Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What does it mean to be married?

On Dating Advice (Almost) Daily, Terry responds to a reader who really wants to get married:
Just because you're attracting men who are willing to do everything with you except make it legal doesn't mean all men reject the idea of marriage (not by a long shot). The next time someone refuses to marry you but suggests you bear his children, just say, "No, thank you. I want to get married, and I'm going to hold out for a man who wants to get married and spend the rest of his life with me."

Then walk away.

In the meantime, picture yourself being married, not to some clown who asked you to give birth to his children, but to a man who treasures you and makes your happiness a priority.

What would this marriage look like? Feel like? Taste like? Sound like? Smell like?
Now, I have no problem with the Law of Attraction [my personal M.O. for life includes thinking a LOT about what I do and don't want so if the things I want then happen, who am I to say that it wasn't the 'Law of Attraction' at work?]. But I keep wondering: if that woman actually sits down and tries to picture herself married, does that picture really look different than a committed, lifetime relationship that isn't called 'marriage'?

This isn't a trivial question - it's one I've been asking myself a lot. I have always said that I really don't care about being married, largely because I know a heck of a lot of couples who are in lifetime relationships but who aren't legally married (interestingly, all straight couples). What I do care about is being with someone who is committed to me and our relationship, and by that, I mean someone who fully expects to spend his life with me and is willing to do the work necessary to make sure we stay happy together.

But of course, one has to be careful what one asks for (btw, this should be in huge letters on the front of books about the Law of Attraction!). My relationship with J is pretty much exactly what I'm always said I wanted, right down to the fact that he does not want to get married. It's not a commitment thing - he says he is committed to us, wants to grow old with me, and I believe him. For him, it's a political thing - he's super-libertarian and he doesn't think the government has any business being involved in marriage in any way. He actually has no problem with a wedding (which is good, because I want one, but that's the subject of another post) or being married by a minister, if I were religious (which I'm not), but I don't think we will ever be married in the eyes of the State. And I think I'm OK with that. But once in a while, I'm not sure. And then I start wondering why I'm not sure (did I mention I think a LOT about what I want?) - how would being married be any different than not being married? Am I just reacting to society's expectations? And let me be clear that by 'society', I do mean the nebulous world 'out there' since there isn't a single person who I care about personally that would ever ask me "why aren't you and J married yet?" or the equivalent. But it's hard to fight the subtle matrimania that seeps into every aspect of our lives.

This will surely be a theme I return to a lot, especially with some big weddings coming up this spring. As always, I welcome your thoughts...


Sylvia said...

You know, before I got married, I would have said that it would (should) not make a difference. Your relationship is is that personal connection between you and the other person and the other stuff is just society trying to impose a label, blah blah blah. Obviously relationships don't need "marriage," but there is something. There is something that feels different when other people can officially acknowledge that you are a couple, and a wedding is a way for people to celebrate that with you. But there are also very pragmatic reasons to get married since it is a legal/financial tie (you think of those really heartbreaking stories of gay partners being shut out while the other partner is dying in the hospital, for example). It allows you to share your stuff and share your decisions in a way that society recognizes.

But, honestly, I just want to go to your wedding. There are many many people out there that would want to celebrate your relationship with J with you publicly!

Em UK said...

Interesting that people use the 'what other people think/how your relationship is recognised by other people' argument when talking about why people should get married... And how it somehow 'feels' different. Not to mention the nice dress and the big party. Hmmm. Not to mention the expense and the chance to show off maybe?

Other than the legal/financial side of things I really don't see the point of marraige. And here in the UK you can sort those things out without the need to get married, so that's what myself and my partner do. Maybe, sometime in the distant future, we may decide to get married so that when one of us dies the other gets pensions and savings and so on, but hopefully by then there will be an alternative option, much like the civil partnerships that are allowed between gay partners over this side of the pond.

I may be biased - I have seen my mother swan through 4+ marriages, all pretty unsuccessful, and I don't want to go through all of that, but to be honest I think that there is something incredible wonderful and romantic about the fact that my man can walk out the door at any time he wants, because there will be no messy divorce or financial/legal ties, and yet he choses not to. That isn't to say that all marriages are held together by apathy, but you can bet your life that some are.

Also, my commitment and love is for my partner, I don't need to profess it to the world, and neither does he. What we have is ours, and ours alone to celebrate everyday without the need of any outside influences, and I love that.

(ps: first time commenter, love your blog!)

Jenn said...

@Sylvia: I've heard that from a lot of people (both the thing about getting married feeling different and people wanting to celebrate my and J's relationship :-)). Living in California does mean that we have fewer issues with the legal stuff but it's definitely stuff we're thinking about.
@Em: Thanks for your comment and welcome to the blog! I have similar thoughts about how it's nice to know that we aren't staying together just because it would be too complicated and legally messy to walk out - not being legally married seems like it's more obvious that you are making a conscious decision every day to stay together and I like that.

Karen said...

Before my wedding, I was totally freaking out because I wasn't sure I wanted to be married. I knew I wanted to be with my now-husband, but MARRIAGE, with all its cultural baggage, was not something I was interested in. Also, my parents' marriage was a disaster (they divorced when I was in high school), so I was not exactly keen on the institution. Now it's been almost two years since our wedding, and I've calmed down a bit, and I'm glad we are married (and did the whole big white-dress-flowers-catered-dinner thing). It means something to have your friends and family witness your commitment to each other, and celebrate it with you. It allows you to be part of the community. I think this is why gay couples want legal marriage, as opposed to civil unions - it's the acknowledgement from your community - and in some cases, your religion - that your relationship is accepted. Jenn, if you do get married, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There will be a lot more questioning/analyzing to come!