It can’t be the only thing you want to do. Marriage, that is.

The title essentially sums up my thoughts on today’s idea, but I am tired of proofing the bad writing of others and feel like doing some bad writing of my own. 

I really believe marriage can’t be the only thing you strive to achieve, and even more importantly it I don’t believe, at least in this day and age, it should be seen as one in a series of steps taken for the right kind of life. Show me a person waiting to get married, only so he or she can buy a house, have children, retire, have grandchildren, and then buy a place in Boca, and I will show you a person sorely disappointed very early in his or her marriage.

So I’m not misunderstood, let me emphasize that I don’t think there is anything at all wrong with wanting any or all of the above things. Certainly I hope to own some sort of abode, someday, for instance, if only to experience that kind of interaction with space and place.  But I do believe it is, at least incredibly unfair to yourself, to postpone the above dreams while waiting for marriage, and it’s also unfair to expect whomever you do marry to instantly be ready to reach for those same goals.  I mean, it sounds so very Oprah of me, but life never, ever, ever goes exactly the way you hope and if you postpone things in your life that you want simply because you are waiting for your soulmate, you may never reach the goals you hope to. If my life with S. had worked out exactly as we had planned when we were twenty-one, we would both have ph.d.’s and be teach at Harvard, WITH, thank you very much, tenure. And two dogs, a golden retreiver and a collie. And we would own a home, some sort of old, crumbly Victorian we could fix up together because that, of course, can’t be anything but romantic.  

It saddens me a little bit because I can think of several of my girlfriends write now, as I’m writing this, that are in one way or another putting off things they want to do because they are waiting for marriage. One desperately wants to have children, but doesn’t feel comfortable pursuing that on her own, while another wants (and can afford) to visit Europe, but refuses to because she hopes to experience it with her husband for the first time.

The best marriages I have witnessed in my life blossom between two people with complementary passions and temperments.  For instance, S. is absolutely a workaholic, and currently he works during the day, attends law school at night, serves on the Moot Court Board and is editor of law review. I do not see him on what anyone else would call a regular basis, but this complements by temperment because I need significant time alone to read and to write and to blog to you people. If I had a husband at home who wanted dinner, say, nightly, or wanted to hang out Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – well, suffice it to say, I wouldn’t be married anymore.   My dad would leave us for days on end to hunt and fish throughout Northern Michigan and when I asked my mom recently if she ever grew lonely she vehemently shook her head. “I need that time, that time to myself,” she said. There is something about reading or watching a movie or cooking a dinner while alone that can be very soothing and restorative.

I do tend to think that happy marriages stem from couples who possess equal amounts of passion for different subjects, but that’s probably because that’s the kind of marriage I know. It seems to work for many people I know, for one person to be focused and passionate about the arts and the other to be more business-oriented, but it still works if couples share the same subject.  Unhappy marriages, from my limited experience, seem to occur when one individual expects the marriage itself to fulfill him. S. once noted that he felt when  he married me he was even freer than he was before, because it allowed him to fully concentrate on his education, sort of well, this one thing in my life is taken care of kind of way. 

Certainly, my marriage has given me the greatest direction I’ve experienced to date, and it has formed me and shaped me in a thousand ways I probably don’t yet recognize. But I believe one of the reasons has worked all through our twenties, when at times it honestly shouldn’t have, is because I could always recognize it wasn’t all I am.  My writing, and for quite some time and hopefully again soon, my acting, guide my days in a way that has remained the same since I was twelve…room must be made for the things I love. To that end, I really believe mariage can’t be the only thing you want to do. Whether you hope to have children, climb Mt. Everest, write a novel, build your own home, learn to ice skate, direct plays, get a ph.d., live in France for a year, read all the Great books – you need to want to do other things, and you need to pursue them with urgency, because life is simply to short to assume the correct series of steps will take you exactly where you need to go. The saddest marriages, I think, are the stereotypical kind you see on television, where the marriage, the house, the children are just a series of demands on everybody’s time, and the husband only looks forward to squeezing in a quick game of golf, the wife searching for just a few moments alone.

If marriage as an institution is at all important to our country (and quite frankly I don’t necessarily believe it is, but more on this Friday) then getting married needs to be, in a sense, a freeing act – it should allow the two people commiting to each other freedom within the institution. A sense of potential should attend the act, and if it doesn’t, it shouldn’t occur.

Well, do you just want to gag at me? I sort of do. Did you throw up in your mouths, just a bit? Don’t worry. Tomorrow, I am going to tell you every marital rule I break, and how big of a shithead I can be, and you won’t want to gag any longer, I promise.

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5 Responses to It can’t be the only thing you want to do. Marriage, that is.

  1. yogamum says:

    Sometimes I think I shouldn’t have married someone who wants dinner every night and doesn’t go out and do things on his own. Sigh. But I love him to pieces!

    Love your last paragraph and can’t wait to hear the rest!

  2. missv says:

    I’ve been enjoying your marriage posts. I’m getting married early next year so these kinds of issues have been on my mind lately. We’ve been together for five years and living together for three years, so I’m not expecting any great changes.

    I wrote a post the other day on a related issue, about my ambivalence about becoming ‘the bride’.

  3. yogamum – but see, there are always so many exceptions! I think every single woman could blog daily about the perceived do’s and don’t of marriage but we’d rarely get anywhere because each marriage is so unique!

    MissV – Congratulations! – S. and I lived together before we were married and knew each other for a long time before that…no big surprises for us, either. Thank God.

  4. Emily Barton says:

    I’m loving your posts on marriage. Wish I’d had them to read when I was twenty two — would have saved me a lot of heartache when I always seemed to be the odd one out, not solely focused on getting married and often wondered what was wrong with me.
    There’s so much to comment on with both this and your last post, I’m feeling I may need to write some posts of my own at some point in reaction, if you don’t mind.

  5. Katie says:

    I love the honesty of this series! As one of your single friends, but yet one that has had lots of conversations with you about marriage and life, I was even surprised at some of it. Most people I know are pretty guarded about what happens at home… but all that does is perpetuate marriage myths and make people assume there’s something wrong with them when problems happen because EVERYBODY ELSE IS SO HAPPY! 🙂

    But, as a single friend who really wants kids (not sure if I was even the one you were talking about), I don’t think I would be a single mom by choice. So this one has to be postponed and I can settle for mentoring and tutoring and loving on kids who need a healthy adult in their lives. I think that being a single mom has to be one of the hardest life stages to be in and I admire anyone who can handle it. I just wouldn’t be one if I could help it. Does that make sense?

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