Paper written in class while students are watching:
Being happily married for almost twenty years myself, I was disturbed when several students said they were going to avoid marriage. It was fine to fall in love, to have sex, to live together, even to have children together, but marriage was to be avoided because they have seen it end badly. Does everyone who falls in love have it easy? Is having sex always fun and without consequences? Does living together never bring strife? Has everyone who had children together always agreed on what to do? I do not think so. But still people are avoiding marriage in greater numbers and till later in their lives because they are afraid it will turn out badly. I think this may be because they do not understand that marriage can be good, even when the people in it are not perfect, if the marriage has one simple thing. What is this mythical medicine for marriage? It is love. Love can keep a marriage, even a problematic one, from rupturing into a divorce. Love is not a feeling. Love is the decision to do for someone what they need, even when it is not fun or easy.
Love is what parents do for their children. It is love that keeps training a child not to run into the road, not to stick their fingers in electrical sockets, and not to jump off buildings. All those things can be fun, but they are not good for the child. So the parent has to love their children enough to stop them. Love is what parents do when they change diapers, clean up vomit, and wait up till two in the morning to make sure their child is safe. None of those are fun, but parents who love their children do them. Love is what parents do when they let their children do their own homework, let them make their own mistakes, and let them make their own decisions as they grow older. All those things are hard for a parent to do, but if they love their child they will. And just like a parent who loves their child will make the decision to do for that child what the child needs, a spouse who loves their partner will do the same thing. Not a good paragraph; it tells and does not show. Developing one or more of these as examples would have been much better. In fact, for my audience, I should have written a much stronger loving children paragraph.
Carl and Judy have been married forty-five years. They were married too young and were very poor for decades. But eventually that poverty gave way to prosperity because of hard work and careful management of funds. Then Judy lost her mind. She thought any money anywhere, even what they were going to use to pay the bills, was available to give away. She threw a shirt over Carl as he drove, so that she risked their lives and the lives of others on the road. She grew angry over every real and imagined slight over the entire course of their marriage and began to assault Carl. When the police came to arrest her, she attacked them as well. Many people, including their daughter, argued for Judy’s permanent commitment to a mental facility. But Carl insists that as long as he is able, he will take care of Judy. She is his wife; she took care of him for years, if it is his turn now, so be it. That is love. This is a good example, though it may need more detail to say that a person should not stay with an abusive spouse. Judy was drugged so that she was not abusive anymore.
Winifred and Albert would have been married seventy years, if Albert had not died in September. They lived through World War II separated by the service. They lived sparely while Albert went to college on the GI bill. They worked as apple pickers in Washington, living in a small room with apple boxes for furniture. And eventually they had a nice home paid off from accounting jobs that Albert took. When Albert hit mandatory retirement at sixty-five, they thought they would have a few years together and then be gone. Clean living and right thinking, though, apparently gave them strong constitutions. Albert had been retired for twenty-five years when he got lung cancer. All the little odd jobs he did to bring in income stopped. Three years later they had little left in their savings, but when Albert was diagnosed with inoperable and soon-to-be-fatal liver cancer, every dollar of their savings went to bring in caretakers so that Albert could die at home. Winifred has some small pension from the government to pay the bills, but she no longer has a cushion for when inflation overtakes her income. But Winifred spent her savings gladly and did not stint the care Albert needed because she loved him. This is a good example and is well developed. I do not think any additional information is needed, though, in the interest of strict truthfulness, I did find out after this paper was written that Winifred did have $500 left in savings. That is still not much and she would willingly have spent it to keep Albert comfortable.
Winifred loved Albert when she gave up her financial security for him. Carl loved Judy when he gave up his emotional security for her. Parents love their children when they help them to grow up. Love is not just the euphoric feeling when a person sees the beloved, although that is wonderful. Love is not just the desire to be with the beloved, though that is good. Love is the decision, the act of will, to do something that the beloved needs done, even when it is hard and painful.