For My Sister On The Occassion Of Her Wedding

I think that there are three important ingredients to a good marriage, and that one of major risks in marriage is the misunderstanding of these ingedients.

First there is love. Love is not something that happens to us, it isn't a state, something we fall into and out of, or something that we feel. That's passion, infatuation, desire, or lust. Each of these can contribute to a good or pleasant marriage, but they are no substitute for love.

Love is an action. It's something we do. It is valuing, considering and caring for someone as much as you value, consider and care for yourself. It is the great commandment in the realm of relationships among men. It's hard work, and it is at the core of every good relationship, especially a marriage.

The second important contributor is trust. Recently I've heard several people express the opinion that a trust once broken can never be repaired. That is a tremendously dangerous notion. Once you've decided that you've doomed yourself. We humans are all fallible. Every trust eventually will be if not broken, at least bent or abused. If we allow that inevitable failure to destroy the trust, we can never win.

Trust is like faith. We trust not because it is rational, or because there is evidence. We don't trust only the proven or the perfect, but the unproven and the known imperfect. What we need to do is not to trust our loved one's to never fail us, but rather trust that even though they may fail us, they still care; that even though they may fail, they are trying. Trust is inherently risky and in a sense irrational.

The last factor is commitment. Often we hear marriage spoken of as a contract, an agreement, a 50/50 proposition. In order to succeed, a marriage must be much more than that. If two of us each merely "do our share", "carry our half of the burden", statistically 1/4 of the time we'll both be doing it. Half the time one or the other of us will be doing it, and 1/4 of the time no-one will be doing it.

The way to make a marriage work is to first trust your spouse to do their part and then to do almost all of it yourself. If you both are giving 99%, then the marriage will only be unsupported one time in 10,000. In 50 years of marriage, that would be less than 2 days.

[To the bride and groom, directly:] So, on this day and for the rest of your lives, take with you love, trust and commitment, and strive each day to understand them and each other better.

August 2, 1986