Sunday, September 30, 2012

How Do You Know Forever is Forever? PART 1


My reasons for not wanting to marry do include my feminist views, (duh) but have more to do with good sense.

There is this myth; that if you are in love and have been together for a certain amount of time, marriage is to follow “naturally”; a natural progression. Marriage is expected in our culture. If you have been with your partner for what others deem to be a long period of time, you are likely to get the question; “So, when are you getting married?” thrown at you from every corner. Marriage does not ensure longevity and it does not “solidify” anything; “I do”, does not equate to a lifetime. 

Whenever, I hear of someone who is engaged to be married I experience two thoughts:

1) I am happy that the two love each other and are going to engage in an act that they feel is celebratory and joyful.

 2) Most relationships end therefore more than likely the marriage will end.  While this may seem dreary or even rude, I can’t help but think that relationships aren’t necessarily meant to last forever. Initially this was a devastating idea to hold as I certainly wish to be in a healthy/enjoyable relationship that lasts until my dying day. Some actually do make it until “death to we part.” But even with the hope and belief that a relationship – married or not -- will last forever; relationships can end after 3 years, 10 years, 36 years, and so on.
I’ve noticed that when some couples talk about their future, they discuss whether they want to marry but rarely discuss why they wish to do so. The why seems to be a given, therefore it is not discussed.  When one party decides that they are ready to marry and they sense that the other is ready to marry, they pop the question.  The explanation that seems to seal the deal is, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you” or “I want to grow old with you.”

I sometimes question as to whether couples would pursue marriage if it weren’t considered a romantic occasion. If there were no flowers, no white dress, no tuxes, no extravaganza; would marriage be as appealing? I do not understand how a wedding day signifies something that is different from any other day of devotion; nor do I understand why a wedding is described as “the best day” of our lives.

Being that there is this standing myth that marriage is the epitome of love, it is often accompanied with the belief that if a spouse does not wish to marry, they are not truly in love or committed. It has the potential to feel like a slap in the face and can often lead to a break-up; a deal breaker.  

I once had a conversation with a friend who told me that she believes monogamy without a license is not likely to last. Her belief was that marriage would motivate a couple to work things out much more than a relationship that wasn’t “locked down.” She went on to say that the threat of divorce is much more frightening than the threat of losing a boyfriend. 

As sad as this is, I don’t necessarily disagree with her. Avoiding divorce is not only about the fear of losing a loved one; but enduring a legal process that is emotionally and sometimes financially draining. What’s troublesome is that the legal aspect is often the motivation to stay together, rather than love. 

Because marriage has these legal binds; a relationship without it, seems easier to walk away from.  In some ways it might be, but commitment is commitment. It’s possible to do your damndest without witnesses and an altar.

There are many financial benefits to marriage and if you are like me and you do not wish to marry then you definitely need to think about how you are going to cover yourself if your relationship results in Splitsville.
Historically, my only attraction to marriage was the fact that I wanted to be next -of -kin to my partner. 

Luckily I learned that in the state of California it is possible to be a legal next-of-kin to an unmarried partner.

Marriage in many ways is still somewhat of a business arrangement.  Fathers still give their daughters away and say to their future sons in law, “Take good care of her.” Even though we are far from the days where fathers exchange cattle and land for the expectation that the groom will protect a defenseless woman; there is still the idea that a woman needs protection and should be treated like a lady (whatever that means).
Although couples can certainly define their own marriage; most refer to contemporary traditions, based on historical rule.

According to Merriam-Webster marriage is defined this way:
a (1) : the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2) : the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage marriage>
b : the mutual relation of married persons : wedlock
c : the institution whereby individuals are joined in a marriage
: an act of marrying or the rite by which the married status is effected; especially : the wedding ceremony and attendant festivities or formalities
: an intimate or close union marriage of painting and poetry — J. T. Shawcross

The majority of what is explained here has nothing to do with an actual relationship and more to do with ceremony and homophobia.
As you can tell by now, I have thought about the concept of marriage carefully. Once upon a time I wanted to marry and followed the preconceived logic, that marriage meant forever.

Over the years, I came to my own senses and realized that love can exist with effort and care alone.

To read PART 2, click here.
To read PART 3, click here

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