As this post emerges into that part of the internet where it is easily seen, I will be on my way to attend the wedding of my second-best friend from graduate school. (I attended the wedding of my best friend from graduate school several years ago now–sensibly, since it was also my wedding.) It’s been a while since I’ve been to a wedding, to be sure, and I find myself thinking about what such the institution marked by such ceremonies continue to mean. It seems a fitting thing to write about now.
I don’t know how my friend’s marriage will go, although I expect it will go reasonably well or better. But I do know how mine has gone so far (“so far” because I am not done with it yet–and do not mean to be anytime soon), which is to say pretty well. My wife and I argue, certainly, and sometimes over stupid things. And there are times we get onto one another’s nerves, to be sure. I’ll not elucidate details; it suffices to note that there are such circumstances.
But though the annoyances and vexations are, they matter little against the many benefits I derive from being married. One of the chief among them is that, like our daughter, my wife inspires me to be a better person. I love her, so I want her to be happy and supported, and learning how to help her be happy and ensure she is supported has helped me to be less of the selfish git I have been too much conditioned to be. And I have taken specific, concrete steps to be a better source of happiness and support for her; if it is the case that my changes have not been speedy in all cases (though there have been a few that have been pretty quick), I can at least point to progress in them as I continue to try to make more of it. She deserves to have me at my best, after all, so it behooves me to be that best as much as I can.
I know that not all marriages are such. I see enough of them fragmenting or standing not stably but stultifyingly; my line of work being what it is shows me many such. I know that not all spouses support one another, that not all spouses look to one another partly as muses from whom to draw inspiration, as friends, as lovers, as confidants; I know that many look to marriage as exploitation. And there are ways in which it is and remains so, given the social structures from which the institution as typically expressed in the United States through the past several decades emerges and into which it feeds. Even mine, in which I work to give more to it than I take from it, has such overtones; I do not know how or if they can be fully escaped.
I know, though, that marriage can be a fulfilling thing, if it is made to be. I hope that my friend will find his own marriage such in the days, months, and years to come. And I look forward to the continued work of making my own marriage such a thing.