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Why Be Married? Not Alone for Our Own Happiness

Henry and Mary Stillwell and seven of their eight children
After the open-air meeting the procession reformed and marched back to the chapel, which was filled to the door with a crowd that waited impatiently for the service to begin. The chapel was decorated with evergreens, roses, wedding bells and flags. A solid bank of white and green was before the altar. Above, a huge wedding bell of flowers was suspended.

Before the ceremony Mrs. Stillwell addressed the audience and told some of her experiences when first she came to Portland 18 years ago. Then, while the Army band played the wedding march, the bridal couple entered and took seats on the platform amid the applause of the crowd.

Miss Mitchell was in the dress uniform of the Army, with a white silk sash about her waist and shoulders and a white bow on her hair. Aside from these simple distinctions, she was garbed as simply as any other Army woman in the house. Mr. Vanderkelen wore the conventional uniform of the corps.

The flag of the Army and the flag of the United States were carried to the center of the platform before the altar and spread so as to form a background. Before this the couple and Brigadier Stillwell took their stand. Mrs. Stillwell then read the marriage vow of the Salvation Army: "We do solemnly swear that we seek this union not alone for our own happiness, though we hope that through it it may be advanced, but because we believe we will be better fitted to carry on the work of the Salvation Army. We will in no way let this union come between us and the work of the Salvation Army. We will each of us not object to anything the other may desire to do to further the work of God through the Salvation Army."

"If you desire to become husband and wife on these terms," said Brigadier Stillwell, "stand forth."

Miss Mitchell and Mr. Vanderkelen immediately advanced to the altar, and there, through the ceremony of the Salvation Army were made husband and wife. After concluding the ceremony Brigadier Stillwell congratulated the pair, and the members of the Army in the hall shouted their approval of the union. The bride sat on the platform smiling happily, and the groom smiled back with the air of a soul-satisfied man.

- Morning Oregonian, August 6, 1904, as quoted by T. McCracken

You probably do not have my great-grandmother's passion for the work of the Salvation Army. Mary Stillwell had more passion, more fearlessness, and more of a sense of mission than any human being I have ever known.

But you do have a passion, something you do well and yearn to do, something the rest of us need you to do to make this a better world. And you are in danger of failing us. When it becomes difficult to do, your spouse's discomfort is the easiest thing to blame for your decision not to honor your passion, not to be who you were meant to be.

When you share your vows, when you renew them, or even just the next time you stand on the peak of a mountain together surveying the great valley below you, try her promise:

"We do solemnly swear that we seek this union not alone for our own happiness, though we hope that through it it may be advanced, but because we believe we will be better fitted to carry on the work of [fill in your great passion and your spouse's here]. We will in no way let this union come between us and the work of the [fill in your great passion and your spouse's here]. We will each of us not object to anything the other may desire to do to further the work of [fill in your great passion and your spouse's here]."

Not alone for our own happiness but also to be better fitted for our most important work. Like Mary and Henry Stillwell.

That's my grandfather, the baby on his mother's lap. The photo was taken about two years before Mary's business trip to Portland. She had one more child before the trip. She continued to follow her passion after she became a single mother less than a year later, when Henry died of consumption. She did not stop when the daughter standing next to her died a few months later, after their cross-country move and her older her sister's wedding, nor when the son born 18 months after my grandfather died a decade later.

Some report being unhappy because marriage keeps them from doing the things they love. Think they might have it backwards?

Comments

My name is James T Stillwell and these are my relatives who unfortunately I know little about : ( thanks for writing this : )

Hi, James! I believe we share a grandfather as well as a couple of truly remarkable great-grandparents.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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