Back in the earlier years of our country, around the time of the civil war, I would imagine that marriages did not involve a whole lot of courtship. There may have been some couples who knew each other from childhood and ended up together because they had always assumed that is what would happen. For young women who did not have a school mate beau, I would imagine that when they met a suitable young man, after they were of marriageable age, things moved along rather quickly. If papa let the young fellow come calling, there was a pretty good bet that he already approved of the marriage; and when the young folks got passionate, the marriage would happen accordingly.
My uncle was married in the late 1800’s. He was sixteen years old when he married a thirteen year old girl. They had run away and gotten married and so the families involved accepted the situation and that couple remained married for about seventy years. Today, there’s no way for youngsters like that to marry without parental approval, so when first love blossoms, it is likely to wither away while the couple waits to grow up.
The irony is that today young people mature physically at a younger age than they did in those days gone by, yet they are expected to wait much longer to marry. That contributes to the fact that many people today have a lot of experience with love affairs before marrying—in my mind, NOT a good thing. In the days when people got married young in the first flush of their first love the tendency was to believe that the marriage of those who fell in love was ordained and unbreakable. Today, after developing a habit of being in and out of relationships prior to marriage, many young couples do not feel any compulsion to remain committed to a marriage contract after they enter in to it.
One couple I know just broke up after a little over a year of marriage when they hit the first serious bump in the road. The husband did something that was wrong but would not have been a fatal blow in most other marriages. (This did not involve infidelity.) The husband wanted to work on the marriage. The righteous wife was determined to exit—not surprisingly as she had previously been in one other marriage, another relationship that produced a child and other less serious involvements over a period of more than twenty years, relationships that at least in the case of the marriage and the relationship that produced the child were ended at her own volition. Unlike how it was in years past when marriage was entered into with a mindset that it was forever, this woman’s heart had apparently never been set on living with her spouse through thick and thin; and she probably knew in her heart that the man she married was not the man of her dreams. Her life was complicated and when she entered into the marriage, it was a convenient solution to her temporary problems. This is not a good reason to get married.
In many unstable relationships, most notably among immature persons, the parties involved seem to find it impossible to live without some kind of love affair in their lives. They just can’t fathom being “alone”. When things go sour in their marriages, these people not only walk out, they walk right into the arms of someone else, usually for another relationship destined to be short.
I have a novel idea for young people of today who are considering marriage, particularly second or third marriages. I think these people should cease being involved with other people in living arrangements and learn how to live on their own as mature, responsible adults. When they meet another mature, responsible adult, also living on their own, these two could date—not sleep together the first night they meet—until they are well acquainted. If and when they decide to marry, it should be because even though they can live alone as totally functioning adults, they realize they will be happier living together as a pair. This happy couple should then make up their minds that marriage is a good thing, something to be preserved—that it’s worth walking over a few hurdles for. Only by being willing to “stick it out” does any couple ever remain married long enough to grow old together; and truthfully, when you have grown old and the very words “husband” and “wife” remind you of your lifelong mate, that is when your marriage is the dearest it could ever be.
Read other articles, stories and poems by Edwina Williams at: www.trovemagazine.com