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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Marriage: What's it good for?

I'm not a huge fan of marriage. Love, yes. But love and marriage are not the same thing (and they certainly are not guaranteed to go together like a horse and carriage). Likewise, religion and spirituality are not the same thing, but that's another matter for another post.

So Ian and I have been together for two years now, and I suppose culturally speaking, that's about the time you would expect two young love birds to get engaged (or, as I like to say, engagged). But luckily, Ian and I see eye to eye on the whole marriage issue.

Maybe it's that Ian already experienced a bad marriage, or that I watched my parents have one. Or maybe it's the fact that I'm only 25, and a few of my friends my age are already divorced, which doesn't instill much confidence in the whole institution. And Ian is 30, and a few friends his age are already on their second marriages, which, again, doesn't instill much confidence in the institution. But both of us are content with leaving marriage alone.

Other people don't quite see things our way. When Ian and I were last up in Wyoming visiting his parents (why, oh why can't they live somewhere like San Diego?), Ian's mother got me alone for a minute and asked me, in her delightful British accent, if it was indeed entirely out of the question that Ian and I get married and have children. There's proof, Ian, that we don't have a psychic connection, because if we did, you would have emerged at that moment and saved me. But I just muttered something about how you can never say never, but neither of us was into the whole marriage and children scenario. I then explained that we were both a bit alienated due to Ian's bad marriage, and my parents' bad marriage. "Oh well, Barry and I are both on our second marriages, you know." Lovely, well, I'm not exactly looking to get started on my first, you know what I mean?

Trying to mask her utter disappointment, she said, "That's alright, as long as you love each other, that's all you need, right?" That's the theory. Well, no, I'll take that back. Love is not all you need. It is the flour in the cake, yes, but without the sugar, salt, baking powder, and chocolate frosting you wouldn't very well want to eat it, would you? And of course, you need a glass of milk to wash it down. No, no, marriage is not as simple as mere love.

I have a friend whose marriage just fell apart, and I believe they really did love each other. But love wasn't enough in their case, because there was a deal-breaker thrown into the mix: religious conflict. Again, religion is another matter for another post, but I suppose it can be particularly relevant when you're talking about marriage. But the point is, you can have love, but if you don't also have respect, trust, loyalty, and compatibility in things like religious views and ideas about raising children and money issues and sexuality, among many other possible things, then love may simply just not be enough. I hate to step all over the hopeless romantics out there, but the truth is that romance is not enough. It's not even half of it.

Anyway, what is this urgency that parents feel to see their children married off? A desire to have someone to share in their own miserable state? What does marriage even have to do with anyone besides the two people involved in the bond? For instance, does anyone else find it odd that the expression of love and life commitment that is supposed to be symbolized by marriage should have anything to do with the government? Why does this have to be a legal bond? I know there's a lot of talk about gay marriage, and the denial of rights to gays because of prevailing prejudice. But I actually think gays have the better end of the deal. They can choose to make their own symbolic union that has nothing to do with the state. And frankly, I think that's how it ought to be. Because the decision to declare love and commitment for someone should be entirely personal, and not government regulated.

I would be interested to know more about the history of marriage, because I know that marriage has been around much longer than the practice of legally recording it has. I want to know why the government even got involved in the first place.

Anyway, here's the bottom line: marriage doesn't guarantee love, respect, faithfulness, or even happiness. It's my belief that two people ought to stay together so long as they both feel the relationship is loving, respectful, faithful, and fulfilling. And if it's not, and attempts to fix it are unsuccessful, then two people should be able to call it quits without having to ask the government for permission.

As for me, I plan to stay happily unmarried but together with Ian as long as we both find fulfillment in our relationship. If that lasts our lifetime, then so be it. But if things go sour somewhere down the line, then we will have the freedom to go our separate ways without asking for Uncle Sam's blessing.

And I'd appreciate it if our family and friends would set aside any vicarious wedding fantasies and just accept that that's how it's going to be with us. Besides, the whole wedding gown thing? Not really me.


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6 comments:

heidikins said...

This is such a great post with so many points that I absolutely agree with.

Kudos to you.

xox

sovknight said...

This is a spectacular post. I think everyone should read it and understand it and comment on it, because it's one of those things that so burned into the human psyche by society that most people never stop to even consider that there are options and different ways of thinking about it.

I'm having problems picturing you in a wedding dress. I don't mean to offend, so please don't take it that way, it just doesn't seem your style.

Personally, I see no reason whatsoever to get married. I'm older than both of you and I've had my share of loving relationships, but none of them has ever inspired me to be married. It should be a personal choice left up to the couple, and not an influenced decision by family or friends or definitely the government. Of course, I'll never say never either. I'm smarter than that. I'd love to blame religion for this, and I'm sure that I can, but weddings are cultural and predate Christianity and Islam and all the other nonsense belief systems out there. Still, it was probably superstition (which leads to religion) that played a hand in the tradition. I won't get into it, but you're right... it would be an interesting topic of research.

I know long-term couples that are married and happy, and I know some that are unmarried and happy. However, I know far more people that are divorced or estranged. I don't think marriage is a natural state. More often than not, I think it's a forced condition.

Wow... too long. Sorry. You got me started.

Loralee Choate said...

I don't know. I believe in marriage if that is what you want to do, but it doesn't get my knickers in a twist if that isn't what you want to do, either.

Melliferous Pants said...

I'd like to be married someday, but not because my parents eff'ing pressure me to get married and procreate. Oh, if only they could stop with that shit! Though I've not been married I know that the basic act of marriage does not guarantee happiness. If only my parents could see that.

Last week I learned not to go to my dad when in need of broken hearted consolation. He suggested there was something wrong with the guy who just dumped me because he's 34 and never been married...I'm 32 and have never been married, which obviously means I am also damaged goods. Thanks for the therapy fuel, dad!

Sra said...

heidikins: Thank you :)

Sov: Thank you too. I don't take offense at the wedding dress thing. It's totally true, right? I've never been able to picture myself in one. I'm one of the only girls I know who didn't plan out her wedding day and select the number, sex, and names of my children by the time I was 11. And thank you for writing a long response, It makes me happy when my posts inspire good comments.

Loralee: I want to be clear that I'm not anti-marriage, despite the title of this post and my statement that I'm not a fan of it. I just don't like that marriage holds a superior status that it often doesn't deserve. People think that marriage solves problems, when often the truth is it magnifies them. I don't know why that is, but it happens a lot. I know, I read a lot of advice columns :) But seriously, I also do know a few couples who seem to be very happy in their marriages, and I'm happy for them. But I want people to see that you can be just as happy in un-marriage. Frankly, I feel bad for cultures like Mormonism in which marriage is espoused as the only way. (And especially when girls my age are considered old maids if not married!) That makes for an awful lot of pressure.

Pants: I think it's pretty impressive to be in your 30's and never have been married, for both guys and girls. Kudos. Besides, 30's are the new 20's. I mean, our parents were farther along in the maturity scale in their 20's than 20-year olds are these days. Hmm, yes probably best to get a new confidant(e) for heart break sagas.

Sra said...

heidikins: Thank you :)

Sov: Thank you too. I don't take offense at the wedding dress thing. It's totally true, right? I've never been able to picture myself in one. I'm one of the only girls I know who didn't plan out her wedding day and select the number, sex, and names of my children by the time I was 11. And thank you for writing a long response, It makes me happy when my posts inspire good comments.

Loralee: I want to be clear that I'm not anti-marriage, despite the title of this post and my statement that I'm not a fan of it. I just don't like that marriage holds a superior status that it often doesn't deserve. People think that marriage solves problems, when often the truth is it magnifies them. I don't know why that is, but it happens a lot. I know, I read a lot of advice columns :) But seriously, I also do know a few couples who seem to be very happy in their marriages, and I'm happy for them. But I want people to see that you can be just as happy in un-marriage. Frankly, I feel bad for cultures like Mormonism in which marriage is espoused as the only way. (And especially when girls my age are considered old maids if not married!) That makes for an awful lot of pressure.

Pants: I think it's pretty impressive to be in your 30's and never have been married, for both guys and girls. Kudos. Besides, 30's are the new 20's. I mean, our parents were farther along in the maturity scale in their 20's than 20-year olds are these days. Hmm, yes probably best to get a new confidant(e) for heart break sagas.

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