The God Squad: Marriage in the twilight years
Q: In 2019, I became a widower after almost 43 years of marriage. I reconnected in 2020 with a friend from the early '80s. Due to her devout faith in Christianity, we have yet to be intimate. We are both in our 70s and want to spend the rest of our lives together. We are fortunately financially independent so there really is no valid reason to get married. We both feel the main reason for a couple to get married is to start a family and obviously that ship has sailed. LOL. Is there a way to cohabitate and share intimacy in the eyes of God in today’s world? We love each other deeply and are very committed to this monogamous relationship. – (From C)
A: If, as you say, “the main reason for a couple to get married is to start a family”, then the same argument applies to young couples who do not yet want to start a family. The teaching of all the great faiths, however, is that two people are also a family and that is why marriages between two people of any age who are not able to have children is still a valid religiously binding marriage.
Marriage is not just about babies. Marriage is about offering a public and sacred vow that you will always care for each other and be present for each other in every season of your lives. Any wedding is a public declaration of private love. A religious wedding is a public declaration of private love with the blessing of God and our traditions of faith. Such sacred public declarations tell your family and friends and community in a completely unambiguous and joyous way that you are now and forever more a new family bound together by love in the eyes of God. It is a declaration that you are both willing and committed to sharing the joys and burdens of your union.
One of the joys of that union, and the point of your question, is sexual intimacy. The union of Adam and Eve is described as “becoming one flesh.” Sexual intimacy is not just a physical act. It is a physical and spiritual act that enriches and deepens your love for each other. To refuse to be married just because you are too old to have kids and because you don’t need to share each other’s money makes marriage a purely utilitarian act, but marriage is not just a necessary precondition for sharing kids and money. Marriage is a public and spiritual bond that you are proud and humbled and joyously ready to share everything. In my view, she is right to want to wait and you ought to end her waiting and your waiting by marrying your beloved ... tomorrow!
In the old days people would have told you to marry her to “make an honest woman out of her.” Now I would say you should marry her so that she can make an honest man out of you. If you were Jewish, I would officiate at your wedding myself, but I do book up early.
Q: I read your column yesterday titled “Why do we Pray?” I am a practicing Catholic and I spend about 30 to 40 minutes daily in prayer. I do have a prayer list, which is composed of people asking me to pray for them, people suffering from disease or illness, praying to keep my husband safe on his commute, etc. You get the gist. I have always felt honored when someone asked me to pray for them, and it does make me feel like I am contributing something in instances where things seem very hopeless. However, after reading this column, I do see how it could be construed as giving God a “to do” list. I do start my prayer list by thanking God for all my blessings. I would appreciate some additional insights and guidance on this, as I’m now in doubt about what I am doing. Thank you in advance for your response. I love your columns. I find them very enlightening. – (From L in Boca Raton, Florida)
A: Dear L, I also have a prayer list and I pray every day for God to heal the sick ones I know. My prayers always begin, “O God of healing, I pray that you might heal the ones I know who are suffering if it is your will. If it is not your will that they be healed, I pray that you will be with them in their struggles and give them courage and hope.” That way I am not forcing God, but I am connecting to a divine will whose workings are beyond my ken. You are doing the right and sacred thing and your friends are blessed to have your kind soul on their side.
(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at email@example.com. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman. Also, the new God Squad podcast is now available.)
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