A month ago, my wife and I were at a beautiful beach wedding in the Dominican Republic. The groom’s father stood up to give a toast, and instead of a speech, he simply read from the works of a turn of the century poet and philosopher, Kahlil Gibran.
The essence of the poem is found in the last stanza,
“Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart”
(“On Marriage,” The Prophet)
I was honestly bugged by that poem.
I mean, shouldn’t you stand by your spouse no matter what and be their everything and have them be your everything? Isn’t that the point of marriage for two to become one? A complete trust in giving your heart?
The poem and my confused frustration stuck with me until we found ourselves at another wedding sitting across from Lanor. She was a fast-talking, energetic, divorced New Yorker who had been a “shrink” for over 40 years focusing on family and marriage.
I asked her for advice. (…I mean, how could I not?!)
“Don’t make each other your sole source of happiness.”
That’s when it clicked.
It isn’t that we can’t spend a lot of time together and give of our hearts completely one to another, but that at the end of the day, we must realize that we are both human.
We both make mistakes.
We fall short.
As pillars holding up the short roof of the temple, we must remember that togetherness is at times apartness—for when one feels weak, the other can give more.
If our happiness is completely based on our significant other, then we’ll only be happy when we are feeling 100% and they are feeling 100%. Which happens far less behind closed doors than any are willing to admit.
Basically, we can’t rejoice in each other, but not rely on each other for joy.
Isn’t the scriptures even clear on this subject about not trusting in the arm of flesh?
If we first become content with ourselves and in our own individual happiness, then we can supplement that happiness with a companion and be more optimistic about life.
Because as with a mission so too with marriage—no matter how good life is, if the relationship is rough, everything is rough; and conversely, no matter how rough life is, if the relationship is good, everything is good (or at least we know it will be).
So as we stand in holy places under the temple marriage roof, truly, we must remember to stand together, but not too close.