Friday, October 16, 2009

On Marriage

For as long as I can remember I assumed that the purpose of a relationship--a steady one of a considerable period, that is--was to set you on the path towards marriage and children. I love kids (in that perfectly-legal fashion ) and believed that a solid coupling was based on the exchange of marriage vows.

But lately I've had a change of heart.

I do believe that one day I may want kids, a secure environment to raise them in and maybe, if I'm lucky, someone by by side. But those are no longer the driving forces in my life. That is in no way meant to denigrate anyone who has chosen otherwise, has a happy marriage and is blessed with wonderful children. You are the truly fortunate and I say that with no sarcasm or empty sincerity at all.

But I now find the ideals I kept close to my heart for so long served more like safety nets or life floaties. As long as I was married or engaged then I felt I was 90% on the way to happiness an security. But that is never the case. I'm not saying marriage won't bring one such. For some marriage may very well be the great sundae under which you place that cherry.

But people need to know themselves before they can confidently be a partner for another. I can't say I don't want to be loved. We all do, whether in or out of wedlock in whatever combination works for us. But what I want now is to be in a relationship where each person has their own thing, they're own ambition and accomplishments, and are not so intertwined. The people would certainly support and cheer the other on but it never falls into the unfortunate assigned roles of a caretaker and the cared for (barring a horrible disease or accident that would require such, since I would also have no intention of ending a relationship out of infirmity. This is about partnership, not selfishness).

I'm almost certainly rambling here. These thoughts have been with me for weeks but this is my first attempt to try and craft them as some sort of coupling canon. I want the person I love to be able to fulfill their best goals. I want the same for me. And, when the time seems right out of professional, financial but most importantly emotional stability, then the idea of children may very well become a reality.

I don't expect everyone to agree with this. I welcome all different opinions. I want to hear from people, not talk at them or just stay locked in my headspace with ideas I'm too afraid to challenge. One of the driving forces for me now is the courage to, quite frankly, fuck up. Only then can I finally figure out where my horizon line is and my path to it, alone or with another. So please, I implore you to share your thoughts.

And hey, maybe next time I address this topic it'll be in the form of a far more lucid narrative. :)


Andy Jukes said...

Makes perfect sense to me. Marriage should be an equal partnership, not an unequal balance, or else someone will end up feeling inferior and the whole thing will go down in flames.

Charlene said...

Marriage can't make you happy. Kids can't make you happy. Nothing exterior can do that. If you can't be happy without kids and a spouse, you can't be happy with them.

And you know what? Not everyone has to be the same. There is no need to marry, no need to be in a permanent relationship, no need to have a family. I don't say "not everyone's cut out to be a spouse" - that makes it sound like being single is for losers who aren't able to handle a relationship. This is nonsense. Lots of people who would make good spouses are happier single. Lots of people who would make good parents are happier without children.

Unknown said...

"I want the person I love to be able to fulfill their best goals. I want the same for me."

This is far too sensible. Pretty soon you're going to be thinking like a grownup all the time, and then what will we do for entertainment?

Seriously, good luck to you. I was lucky enough to find this sort of relationship, and may you also be.

Anonymous said...

A happy marriage is not a promise to every couple. Those who discover the keys to a happy marriage manage to make it and prove that marriage can be full of bliss.

Learning to make sacrifices helps keep a marriage happy by letting things go that could spiral into an argument. Do you want to have a happy marriage or do you need to be right all the time? Don't allow pride to get in the way, keep the peace.

Brian Fies said...

You've had too much therapy.

I've been luckily and happily married 25 years and have two great kids. Here's two things I've figured out are absolutely true:

1. A good relationship isn't 50-50. It's more like 70-70. Aiming for 50-50 leads to score-keeping and resentment. I did the dishes, why can't you make the bed? I compromised on this, why can't you give in on that? Instead, set your sights on giving 70%. Trust that from your partner's POV, you're not always a treat to live with in ways you don't even realize, and they're giving 70% too. When things get rough and it really seems like you're pulling more than your share, chalk it up to your extra 20%. That surplus 40% in the middle fuels a lot of generosity and forgiveness.

2. When it comes to kids: you're not there, you may not ever get there, and there's nothing wrong with that. But if you do, Calvin Trillin wrote the truest thing about parenthood I've read: "Your children are either the center of your life or they're not. The rest is commentary."

If marriage is 70-70, then kids are 95-5. If that sounds too one-sided, maybe it ain't for you (although you'd be surprised what you can do when you're in way over your head and paddling fast; you might even love it).

I doubt you're ever going "know yourself" well enough to "confidently be a partner for another." No one does, and "yourself" is just going to keep changing anyway. What, you're going to wake up some nice April morning when you're 97 years old and decide that's the day you finally know yourself and are at last ready to take on life? Nobody's ever ready, man! That's what makes it interesting, surprising and fun. And funny.

Come on. If Ted Forth can handle it, you're more than adequately equipped.

hekates said...

One of the best ways to learn about yourself is by commiting to another, and to one's children. Sure, it isn't for everyone, and raising children will definitely change your best goals. But, I would not be half the woman I am (and I think I'm okay) nor have really learned who I was without being in a partnership. And I have two kids. I always say the first one completed me, and the second showed me who I could be. Its awesome.

Russell Pirkle said...

it seems doubtful that anyone ever reaches a place where they're really ready to have a healthy loving relationship. we always fall short. we will always have bad moments. we will always be flawed and hurtful and inadequate.
we selfishly enter into a relationship anyway, and sometimes we find that we are, for the most part, good enough. or we don't
As for the notion of each person having their own goals . . . it seems like that could cause conflict, since you would probably have to sacrifice some goals for one another.

I'm in a relationship now, even though I don't feel self actualized or secure at all. I decided that I thought I was being selfless by remaining alone, but really I was just being afraid.

Sally Forth is my absolute favorite comic strip.

Laura Holman said...

Everybody's needs are different. Some need to merge entirely with someone else, some don't. (for the record, I am a merger and it's awesome. for me) If marriage wouldn't meet your needs, then trying to force yourself to marry certainly isn't going to meet your needs.

I was going to say something else profound, but then I started daydreaming about pocky. Think I should go find something to eat instead.

jim said...

Problem is to many people marry first and then find out the partnership is unbalanced and then become selfish and have already added kids who are then the ones that suffer from the selfish spouse.

Anonymous said...

Don't lose YOURSELF in a relationship. Hormones and extensive bonding neglect to change your interest and talents.

Also, waaaaay too many people keep their eyes shut to opportunities that could threaten the stability of their relationship, even if it's fitting for them.