Promises to Keep (For married couples)

By Donald Brazile

“The woods are lovely, 

     dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep, 

And miles to go before I sleep.”

             —Robert Frost

Many years ago, Robert Frost quoted these lines from one of his poems while speaking to a university audience. Afterward, a man asked the poet what he meant by “promises to keep?” Frost responded that he had promises to keep to those who had gone before, to those of his day, to those who were to follow, to his wife, to himself and God. I’m sure the man either walked away feeling a little sorry for poor Mr. Frost, burdened-down with so many promised commitments, or, hopefully, he realized the truth of Frost’s statement — we all have promises to keep.

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, I would like to say to the married couples, in a Valentine’s kind of way, to remember the promises you’ve made. As Frost says so convincingly, the “woods” of pleasure, ease, satisfaction, childrearing, indifference, sickness, riches, setbacks, careers and self-centeredness “are lovely, dark and deep,” nonetheless, we’ve made promises. 

We have work to do, obligations to fulfill, sacred vows to keep. Real men keep their word and strong women keep their promises. If you don’t give heed to Frost’s wisdom of years, you’ll find yourself walking down lover’s lane holding your own hand.

There are more than 50 shades of marriage, but the two major ones are the candy-heart “Valentine’s Day” kind and the “long-lived” kind. The candy-heart kind of love is crazy and delicious. It transcends ordinary life with its routines. It’s not surprising that we crave it and give it a place of honor. It produces high spirits, it puts a valentine skip in our walk, we often learn of it in books, movies and internet dating websites. 

The second kind of love is what I reverently call “long-lived.” This is when the “loving” feelings begin to take root. It’s like the Valentine’s Day variety but better, deeper, broader and higher! At this stage, you finally arrive at the “core” of what it means to love and live with another person. Allow me if you will, to speak from experience for a moment. After raising two children with my darling-most, I have come to believe the words of poets and songwriters: “She’s everything to me, she’s my world, she’s all the world to me.” The first kind of love moves us to the altar, where we make promises to each other. Whereas the second kind of love enables us to keep our promises. 

In Spousonomics 101, there isn’t any set formula or method. You learn to love by loving. Love stories never get old and one couples’ romance is always different from the next, all with a sweet tale of its own. People have searched the world over for something better than holy matrimony and didn’t find it because it’s not there. Marriage is sacred and life-enhancing, but at its core, its two promise-keepers walking hand in hand into their unforeseeable tomorrows. “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep.”