Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Why does the myth of marriage persist?

Dear Reader,

Are you married?  Do you hope to be, one day?

No matter how you grew up - dysfunctional, or..wait, that's the only option - most of us reach a point in our lives when we're ready to settle down.  We meet a person we care about and we wait for the magic moment when they pop the question, or we might be the ones who go through the anxious waiting to find the perfect time, the perfect words and the perfect ring to express our love.  Then we get joyfully engaged, and everyone overflows with congratulations.  The wedding looms.  We plan and plot, determined to look beautiful and put on a stunning party.  The day comes. It's everything we've ever dreamt of.  Everyone looks at us with a light in their eyes.  Old couples dance, remembering their own special day.  Children run around out feet, ribbons in their hair, munching cake and laughing. The sun sets and the champagne sparkles.  Fireworks, candlelight, speeches, kisses.  The spotlight falls on you and your partner, twirling in the twilight.

Then life.

Resentment.  Low self-esteem.  Depression.  Children.  Wrinkles.  Illness.  Friends of the opposite sex leaning in too close.  You let them. Adultery. Contempt. Claustrophobia.

Why would signing a piece of paper protect you against all that?

Marriage seals you in.  It gives you a reason to be with that person that isn't want, but obligation. Now, I know that mortgages and children do this too, but they're a necessary evil.  Marriage is a myth.  Its basic principle - that you can promise someone you'll love them forever - is hopelessly flawed.  How could you promise someone that?  You are not the same person as you were ten years ago, and you will not be the same person in ten years' time.

I can't even promise my children I'll love them forever.  What if they become meth addicts, rapists, or go on a shooting spree?  What if they turn out to be people I despise? And these are people I have raised, influenced all their lives.  Would you still love your spouse if they did that?

These are hard questions to confront.  I'm not saying I don't believe you can love someone, or even love them for a lifetime.  But we seem to be so taken with the idea that we wilfully ignore the lessons all around us - it's rare. More than half of marriages are unhappy, and around half end in divorce,

Marriage used to be about money, status and convenience.  It was the union of the bloodline, the political power move that trumped all emnities.  Somewhere along the line, we've fallen in love with the idea of falling in love.  Why? Love, romantic love, erotic love, isn't what we think it is.  It isn't the longing to have a person because everyone else does, or the antidote to loneliness.  It isn't the feeling of owning a person or the status they give you.  It isn't boasting on Facebook or kissing in public. It isn't long-lasting or unconditional or lofty.  Its the simple expression that you would rather have this person with you, doing the things you are doing, right now, than not. Why the need to complicate that?

The upshot of all this delusion is that we apportion blame and contempt on those who leave a marriage.  The implication is that they didn't commit enough, or care enough about their kids, to 'make it work'; or that they were so wantonly led by their silly old genitals that they threw away a great relationship for a disgraceful fling.  Climb down from the seat of judgement, people.  Leaving a relationship because you don't want to be in it any more is nothing more than an act of bravery, and no-one else has a right to say otherwise. That way is the way to wasted lives, domestic violence, and marital rape.

If you want to get married, go for it.  It's your life.  But if you're not sure, think about it.  At least talk about it  - properly, deeply, meaningfully - with the person you are thinking of marrying and don't spare their feelings if you're not sure.  Most of all, don't put someone on the spot or be put on the spot to say 'yes' or 'no' - which is EXACTLY how most people do it.

So much of life relies on doing the next thing, the logical thing, the expected thing.  Marriage is a parent-pleaser, a bringing-together, a cause for celebration.  It's hard to resist that.  But you can, if you choose to.

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