Asked the secret of her long and happy marriage, Dorothy Hartshorne, wife of the philosopher Charles Hartshorne, posed a question: “What do you think you must never do in a marriage?” The young woman thought for a moment and replied, “Never hurt each other?” “Oh no,” Dorothy responded, “you will hurt each other all the time. What you must never do is bore each other.”
In the years since I first heard this story, I have come to understand that a good marriage requires that both partners have their own interests and be willing to share them, and that each partner be interested in at least some of the interests of the other. Happy people share an interest in life in all of its diversity and difference. A person who is interested in life may ask herself why her neighbor is so unhappy and offer an ear to listen to her story. Or he may ask about the birds that come into his garden—learning their names and behaviors, while delighting in their beauty. It doesn’t matter if the things you are interested in are large or small, but you must be interested in life.
Second, each you must be interested in yourself and in your partner. If conflicts are to be resolved, if hurts are to be assuaged, you must always be willing to ask: why was I angered or hurt in this situation, and why did my partner act or react in a particular way? This will not always be easy. Often one of the partners will feel more comfortable talking about feelings. Patience and deep listening may be required of one of you, and moving into unfamiliar territory of the other. If you are not interested in your own feelings and those of the other, your relationship is likely to founder—not only in hurt and anger, but also in boredom.
Dorothy’s husband Charles Hartshorne was fond of saying that the golden rule to love your neighbor as yourself implies that you love yourself. This is wise counsel. We are often told that marriage involves loving another, but less often that it requires loving yourself as well.
As you, Shelby and Mark, enter into marriage, I offer you these blessings:
May you always retain your interest in life.
May love yourself as well as the other.
May you never bore each other.
May you have many long and happy years together.
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Carol gave this blessing at the wedding of Shelby Carpenter and Mark Miller on August 3, 2017 in Molivos, Lesbos.
Carol’s new book written with Judith Plaskow, is Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology.
Join Carol on the life-transforming Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete. Space available on the fall tour.