Why I Am Thankful For Lifelong Love

On November 22, 2010, in William C. Duncan, by Betsy

by William C. Duncan, director of the Marriage Law Foundation, and a Ruth Institute Board Member.

Each November, our family puts up a blank poster board on which each member of the family can list the things they are grateful for. The list ranges from the confident handwriting of my wife to the shakier marks of the younger children who are tracing something written by an older sibling or parent (mine is closer to the latter). I have not see the phrase “lifelong love” on that poster, but it is always implicit—when “mom and dad” are listed or when my wife and I write each other’s names or when the brothers and sisters list each other. Our family is thankful for lifelong love.

I am thankful for lifelong love because it provides safety. I have always been grateful that my wife’s and my relationship before marriage was built on a foundation of friendship before romance. The total commitment of marriage provides the safe space for both to put down deep roots and “deep roots are not touched by the frost.” (J.R.R. Tolkien) Self-giving and trust flourish in the safety of a full commitment to marriage. Knowing that you are in this thing together, for the duration, allows a measure of peace and security that just would not be possible if the relationship was fleeting. The commitment to the marriage itself provides safety for us but also for our children who can grow up in a home where, whatever the challenges, they will not have to worry about being abandoned or about having to navigate their parents’ disagreements in two different households.

I am thankful for lifelong love because it provides joy. Our commitment to marriage and to one another preceded all the unknowns that followed that commitment and which have made life a great adventure. The sad things we experience are tempered and the good things intensified by sharing them with one another. Both kinds of experiences multiplied for us as our family multiplied and children joined us. They have, in turn, multiplied the joy. Marriage promotes joy for me in another way. Knowing that people are depending on me makes me want to accomplish more, and to be more disciplined and courageous.

I don’t think I can ever be grateful enough for my wife. A few months before we were engaged, I heard a paraphrase of Mark Twain’s Adam speaking of Eve that applies here: “Wherever she was, there was paradise.” (Jeffrey R. Holland) That’s true of my children as well. I’m thankful to know that our family’s commitment to livelong love means we “shall but love [each other] better after death.” (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)


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