Domestic Bliss 

Wedding bell blues

My daughter and I spent last weekend celebrating the marriage of one of her dearest friends from high school. They belong to a group of seven friends who have kept closely in touch for more than 10 years now, since they went off to college in far-flung locations, then settled in Portland, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and places in between.

They have attended the weddings of five from the group now, and have watched each other grow into interesting, creative, capable adults.

The wedding was an all-out affair, with an elaborate rehearsal dinner, many out-of-town guests, a beautiful church, a white silk wedding gown, a glorious reception and a dinner-dance that stretched into the wee hours. It's not an exaggeration to say that everyone there wallowed in the happiness of the day.

It wasn't until later, after the vows and the tears and the joyous recession of the bride and groom down the long aisle past friends and family, out into the October sun, that a familiar pensiveness began to sink in. A daughter and a mother of divorce, I always find that weddings cue me in to a central pocket of loss and uncertainty. As I told my ex-husband years after we divorced, I don't understand what makes a marriage succeed, or how a couple really can live happily ever after.

When confronted with a wedding and all the hopefulness it entails, I am struck with a sense of awe and, at the same time, a sense of weariness. I'm struck with all I have not been able to teach my own children by example.

Ever the curious journalist, I went to the Internet once the wedding euphoria of last weekend had passed, to see what's happening in the marriage arena.

A Google search of marriage turns up thousands of sites, the topmost a site hosted by Sheri and Bob Stritof at about.com. The Stritofs are a couple who've seen it all, including unhappiness in marriage, divorce and remarriage to each other.

It's a well-designed site, with hundreds of links to such timely essentials as Halloween costume ideas for couples, coping with disaster as a couple, proposing and engagement, the history of marriage and the hot marriage stories of the day.

Featured hot couples on the day I checked were Nicolas Cage and Alice Kim, who'd just celebrated the birth of their first child, and Tom and Christine DeLay, facing new challenges in their almost 40-year marriage after Tom's re-indictment for money laundering.

Click on Nick and Kim, and you get a bullet-pointed fact sheet that shows they gave their son the birth name of Superman, Kal-el; that Nick's 40 and she's 20; that this is his third marriage in 10 years and her first; that he has been an actor, producer and director, and she, a sushi waitress in the restaurant where they first met.

Click on Tom and Christine, and you'll find that they met in high school and married just after Tom's sophomore year of college. You'll find that they have one grown daughter and three "fluffy white" Bichon Fris dogs, and that Tom is estranged from his mother, sister and two brothers since his father's death in 1988. You'll find that a bright spot in the marriage for Christine was the Valentine's Day when Tom was in the Texas Legislature and she, left behind in Houston to run the family business, was feeling sad and lonely -- until Tom called home and told her to look out the bedroom window. When she pulled back the curtain, she found a "beautiful diamond-drop necklace" that's still her favorite today.

Sheri and Bob Stritof's Web site mimics the popular culture at large, looking to celebrities as marriage role models. On a more serious side, it predicts the future of marriage, concluding that in years to come we "will see less divorce because there will be fewer people getting married."

In the real world, where people we love and honor are married in the sight of God, their friends and families, and the occasion is one of hope and joyful celebration, I can come to only one conclusion.

I look at this precious couple binding their lives together and understand that their leap of faith is based on a foundation of loving parents on both sides, who have survived and thrived as married couples. Of course, neither of their parents' marriages are perfect models for this new generation, but they are testimony to the fact that marriage can work.

My children will leap into marriage blindfolded to a certain degree, or they will wait to marry until they've figured out a lot more about relationships than their mother has managed. At least I hope they will.

-- kathryn@csindy.com


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