In the midst of writing about the need to re-establish traditional marriage as an American institution, I received a frantic phone call from one of my wife's girlfriends. She knew my wife was out of town, but she wanted to know if it was OK to come to the house. It was clear she was near tears so I bade her come on. Minutes later, she was at the door.
I made her some coffee and we sat and made small talk until she felt calm enough to return home to her children. She and her husband have been having a tough time of it lately and whatever it was that upset her involved the difficulties in her marriage. I do not know the specifics of what brought her to my door that evening; I never asked. I figured it was none of my business.
Or is it? They have two children. If I truly believe in the importance of marriage — especially when it comes to the raising of children — isn't it incumbent upon me to do what I can to support their marriage? If marriage is good for the community isn't the health of each marriage community business? Are we not touched by each failure?
Not too very long ago, another friend confided to me that he was having an affair. I suggested that perhaps he begin taking care of business at his home. He responded angrily that I had no right to judge him. I snapped back, "I intend on honoring the vows taken at your nuptials."
After a breath I softened a bit. "I promised to support your marriage," I said. "How could I look your children in the eye if I didn't make an effort to save their family from destruction?" It was a difficult moment in our friendship, but I remain convinced it was the right thing to do.
Of course, I am not recommending that we all adorn the raiment of judges, knocking on our neighbors' doors sticking our noses in where they are likely to get punched. What I attempted to do with my adulterous friend and what I failed to do with my wife's girlfriend was to be an advocate for their marriage, to be an encouragement from a pro-marriage vantage point.
I have been married 12 years, and to quote the poet Langston Hughes, my marriage, "ain't been no crystal stair." During my wedding, the minister asked all attending to repeat the phrase, "Go Home!"
"This," she pronounced, "is to be your response when either one of them comes to you complaining about their partner. 'Go home!' "
Lord knows I have heard those words on more than one occasion. Thankfully, they were also followed by words of wisdom and support.
Certainly, I am not suggesting we encourage each other to remain in abusive relationships. Prudence is a necessary weapon in the battle to re-establish the institution of marriage. I am, however, suggesting there is a road through the otherwise normal ebb and flow of married life and we must make it our business to help each other navigate the rough terrain.
Folks are fond of saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." We must first acknowledge that the community must also support the marriages into which those children will ideally be born. The world is harsh. Marriage needs all the friends it can get.
Joseph C. Phillips is an actor/writer based in Los Angeles. He is the author of the new book, He Talk Like a White Boy.