I grew up in post–World War II, small-town America where people, by and large, stayed married.
It was a world of next-door neighbors, backyard barbecues, bicycles, and best buddies. My sisters and brothers and I were on a first-name basis with our parents’ close friends, often calling them “Aunt Martha Lee” and “Uncle George” even though they weren’t kin to us.
It was a safe and predictable place where children could be confident that the same cast of characters who showed up at the breakfast table in the morning would gather around the dinner table at night. Bedtime stories and good-night kisses were standard fare. I look back on it now and marvel that I took it all so much for granted.
Yet why wouldn’t I? We didn’t know anyone who was divorced back then, except Daddy’s cousin Lucille from Texas, who only came home for weddings and funerals. I don’t remember ever hearing the term broken home as a child.
How sheltered I was…and how blessed. What a different world my grandchildren are growing up in today. The tentacles of divorce touch virtually every family and church in this country. Sadly, five of every ten marriages in America today end in divorce. And, sadder still, only one or two couples of the five who remain intact will achieve the level of emotional, physical, and spiritual commitment within marriage that we have come to think of as true intimacy.
Why, then, when marriage has this abysmal track record, do couples continue to marry? In the movie Shall We Dance?, the character Bev Clark— played by Susan Sarandon—asks a question very much like that and then answers herself: "We we need a witness to our lives. There are a billion people on the planet.… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things…all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying, 'Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness.'”
I like Bev’s answer. It rings true. I believe that however independent we may be, within each of us is a longing for that special someone to be a loving witness to our lives. What’s more, I believe God wrote this desire for that other person into our DNA when He designed us. In the beginning, God created Adam and put him in a beautiful, bountiful garden with every chance to live freely and be creative.
But without another human being to love, Adam was incomplete. “It is not good for the man to be alone,” said the Lord. And so He created from Adam’s rib, close to his heart, a woman for him to love intimately. Physically, spiritually, emotionally, totally.
This picture, painted for us in the book of Genesis, is what God wants for His children. It’s the ideal. Of course, we don’t get the Garden. We get traffic and bills and pollution and confusion. Yet I’m convinced that deep within our DNA that hunger still exists. It’s a hunger God programmed into our humanity: hunger for the kind of love and hope and happiness and faith and family that lasts a lifetime, hunger for the presence of another who knows and cares and will be there.
I’m also convinced that God put a special kind of spunk into each of us when He made us in His image. He did not make us hopeless, passive people. Rather, He equipped us with the ability and the will to choose and with the strength to achieve the dreams we believe in. And when we put our faith in Him, He gives us His power to hang in and hold on.
I don’t know you, but because you are reading this book, I believe you are in love—or longing for it. And because I believe in love and in lasting marriages, I choose to believe in you. I believe God put this book in your hands because He wants your marriage to last. He wants the vows that you
speak—the vows you are yet to speak or the vows you have already spoken— to be lasting vows.
This book was written to help you make the promises in your marriage last. The information is for couples who want their marriage to be the best it can be, whether they are engaged to be married or have already said “I do.” It offers everything I have learned in the ups and downs of the last forty-plus years of marriage to one of the most loyal, loving, hardheaded, soft-hearted men God ever designed.
More important, it is anchored by the wisdom I’ve gleaned from some wise and wonderful Christian counselors, writers, and pastors who have encouraged my family and me along the way.
And, best of all, you will learn from the friendship and the faith of my married friends who are living out their vows in the nitty-gritty of everyday life. So let’s get on with it! I couldn’t be more excited to share my journey with you.
Excerpted from Making "I Do" Last a Lifetime by Claire Cloninger Copyright © 2008 by Claire Cloninger. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.