Marriage Stories: The Decisive Moment

“There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment...”~Henri Cartier-Bresson (citing Jean François Paul de Gondi, cardinal de Retz)


In 1952, the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson would publish his classic book of images, The Decisive Moment. In the treatise on  his creative philosophy, he defined his pursuit to capture “the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.” This, Cartier-Bresson said, was "the decisive moment."

On Friday, I announced a bit of a marriage story project. I'll be collecting stories of marriage done right, compiling them into a single narrative,  a tapestry of sorts. It's a project that's been birthed from my need for these good stories, my need to hear the stark stories of love and marriage, the ones that make good on the vows--for better or worse, for rich or for poor, in sickness or health, till death do us part. It's the cloud of witnesses that gives you the courage to carry on. Right?

And as I  collect these stories, I'm looking for the bold ones, the ones with a definitive  "decisive moment." I'm looking for the significant events, the critical decisions, the  "precise organization of forms which gives [marriage] its proper expression." (See Friday's piece for a brief example.)

Do you have a story to tell? Maybe it's the story of your grandparents, you parents, your neighbors, or your church elders. Maybe it's your own story. Whatever the case may be, if you're interested in sharing, feel free to drop me an email (seth.m.haines at, fill out this form:

[contact-form][contact-field label='Name' type='name' required='1'/][contact-field label='Email' type='email' required='1'/][contact-field label='Website' type='url'/][contact-field label='Share the Basic Story' type='textarea' required='1'/][contact-field label='Share the Decisive Moment' type='text'/][contact-field label='Share Your Relationship to the Story' type='text'/][contact-field label='Would You Agree to an Interview?' type='select' options='Yes,No'/][/contact-form]

I'm looking forward to hearing more of your stories over the coming days. (There have already heard some great ones.) So, who's first? Who wants to share that decisive marriage moment?

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A Good Love, Good Marriage Project

20130125-070212.jpgAt my grandfather's 75th birthday party, I met a cousin. Not a first cousin, mind you, but some distant one whose relation was so far removed that it was difficult for anyone to accurately indicate the branch of the family tree that bore his daddy's name. He was short, none too attractive, and best I can remember, the eating habits of his twenties and thirties had settled just above the braided belt that held up his Duck Head khakis. He was bald. And not male-patterned bald, either. He was cue-ball bald; Bic bald. We were in the backyard, all of us mulling under the canopy of my grandfather's pecan trees, and person after person spoke to my cue-ball cousin, who slowly nursed his drink. I watched as people extended hands to him, reached out for a hug, and within seconds, each was laughing, their mood lightened by his obvious wit. He was the center of attention, which was odd to me, being that this was my grandfather's 75th birthday party.

Party crasher.

After the cocktails had well settled in, my grandfather took center stage to thank us all for coming. He looked over the yard and shared his love. He pulled my grandmother close, and drew a bead on the cousin. "Thank you for coming," he said. "I know it's been a hard year, what with your wive's cancer, and your taking time away to be with us means a great deal." My grandfather choked up for a moment, kissed his wife, the raised his plastic cup and roared, "Laissez les bons temps rouler!"

The mystery cousin was later explained in full. His wife had been diagnosed with a particularly aggressive cancer. He'd sacrificed greatly--career, hobbies, passions, friendships--to be with her throughout her treatment. He'd loved her well, and when the chemo took her hair, he shaved his head in solidarity with her.

I don't remember his name, and over the years I've suspected that he is likely less my cousin and more a man that my family wanted to claim as cousin. I figure he's the type of man we'd all like to claim as family.


As you might know, a while back I compiled a series of letters from Mothers to my wife in hopes of encouraging her. Collecting these stories was both a privilege and an honor, and every time I read them, I'm amazed.

I'm considering starting a bit of a similar project, and I'd like your help. I'm wanting to collect a few stories of men and women who have loved their spouses extraordinarily well. And I'm not just talking, "he bought me roses on a random Friday," extraordinarily well, either (though that is pretty extraordinary). I want the grand stories. The stories that restore our faith in love and marriage during the difficult days. The stories that give us hope and a bit of a blue-print.

I'll collect these however you'd to submit them--comments, emails, video submissions. I'd like to interview the folks over the coming days. This is a project I think I need. Perhaps you do, too. So, will you help?

*For regular updates, follow me on Twitter or like my Facebook page.