Monday, January 29, 2018

My Misgivings with Modern Marriage

Hi all,

Before I am immediately written off as cynical or unromantic, let me start by saying that the premise behind marriage based on romantic love, I not only agree with but think is beautiful, wildly romantic, and a very worthwhile goal for those who want such.  Striving towards building a life with someone, a layering of so many hundreds of thousands of nuances, emotions, shared experiences, moments, of navigating through both immense challenge and awesome triumph, all while doing so together, I think this is a truly awesome thing.  Its incredibly emotionally moving when two people love each other enough (as well as are generally well matched) to move forward together with the intent of doing this.  So I am in 100% support as well as awe of the idea behind what a marriage based on love signifies, when this is two peoples main reason for being together.

However.  With the way marriage is approached nowadays, both the wedding day itself, as well as the idea of marriage in the big picture afterwards, there are some aspects of it that I find well as downright negative for our culture as well as the individuals in it.  I believe that if we could separate and ultimate eliminate those trouble spots, filtering them out if you will from the main idea and values behind marriage, that a lot of relationships might thrive much more so than they do when muddled with many of the clouding and not so encouraging mindsets that have seeped their way into the big picture of marriage nowadays.

So.  Here are where I feel the trouble spots, not-so-good values and/or the dangerous ways of thinking with regards to marriage are in our culture:

  • The still very prevalent, oft unspoken about but narrow gender roles that tend to permeate most marriages.  The man usually being the breadwinner, the head of the household, the one who works.  The woman tending towards being the primary caretaker of children, the one who gives up working in light of having them, the person who handles their social life and calendar, who does the cooking and baking, as well as much of the housework.  Changing her name as a near knee jerk response to getting married, and taking on the mans (essentially, giving up part of her identity- a near automatic reaction and assumed response to marriage).  And forget about homosexuals being allowed to marry- that isn't even an option.  It still isn't recognized in most states.  So their wanting to have such a union isn't even allowed, according to most of our culture.  All in all, there are still extremely narrow ideas about both, what a marriage should look like from the inside, as well as who is even allowed to have such a thing. 

  • There is a perspective that older, single men are seen as "independent," "sexy," "cool," "stoic and strong," in their choosing to live a life doing their own thing, without a committed long-term relationship.  Whereas a woman who decides on remaining single is looked at as a "spinster," an "old croon," as something to be pitied or even suspicious of.  As though her life is lacking, or that she "just couldn't find" a man- aw, too bad, queue pitying looks from all.  So while men not marrying and remaining single tends to be looked up to and considered a respect worthy choice, with regards to women, its considered pathetic, sad, their lives unquestionably lonely and the women must most certainly being left wanting.  How absurd, unfair, and even often times, untrue is that?  What a double standard, and a ridiculous one at that.  

  • Relationships end.  Yes, many endure (although, just because a relationship lasts doesn't mean it should.  Not sure why simply by means of a relationship being long and lasting, that its considered an automatic success.  Not even close to so.  Plenty, in fact loads of people, stay in relationships resigned, rather unsatisfied and not very happily), but just as many end.  They end for any variety of reasons.  People change over the years.  What might once have been a good and the right fit, may no longer be so.  People might marry too young or too soon in life, realizing they may have picked someone who isn't a great match for them over the long term.  Betrayals can happen between two people which one person is incapable of getting over.  Taking ones love for granted or relationship laziness and lack of effort may occur, silently causing the relationship to crumble and wither over years.  Deal breakers may come up, which the couple is unable to surmount together, splitting them into separate directions- though not necessarily for lack of love.  The relationship might either have always been (but maybe it was unrealized prior), or grow into, an unhealthy one which needs to be ended.  The possibilities go on and on.  Some of these reasons do not mean the couple was a bad match all along.  I am a believer that each person we meet comes into our lives for a reason at that time.  Whether to challenge us, teach us something, help in a part of our lives we might need it, show us what we don't want or where we might need to address certain weaknesses within ourselves, etc, whatever the reason, there is one.  But the point is that while some relationships last and are truly happy as well as good fits over the course of a lifetime, many do not, and this is ok.  Its normal.  Its nothing to be ashamed of.  Its part of being human, changing, being open to growth and the ever shifting phases of life.  A relationship ending isn't a failure.  Its an authentic and real part of moving through ones life stages.  What does, to me, more mark being a major mistake, is staying in something that no longer fits.  Wasting ones precious time left, that is ticking every minute of every day, with the wrong person.  

  • I personally don't like the idea of being bound to someone by legal means (aka a marriage license), the government and law having a hand in my relationship.  There is something that's kind of ick about that to me.  I understand that to some people, that slip of paper holds a lot of meaning.  I respect that, and can understand why.  I also get that, unfortunately or not, that slip of paper offers benefits like lower taxes, better health insurance rates, etc.  But to me, there is something (in some ways) far more romantic about not being legally bound but instead, choosing to be with that person every day.  Simply because we want to be.  Not because we may feel its no longer fully right but because we feel trapped and daunted by the legality of impending court battles and proceedings, if we were to choose to leave, so we stay partially because its just "easier."  Having a marriage license can become a deterrent and stressful barrier with regards to the decision to walk away from someone, even if that might be the right thing.  This can cause people to stay where they otherwise shouldn't.  Personally, I want to be with someone because I truly want to be, deep in my heart.  And I want him to want to be with me for the same reasons.  

  • I suspect the idea of marriage does not appeal to quite a few people.  To many, I know it does, and that is a great, respectable thing.  For those who wish to get married, they should absolutely do such.  But I often feel we still live in a very one-size-fits-all society.  There still seem to be pretty narrow ideas of what constitute a "good" romantic relationship.  It must be monogamous.  Eventually married, that is, if you are "truly" committed to one another.  If you don't get married, apparently you aren't serious about each other.  You should live together.  And children should generally follow at some point- otherwise, you either literally biologically must not be able to have them (oh, pity those two, how sad), or you are "selfish."  That's basically it with regards to how we believe relationships should look.  Oh, and you should stay together at all costs, otherwise, you have failed.  At least, according to our culture.  If your relationship trajectory or nuances look much different from this, people draw judgements and often, harsh ones.  That you're "less committed," or "must not be in love."  That you're "selfish" or that your relationship "isn't as good as others," just to name a few.  This is sad, short sighted, as well as frustrating to me.  Since so many of the relationships in our world that do follow this narrow and essentially demanded-upon-mold end regardless, why do we all assume that this one way is still the "right way"?  Plenty of relationships that follow the traditional expectations also aren't that happy.  Yet, as a society, we still seem to be rigid, generally unaccepting, as well as afraid of relationships that might look differently, or follow a vastly different trajectory.  Why, because something is different, must it be worse, less happy, less real, or less wonderful?  Surely there must be more than one or two ways to have a happy, healthy romantic relationship?  

  • The money spent on a wedding day.  My god.  On ONE single day, which will be over in a manner of hours.  People spend thousands and thousands of dollars.  And further...

  • The whole culture of what weddings have become.  No longer are they really about celebrating the couple and their love, but more nowadays, popularity contests, fashion shows, and showcases in selfishness and greed, these things tending to dominate more and more.  Who gets chosen as Maid of Honor, Bridesmaids, or Best Man, and if a friend isn't "chosen," feeling slighted or even angered.  Fights ensuing, even losses of friendships coming to pass over such.  Finding the "perfect" dresses, wedding dress (which usually costs an arm and a leg) as well as bridesmaid and maid of honor dresses.  Everything must be color coordinated, and all the girls and guys essentially looking the same, wiping out all sense of individuality.  Hair the same, shoes the same, etc.  All becoming interchangeable and matchy matched for synchronized photos of the day.  Guys and girls footing obscene bills for their suits, bridesmaid dresses, hair, shoes, as well as to throw parties for the bride and groom, which have become multi-day, hundreds and hundreds of dollar feats.  Obscene.  And then friends are seen as shitty if they express feeling hesitant about any of such.  This whole scene of expectation and entitlement, of throwing money around left and right for such, of silly battles over who gets picked for what, all of this leaves a majorly bad taste in my mouth.

  • And to throw in a minor irk, Bachelor parties.  So let me get this straight.  One is committing themselves to one person for the rest of their life (I am assuming, as this is the premise behind most traditional marriage molds) and yet, at the Bachlor party, its encouraged, laughed about and even permitted that another woman undress themselves, rub their body all over, and sometimes even go further physically, with the man who is about to be married.  As well as his friends, many of whom are likely in committed relationships themselves.  Huh.  So because they are "getting hitched," they are essentially permitted to cheat for an evening and do things that would very likely deeply upset and hurt the woman they love.  But, because the naked woman is being paid, and because its his "last Hurrah" and because this is "just what people do" in wedding culture, its all ok.  How does this make any sense?  It shocks me that women turn a blind eye to this, either dismissing or laughing it off because "this is what a Bachelor party is."  Just because something is what our culture does, does not mean its right, logical, good, or that its what people should continue doing.  Why does no one ever stop to question or challenge things like this?

In conclusion, from what I have both witnessed and read in our culture at large, both weddings and the premise behind marriage have become twisted as well as lost in a smog of ridiculousness.  From the money spent on one single day, to the obscene amount of both entitlement and expectation behind such.  To the encouragement and allowance of essentially cheating, a "freebie" of sorts, at ones Bachelor party (absolute absurdity at its finest).  As well as many people getting married because its "what you do," not because the idea and tradition truly appeals to them.    

What about instead, considering some new or varying ideas/approaches.  A few of these could be (though there are of course, a plethora of other possibilities as well):

--Promise rings.  Not wedding rings that apparently symbolize "forever" (since really, who can truly promise this?  No one), but instead, promise rings as symbols of deep love and a commitment to wanting to build a life together right now.

--How about vows instead of impossible, fantastical promises like "I will be with you forever, until the end, through sickness and health, no matter what," which again, no one can truly promise, instead something like: "I love you deeply, I feel we are a great and healthy match, and right now you are the person with whom I want to build a life.  I am committed to and invested in this, to working through challenges as well as triumphs with you and our relationship hopefully intact.  I intend to work hard at this to the best I am able.  If any of this changes, I promise to speak about such with you openly and honestly."  To me, much more honest and realistic vows.

--If you so choose to get married, how about having a more intimate, small, do it yourself type of ceremony somewhere outdoors, natural, under a forest canopy, or in a field of wildflowers, or on the beach, with just 20-30 of your nearest and dearest.  Make it a potluck.  Everyone brings food as part of the celebration.  People can wear whatever they want.  No bridal attendants (aka bridesmaids or groomsmen).  You eat, dance, and celebrate both the couple in love, the journey they intend to take together, as well as everyone being together.  That's it.  No frills.  No over the top, insane, unnecessary add ones and what are ultimately, distractions.

--Or, instead of getting married, why is a marriage the only authentic and worthwhile relationship celebration people are allowed to have?  Why not have a commitment ceremony?  Not a wedding or marriage, but instead, more what I outlined in the second point with regards to potentially more realistic promises, complete with promise rings.  If this sounds more real and appealing to you than a marriage or wedding.  

--Or, instead of a commitment ceremony or wedding, what about having a celebration for each year that you are together?  Inviting friends and family to a small party to celebrate your relationship and their presence in both of your journeys thus far?

--And how about, if instead of viewing marriage as a unit involving husband in role of breadwinner and protector, while wife is typically relegated to the role of "angel in the house," nurturer and domestic goddess, if instead we saw marriage as a spiritual, intellectual, artistic and social partnership.  A lifelong collaboration, a consistent growth, an ongoing project, an ever shifting and constant becoming, both together and separately but side by side.

--As well as, with regards to how one choose to judge and perceive others relationships, why not attempt widening your idea of what is "acceptable," "right" or "ok."  Just because something might not work well for you or be something you would choose, doesn't mean it wouldn't be right and good for someone else.  What might be the best route or way of being for you, can be something totally different for someone else.  Neither one is wrong nor right.  Its merely a matter of perception, an "eye of the beholder" sort of idea, if you will. 

Living together, or not.  Married, or not.  Monogamy, or in some kind of other arrangement (as long as both people are honest with one another about it, seem to be happy, and treat each other well).  With children, or without.  All of this is ok, and not just ok but valid, good and authenticThere are so many different ways a good relationship can look and be.  As long as both people in the relationship feel well, supported and healthy, as long as it works positively for both of them, as long as both people are treating one another with respect, love and honesty, relationships can look like many different pictures and that is a great and respect-worthy thing. 

Different does not mean less valid, less real, or less good.

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