Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Thoughts on Marriage

It is the scariest adventure you may or may not ever attempt. It comes with no real guarantees. You put your heart and soul into it, and still it can leave you broke, alone, bitter and broken-hearted.

I’m talking, of course, about marriage.

The technical definition of marriage has remained the same throughout the ages, but the structure has changed drastically. It’s no longer (thank God) about a woman becoming a man’s property in exchange for some cows. It’s no longer solely for the purpose of breeding or family politics. In most cultures, it’s no longer arranged. And in my lifetime, I may even get to see the day where it’s no longer limited to a man and a woman. These days, it’s mostly about companionship.

In general, society seems to have a rather negative view of marriage, or at least it seems that way with the younger generation. In an age where infidelity and divorce happen constantly, it’s easy to see why some young people have decided it’s not for them. Everyone wants a wedding, but few really want a marriage.

Yet, millions of couples do continue to get married. They know their odds aren’t good, but they do it anyway. And while some think getting divorced will be just as easy as filling out a marriage license (clearly those people have never met anyone who has survived divorce), most know exactly what it is that they’re getting into… and they do it anyway. They must see past the scary statistics and truly believe that their relationship has the ability to go the distance.

Even as a married woman, I can’t say for sure what it is that makes these couples believe they have what it takes. In reality, you never know for sure if your marriage will last forever. Even if your love is strong, even if you’re best friends, even if you’ve been together for years and years…. People change. They become different people, and sometimes that means no longer being compatible as a couple. They change their minds and decide they don’t want to be married anymore. They give in to temptation and cheat. They get lazy and stop trying to do nice things for their spouses. And sometimes the passion fades and people realize there isn’t much else under the surface holding them together.

I was 23 when I got married. I realize now, even just four years later, just how young that really is. My husband was 26, so in “male years” we were about the same age. We had been dating for four years and had definitely made it through our share of tough times. We knew we loved each other deeply and we both believed we could make it. We had fairly realistic expectations both of each other and of what marriage would be like. We both felt emotionally ready to make the commitment.

Four years later, our marriage keeps getting better. Of course, it’s not perfect, but on most days it feels pretty damn close. This is mostly due to the fact that we always encourage each other to be our true selves. He encourages me to pursue my dreams and I encourage him to pursue his. We have a deep friendship that, when you remove the physical intimacy part of marriage (although believe me, that part’s still going strong) is still there and bonds us to each other. We both do nice things for each other so the other feels appreciated. Where one of us is weak, the other picks up the slack. We’re a great team.

But I admit, part of the reason we work so well has to do with luck. We have both changed tremendously since we met and we both continue to do so. A person changes like crazy in their twenties and thirties while they figure out who they are, who they want to be, what they want to do and what their beliefs and values are. My husband and I are lucky in the sense that we changed together. Some couples grow apart, but we’ve grown together into an awesome super couple.

The reason I think we have done this is that neither of us held the other back. We don’t have to agree on everything and we respect each other’s beliefs. I think some young married couples are so set on keeping their spouses the way they are, they prevent them from growing into the people they’re meant to be. That’s no way to live and it’s no way to encourage anyone else to live, either. If my husband and I had grown apart, I’d like to believe we could’ve let each other go in a mature fashion. At the same time, I’m so glad we didn’t, because at this point I honestly can’t imagine my life without him, nor would I want to. He doesn’t “tie me down,” he encourages me to fly.

I try not to judge others’ marriages. Every single marriage is different, and what works for one couple may not work for another. My husband and I have habits that would be “deal breakers” to some, while other couples engage in behavior that we never would. To each their own. At the same time, I admit that I do get offended when I hear people saying that things like gay marriages are a threat to their own traditional marriage. I can’t help but wonder how weak their own marriages must be if something like two people coming together in love, as they supposedly did, is somehow a threat to them just because they happen to be the same gender. People slow to adapt to changes are the weakest links in our society, especially when those changes have no negative effects whatsoever. I am glad my own marriage is stronger than that. Our marriage only has two people in it. Nobody else’s decisions matter.

I can’t even imagine what it must be like to be married to the wrong person. There’s not a doubt in my mind that I married the right person for me. Even if we ever did part ways, I would never regret marrying him because of everything he has taught me and all the amazing times we’ve had. But even though he’s the love of my life and the best husband anyone could ask for, sharing every part of your life with another person is quite an adjustment. Sacrifices must be made and compromises must be reached. If you’re with the right person, this is no big deal and it’s so rewarding that it’s absolutely worth it. If you’re not, I imagine it must be emotionally draining and make for one miserable life. No wonder so many people are angry and full of hate!

No one thinks about these things when they look into each other’s eyes and take their vows. Sometimes all they’re thinking about is the party and the fun that goes into planning a wedding. Sometimes they’re only thinking about how in love they are at that moment. What they should be thinking about, in my opinion, are the words they are saying. Promises do get broken. People are human and they make mistakes. But the vows of marriage are meant to last a lifetime, and I firmly believe that if people are just willing to make the effort, it’s possible that they will.


Anonymous said...

I think you have a very realistic and mature handle on marriage, more so than a lot of other people! You and Mr. W are both blessed.

Jenny Rebecca said...

Love this post! Every person I know or have met in the last couple years has said to me, even when they say they are happily married, "Don't get married. Don't ever get married." Your view is refreshing and appreciated so thank you!

Kim Shelnutt said...

Loved this one too! After 21 years of marriage I think I can recognize another one that will last. You may be growing and in your twenties (lucky b@#$%) but you and your wonderfully lucky man are wise in all the ways the matter! Enjoy!

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