It was a busy street on a brisk Wellington evening where my husband and I bumped into a friend. We hadn't seen him for seven months since our wedding, and three weeks before our big day he had joyously experienced his own. Warm congratulations and questions of living situations, travel plans, and work circumstances were swapped as pedestrians and buses passed us by.
As he turned to walk away, he stopped suddenly as if he had forgotten something consequential. Turning to my husband, he asked, 'by the way, from one to ten, how is marriage?' My husband, slightly taken aback with the quantitative scale posed, responded 'um, eight?' 'Same' our friend declared, and went on his way.
We laughed at the simplicity of the question. How could marriage be summed up in a number, and how would you possibly measure marriage on a scale from one to ten?
When I asked my husband how he decided upon eight, he simply stated 'I often answer eight on scale questions'. I'm not sure if that is a compliment or insult to our marriage, but I will take a solid eight.
It certainly got me thinking. What did our friend expect to hear? Had he asked people this question before? Had he spent daily commutes ruminating on his marital satisfaction and determining which number he would pick if a friend asked him on the street?
How would you rate your marriage?
I don't think that I could rate marriage on a scale of one to ten. There are too many subjective dimensions and nuanced experiences to quantify this union with a number. The number I could pick today is unlikely to match that which I choose on day 1, day 1000, and day 10,000 (Lord willing).
The sweetest part about marriage is that it often ripens with time. Those who have stood at each other's side for 50 years commonly believe marriage to be a wonderful adventure which blossoms with richer beauty each passing year and decade. I certainly aspire to hold that view in 50 years' time.
Marriage cannot be measured holistically without an element of retrospection, which is why I think any rated measure will vary over months and years. Perceiving moments merging into one shared life will make you thankful for not just the good times, but the bad and very ugly times.
Marital sufferings grow you as both an individual and a couple. The journey is witnessed and lived as intimately as possible. Even if the marriage is wrought with difficulty and discouragement, if you stay together, you share a profoundly rewarding human experience.
It won't feel magnificent when you have that same argument for the 37th time, or you lose your first child, or you have to sell your car and television just to make ends meet. But one day you will look back and realise that those common despairs drew you closer than all the happy memories. You will marvel how the moments of rating your marriage one out of ten could combine with the joys to create a marriage more meaningful and satisfying than any scale could measure.
Harriet Knox lives in windy Wellington, New Zealand. She works for the Government, loves animals, and cannot function well without a gym membership. She became a Christian at University and attends Gracenet Community Church.
Harriet Knox's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/harriet-knox.html