Editor’s note: This is the fourth column in a series on the power of commitment in marriage. Portions of this article have been previously published by FamilyShare.com.
We are writing from the middle of the Mediterranean, where we are speaking on a cruise ship. And as luck would have it, the magic show in the ship’s theater gave us the metaphor we were looking for to conclude this series.
Real, full-on, no-caveat, nothing-held-back marriage commitment actually becomes a kind of magic. It is the magic of synergy — of a combination where the total is greater than the sum of its parts; where one plus one can equal more than two. Much more.
Last year in Philadelphia, we were reminded of this kind of magic by singer and songwriter John Legend, who was the commencement speaker at our son’s graduation from the University of Pennsylvania. He talked about his song “All of Me.” It's a song about the magic of commitment where “All of me loves all of you.”
Of course, marriage can be thought of as a responsibility, which it certainly is. It can be thought of as a duty and as a sacrifice and as a challenge, too, all of which would be accurate. And these same words would also be fitting descriptions for the children and family that usually come with marriage.
But if those were the only contexts for marriage, we might miss the most important and the most fantastic aspects of what it is and what it can be. We might miss the “all of me loves all of you” part. And we might miss the magic of knowing marriage as synergy, adventure and the ultimate security and joy.
We knew of a very successful coach who seemed to be able, every season, to create a winning team out of mediocre talent. When asked how he did it, he said, “It’s all about the commitment.” Commitment, in his mind, meant loyalty, teamwork and unwavering determination. Total commitment, he said, was much more rare than talent. Commitment meant you never gave up, no matter what the score, no matter how long the odds. Commitment meant you cared more about the team than about yourself.
To that coach, courage, risk, devotion and determination were all manifest in the concept of commitment. It was what got you through tough situations. It was what freed you from doubt and from second-guessing. It was what made you “all in” and banished any thought that perhaps this was not the right game or the right team for you.
It can be the same in marriage. Once there is the total commitment, things become much more simple and much more positive. When disagreements happen, you just do what you have to do to work through them. There is no thought of jumping ship or second-guessing about whether you knew each other well enough before marriage. Total commitment is unquestioned, and it is so strong that it makes molehills out of what could otherwise be mountains.
When marriage is built on total commitment — when we absolutely mean our vows of “in sickness and in health” and “for better or worse” — life takes on a certain purpose and clarity. Bailing out or giving up is never an option, so you don’t waste time or mental energy contemplating it. You just work through things, believing in each other and believing in your commitment.
Don’t fall into the trap of saying you don’t need some ceremony or some ink stains on a piece of paper to prove your commitment. Don’t look for ways to commit without formalities and rings and vows. Instead, look for more of these symbols to safeguard and solidify your commitment. Marriage is the ultimate manifestation of commitment.
Not all marriages will last, or should last, and perhaps some should never have happened. But the best-chance marriages have come via total commitment. It makes you strong. It makes you resilient. It frees up your mind and your heart to know things and feel things you couldn’t access without it.
And it allows you to give your partner the greatest gift and the most profound security imaginable — the gift of yourself and the security of knowing that you will always be hers — only hers — and she will always be yours — only yours.
Quoting the rest of Legend’s song:
'Cause all of me loves all of you.
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections.
Give your all to me
I'll give my all to you.
You're my end and my beginning.
Even when I lose I'm winning.
'Cause I give you all, all of me.
And you give me all, all of you.
That is magic.