No other two tiny words in the tongue we speak bind more folks than these, I do. And while there are many variations on this declaration, the outcome is the same, at least on a legal level. You’re committed.
Promise, pledge, devote, give, dedicate; notice the pattern here with the synonyms, they’re all outgoing. The idea behind this matrimonial monosyllabic rhetoric, I believe, is that both parties direct this outgoing intention to each other, resulting in a bond. A powerful tenet.
It’s also a compelling reason why couples stay together.
The rabbit died and the doctor says you’re in love. I used that euphemism on my students and they had no idea what I meant. Back in the day, before PETA at least, rabbits were used to determine pregnancy. If the bunny died it meant positive, which meant you’re in love, which meant you have entered into to the most surface level of commitment, the have-to level.
Or her daddy says you’re in love, the shotgun level of commitment.
In this culture I can’t think of any other reasons why a couple of kids would have to commit other than, and here’s perhaps the nastiest euphemism, legitimizing the knocking-up. If you can think of another reason please post it. If you can think of other euphemisms I’d be interested in those, too.
To prevent the have-to type of commitment, there’s the ought-to level. This one has a few more implications. We’ll work from simple to complex.
Two kids, head over heals, keeping their ideals, and fighting all those hormones and desires. In some cultures it’s quite the badge of honor to make it to the altar with all things in tact. This demographic has the shortest engagement span in young couples, for good reason. We can’t have them out there fornicating. So maybe they ought to get married. Make an honest man out of him. Still not sure what that makes out of her. I’m euphemismless.
Or maybe the couple is so gorgeous that their genetic aesthetics should be perpetuated in procreation so they ought to get married. See how that works?
A more long-term influence on the ought-to level is the doctrinal notion that you can’t make it to the highest spot in heaven alone. Ladies who subscribe to this theology can’t make it into heaven without a man. Men, living the higher law, can take as many women as they have bound to them. Old maid takes on a whole new meaning here.
I used to think there was nothing wrong with the ought-to level. Like staying together for the kids, there’s a certain nobility to the idea of making promises and keeping them, especially if it fills the mansions in heaven. As righteous an impetus as it may be, it’s not enough to keep people together.
Maybe the want-to level is. This being the purest intent of promise, pollinated by no compelling reason other than you just have the desire to commit your life to another. It stems from agape love, the I-love-you-for-no-reason love, the toughest and most enduring love to come by. The unicorn of love, if you will.
The want-to level is the antithesis to divorce. It is perpetuated though by grace, that clear idea that grants hope to two people for no other reason than they are happy together, symbolized by two tiny words and the purest intentions.