Note: This is NOT a religious post
I go to a simple little church in Phuket, and the homilies are not that heavy: the Thai priest, Father John Pipat, speaks almost exclusively about helping the poor, loving your family and going in peace. It’s always the same message every week.
Today, he grinned myopically at us (he just had eye surgery). “Father And Mother, I Love You,” he said into the microphone and grinned some more. “That’s what the word FAMILY stands for.”
He went on to say that in our faith, any young couple wishing to get married will be sent off to “marriage school” because weddings are not just about the Big Day, the dress, the guests, the I love yous.
“Marriage starts for real with the first bad time you have as a couple,” he said gravely.
I thought, how true. You only know the true nature of someone when you are on a boat with him/her, and the boat is stuck up shit-creek without a paddle (a quaint English saying). And any couple, if they plan to stay together for the long term, will almost definitely hit on terrible moments (like serious illness) some time or other in their lives.
This is something not many wannabe husbands-and-wives think about, that true love starts when real life begins. Do you really want to be with that person you are planning to marry, when his/her shit hits the fan? And equally important, will that person be with you in your boat up shit-creek?
“Sometimes, you have to be like a saint to stay married,” my priest chuckled, tickled by his own humour.
I look at my parents, now in their 83rd year, in not-so-good health, and I see the strength of their love shining so strongly. Yes, they have been through the wars and battles of life together, which made them stronger as a couple now than they were when they were younger. I see a oneness in them now.
In banking terms, I would say getting married is like opening a savings account together. Each partner makes a commitment to pay in a certain sum regularly (in terms of kindness, time, affection) in the hope that someday, you can enjoy the fruits of your savings. Sometimes, one partner pays in more than the other, but this status quo may switch round. But as in a savings account, you might have to make withdrawals against your savings (i.e. when you have bad times in your relationship). If there is enough equity in the savings account, the relationship lasts, despite the “withdrawals”. Kind of makes sense?
“If you spend all your springs and summers chasing empty dreams instead of collecting nuts, there will be nothing for you in winter.”
Here’s someone who has made several big payments into my “account” and I will always love him (even though he can be damn difficult to love).
“We don’t forget, Jac,” my mum tells me that. A lot.
Do read The Velveteen Rabbit again if you are already familiar with it. Have a good Sunday ❤
Main photo: The Velveteen Rabbit, front cover of the 1922 Heinemann edition.