About a month ago, I went to see the movie “The Vow” fully prepared for it to be an overall disappointment. It certainly delivered, except for one scene that actually makes the movie worth seeing. The mother tells her upset daughter that she stayed with her husband after learning of his lengthy affair because she decided she was not going to punish him for his one mistake. She stayed with him because of all the things he did right, not the one thing he did wrong.
It was this powerful moment where marriage was defended with such heroism that inspired me to want to get the book written by the real couple to learn more. Unfortunately, this situation never actually happened. It turns out the real parents of the daughter were always happily married.
But I’m so glad I got the book and read the true story. What I discovered was an even greater defense of marriage.
First, this is a true story that’s hard for any of us to imagine. Two months after Kim and Krickett Carpenter are married, Krickett is injured in a car accident that causes the loss of her memory to the point of not knowing who Kim is. She has no recollection of their relationship at all.
Talk about never knowing what can happen. All single people and dating couples think they have the luxury of planning out their married lives. But life is unpredictable, and God often has other plans.
Imagine having to approach life as a married woman with a man you do not know at all. Imagine trying to live your married life with a woman who doesn’t know you, doesn’t want you, and doesn’t remember marrying you.
For better or for worse. In sickness and in health. These are the vows said at the wedding ceremony. But that can’t apply to this situation, right? The woman has no memory of you, and wants nothing to do with you. You can’t force her to live out marriage with you. Why stay? She’s fine with you leaving.
Sadly, this is where many people get it wrong about the words of their vow and what their ultimate responsibility is. Probably without knowing it, too many people enter into marriage with their own definition of what the words said in the vows mean, and put conditions on how far they will go in living such things as loving another through difficult situations.
Perhaps instead of vows, people would prefer a long contract that clearly defines terms and conditions. “I will love you in sicknesses such as the common cold, the flu, broken limbs, fatal diseases; excluding such sicknesses as memory loss, depression, and addictions.”
Perhaps people want guarantees in this contract. “I promise never to have anything happen to me that would change our standard of living or make you have to work. I promise to never to lose my job, burn the dinner, allow the lawn to grow past three inches. I promise never to change in any way that displeases you or make you unhappy.”
Sounds funny to have these kinds of conditions. But for many people, love is conditional on these kinds of things.
Every couple says the same vows, but not every couple accepts the words at their fullest meaning and to their farthest extent. Every couple has plans for their married life, but not every couple is willing to accept a disruption to those plans.
Kim and Krickett Carpenter enter their marriage with love and commitment. In both the film and in the true story, Kim Carpenter says he made a vow, and he loves her regardless. She is his wife. He promised to love her, even if she doesn’t love him.
Kim’s faith keeps him committed to the wife he loves and confident that God will work it out somehow, even when he felt he should let Krickett go and end the marriage. Even more remarkable is that Krickett has complete recollection of God and her faith in Him. She can’t remember anything about Kim, but her Christianity is in tact. That goes to show that Christianity does not stem from the brain, but from the soul.
I couldn’t help but think how this could very well make the difference for a successful marriage. It’s a matter of having the true faith rooted in the very being of person, and solidified through growth in truth and love for Christ. Perhaps it is lack of Christian faith that makes one or both end a marriage.
Whatever it was, the story of Kim and Krickett Carpenter is remarkable in that they stayed together. They did not have a marriage to build onto from Krickett’s view. It was not romantic love full of deep feeling and friendship. It was an act of the will based on circumstances that seemed obviously God-directed. Krickett realized that God allowed her to marry Kim for a reason, and that it was worth her being open to him. They both started a new relationship and fell in love again, creating new memories and a new, renewed, commitment.
A new relationship. That’s how you do it if there are no other options and you want to make it work. The Carpenters both sincerely wanted it to work somehow, but could not find a way to make the old marriage work. They made a new relationship because they believed in their marriage. Most failing marriages don’t undergo such an extreme situation, but they have the same choice presented; namely, to make it work or end it. Scrap the old relationship because it doesn’t work. Establish a new relationship. Fall in love all over again.
Love can develop between two people who want it. Love can grow between two people who see God’s will. It can be the hard and rough road, but the pay off can be immeasurable. Their relationship proves what it means to be “Christ-centered” both at the personal and the relationship level. True Christians understand how God works. They don’t want to run from His will, but rather run toward Him.
Anthony Buono is the founder of Avemariasingles.com. For thousands of Catholic singles, Anthony offers guidance, humor, understanding, and practical relationship advice. Visit his blog at 6stonejars.com.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.