I’ve been mulling over writing a post about marriage since I was first chosen as a Season 4 blogger. My parents divorced when I was 14, my Mom has since divorced again, I have a newly-divorced BFF, Hunny and I were together for 10 years before getting engaged last November, and Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed was a recent beach read of choice.
In a nutshell, I’ve spent more than my fair share of time thinking about this topic and I would be doing the Stratejoy tribe a disservice if I conveniently skimmed over it.
While I could probably write a series of posts about marriage, for now, I’ve summarized 15 years of thinking into a Top Five list. These are the pillars of my perspective, if you will.
Here we go:
1. A wedding does not make a marriage.
I’m with the lovely Amanda on this one: the cocktail party isn’t the point. So often, weddings – and people’s reasons for wanting to get married – miss the mark. Millions of people out there bicker about orchids, wine menus and dress necklines, as if they’re factors in a loving, long term relationship. This loss of perspective is so contrary to how I want to live my life that, for 10 years, my reservations about weddings held me back from wanting to be married.
That may or may not have been right. But here’s what I discovered: in waiting until my heart desired a marriage, my ego no longer needed a wedding.
Couples shouldn’t need a legal document to tell them how to take care of each another. The focus all along should be on cultivating the love, understanding, patience, commitment, laughter, intimacy, and fun that make a marriage. Weddings – at both their simplest and most significant – are a one-day celebration and expression of that.
2. Marriage is not hard work, a life with meaning is.
“Marriage is hard work. I don’t foresee much benefit being returned to me for all of the effort that would be required. Therefore, I will not get married.”
There are plenty of people who believe in this line of thinking – or at least, one similar to it. I recently came across one such person, who blogged about marriage being overrated, and I surprised myself by getting really fired up about it. This is my uncensored response:
If you think avoiding marriage is protecting you from investing a shit tonne of effort in another person, you’re wrong. Any relationship between two souls is hard work.
I can think of oodles of times when I invested “marriage-like effort” in a relationship with someone else. I’ve compromised, trusted, done favours for, made sacrifices for, supported, encouraged, accepted faults, forgiven mistakes, been hurt by comments and actions, cried, argued, bit my tongue about annoyances, and looked past imperfections. Haven’t you? For your parents, siblings or best friends?
The simple truth is that interpersonal relationships bring meaning to our lives. Marriage is simply one label for one of those relationships. Avoiding the label doesn’t avoid the effort behind it.
Besides, being in love with another person inevitably means you’ll be willing to invest the effort required to share your life with them, whether you’re married or not.
3. Avoiding legal marriage does not mean you avoid heartache, or hassel.
If you are in love with someone, breaking up is going to suck the big one, whether you’re legally married or not. If you live together, bought anything together, share children, hobbies, pets or friends, are legally considered common law, or made any long term plans, breaking up will hurt. It will also be a nuisance.
Sure, dissolving a legal marriage adds a few additional layers and more paperwork, but compared to the knock-you-on-your-ass amount of pain that is likely to exist anyway, its not all that significant.
4. Fearing divorce doesn’t prevent it from happening.
Life is full of curve balls, don’t you think? Job losses, opportunities, surprise pregnancies, illnesses, temptations, windfalls, tragedies, and so much more. All of those things can affect a couple’s ability to stand united, find intimate connection, and sustain their love. Can anyone guarantee that their relationship can withstand each and every possible curve ball? I don’t think so. I won’t guarantee that Hunny and I can, but that uncertainty doesn’t scare me.
Why waste time thinking about how to avoid divorce from becoming a possibility? Its way more rewarding to love someone with your whole heart during the time you do have together – whether its a few years or a lifetime.
5. Legal marriage is old school, but that doesn’t mean its useless.
Sure, I see a pile of flaws in the institution of marriage. I hate that additional legitimacy and legal rights are offered to married couples, over non-married couples. I can’t stand the “50-50 rule” of divorce and think it’s beyond outdated. I believe that human imperfection can sometimes lead two people to stop loving each other as well as they should, before death does them part. And, I’m pretty sure that having one sexual partner for decades at a time is a societal norm that is becoming less desirable and relevant with each generation.
But at the end of the day, avoiding the paperwork doesn’t give it less power. In many ways, it gives it more.
Pretending my relationship doesn’t have the qualities of a marriage, when it does, isn’t fair. Not giving my loved ones the opportunity to give us our blessing would be robbing them of something. Not to mention, making Hunny feel that he’s not worthy of being my husband, or I his wife, is a bit of a slap in the face.
Because the reality is, those terms are special and the union they represent is meaningful. Our society is a long, long way from rendering legal marriage useless. So just like accepting the bad and the good in people, I accept the bad and the good of the institution. After all, nothing’s perfect.