Sunday, October 22, 2006

Observations of Wedding Bliss

I realized this weekend, to my surprise, that I've become one of those people who get emotional at weddings. It's because of all the love in the air. I didn't used to be like that, and I'm not sure how it happened. Weddings, expressions of other people's love, never used to move me, except towards the free champagne waiting at the open bar.

It's not because I'm cynical by nature. I'm a romantic at heart, and hope for the stuff of fairy tales, but on a day-to-day basis, relationship optimism comes to me only with some difficulty, and blind faith has been a practical impossibility. I tend to think of and test all the negative possibilities and assume the worst until proven wrong. It's a self-protective mechanism that has, I'm sure, made it challenging (to say the least) to be in a relationship with me for more than one ex-boyfriend. But, it also tries to keep things honest, which is where I've needed to be in order to feel comfortable and secure.

My greatest relationship fear is dishonesty. More so than the act of betrayal, I fear being lied to about an act of betrayal. I fear that I would not know what was truly going on in the mind of my partner; that I was trusting someone undeserving of my trust, or loving someone who did not love me back. The bottom line for me is that I don't want to be kept in the dark - about anything.

Love, betrayal, and dishonesty were some of the themes going through my mind this past weekend, when I attended the wedding of one of my law school classmates. Lovely thoughts for a wedding, I know. Several of the men there with their wives and girlfriends had been rumored to have been indiscreet at one point or another during these very same relationships. For years, I had judged the men because of their perceived past indiscretions - even though I do not know with any certainty the truth of the rumors, and certainly do not know the extent to which the parties may have "come clean" to their partners and moved on together. Perhaps because of my strong feelings on the subject of relationship dishonesty, I had always felt uneasy socializing with this group. By not saying anything about the rumors to the women - which I would only have done if I had had clear evidence, I had felt like I was somehow participating in a cover-up; like some of the men's slime was rubbing off on me. I had never been able to stomach the idea of the men having cheated (possibly) and the women not knowing (possibly) - staying in a relationship under false pretenses.

As I watched the bride and groom dance the first dance of the evening, the best man and maid of honor toast the happy couple, and the parents of the bride and groom choke up talking about how proud they were of their daughter and son, I found to my surprise that I was getting emotional. The bride was lovely, the groom was dapper, and both radiated happy contentment as they walked through the crowd beaming at each other and all of their guests. Watching them follow each other with their eyes filled with such love, I felt hopeful. These two loved each other so much that they had decided to commit the rest of their lives to one another. Wow! Here was an apparent example of love triumphing over all. My eyes started to tear up, and I forced myself to think about sports - something completely unemotional to me - in order to keep myself from ruining my mascara.

Soaking up the couple's obvious happiness, I found my judgmental attitude ebbing away. Thinking about the relationships of the couples in attendance at the wedding, I thought for the first time that perhaps the couples had been open and honest and made peace with each other before deciding to commit themselves further to each other. Certainly, I would like to believe that if a person has been dishonest, they would reach a point where they finally do the right thing and are honest about it; preferably prior to saying "I do." That's just having faith in humanity. For all I know, all of the couples there had long ago been honest with each other (or had been honest with each other throughout their relationships), had forgiven each other, and had only decided to move on to the next level of commitment once they had achieved a state of honesty.

It would be nice if everyone entered relationships perfectly mature and capable of caring for each other with sensitivity, self-lessness, and understanding, but that's not often the way it goes. Sure, some people meet, never fight, and appear to effortlessly live happily ever after. But for the rest of us - the vast majority of us, I think - the road off into the sunset is a whole lot bumpier. It takes time to grow as individuals, and it takes time to grow as a couple, to understand each others needs, and to figure out ways of making each other feel loved and supported. Along the way, people make mistakes, they cause each other pain, and they try to figure out if they can be together; if they want to be together, despite all the challenges. In dealing with the mistakes, they learn about forgiveness and they learn about love; the type of love that's based on understanding, honesty, and compassion.

It's hard, and it takes a lot of effort to make a relationship work. But when two people decide, despite all the challenges, that they want to be together for the rest of their lives, it's an amazing, humbling, and beautiful thing to observe.


Gypsy said...

My mother used to tell me that love is a choice. That has really stuck with me through the times when perhaps I wasn't feeling the love for Lancelot -- it encouraged me to act with love.

I don't think I've ever been to a wedding where I didn't get at least a little choked up.

wordnerd said...

I also get really choked up at weddings too (I have become an emotional marshmellow, it's quite disappointing, to say the least).

My Mom also said something similar to Gypsy's Mom...about it (love) being a choice....and I've found that it's been kinda liberating. I am choosing to be with MD...I don't have to....and often, when I want to strangle him...(or walk out, hey, I'm honest, it's happened more than once)...I remember that I COULD chose to live without him...and that choice never seems tenable (despite the aforementionned desire for strangulation!)

Despite his smelliness....I mostly love him anyway.

Tracy said...

I cry at weddings, too. They are beautiful, and it feels like a privilege to observe two people taking such solemn vows to one another.