being the right mate.”
It is up to each of us to be an active participant in our relationship. Couples who have been married a long time tell me how vital it is to share their feelings and thoughts. A marriage becomes a partnership when each person takes responsibility for letting the other know what they are desiring.
A wedding can take months or years of preparation, but lasts for only a few hours. Weddings are a celebration of love and commitment. However, a marriage takes ongoing work to cultivate mutual growth and support over years. Abby called it a “team sport.” Each player wins when the team wins. And the team wins when the participants work together.
Marriage is important. Being married signifies to ourselves, our family, friends and society how much we value our mate and the relationship. While marriage isn’t for everyone, Abby and this columnist agree that it is far from antiquated.
Howard M. Steiermann is an Ordained Ritual Facilitator based in San Francisco. For more information, please visit www.SFHoward.com