On marriage

People ought to be straight with each other, and give each other a heads up. Life seems to be a slow unravelling of unfortunate revelations that are completely unsupported by the things we were taught to be right (right in a moral sense).

A 1953 Simplicity pattern modified with white rose lace; clutch from Only Midge

I attended a wedding. It was lovely. All the people came, oohed and ahhed, feasted magnificently and made merry. Prior to the wedding, I scoured Keats for some inspirational lines on love, but found him to be too authentic for wedding card wishes: a moment after speaking of joy, he plunges into the depths, always linking the two together. Life is simply not all roses—and love especially.

Lace ruffle added to split; shoes from Modcloth

The marriage celebrant bemoaned the youth of today and their loathing of anything binding. A more intelligent way to consider it is that we have seen the mistakes of our parents and grandparents, and we recognise the gravity of such a contract as that of marriage. As everyone clicked their cameras and giggled at the flower girls, and ogled the diamonds and evaluated the bridesmaids’ hair, the couple vowed to stand by each other in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer. As we filed out, all I could say to my mum was, ‘Man, this marriage stuff is heavy—what if your spouse ends up terminally ill, in poverty?’ I like the balance that has traditionally been built into the ceremony (though I’ve seen others that emphasise that the bride will love and obey her husband as the church does Christ, while the husband gets to be the deity of the relationship), that contrasts each positive with its negative, and quite starkly so. But I’m not so sure that weddings ought to be the celebrations that they are. At least, they should be equally serious as they are happy.

And this is the problem that has plagued generations: their elders push them into unions as morally correct and as blissful, God-blessed unions, but once couples have passed through to the other side all the difficult things are revealed. And I don’t mean difficulties like shared toothbrushes. I mean mismatched personalities, unequal ambitions, drastically different perceptions of family and the like. If our elders treated marriage as seriously as many of my generation do, they wouldn’t push us into legal contracts with people we haven’t yet investigated fully enough.

So let’s be straight with each other: signing a legal contract promising you’ve got someone’s back no matter what is kind of a big deal. Forsaking all others until death parts you signals you are certain that you’ll never meet another person whose temperament, humour, interests and financial aptitude match yours so perfectly. Hiding all these hard things under expensive bouquets and intricately beaded lace and inspired photography won’t make these things go away, and doesn’t lend the situation the true gravity it deserves. We saw what your parents drove you to, and we questioned your choices. That is why we are taking our time and don’t fear your judgement.

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6 thoughts on “On marriage

  1. Oddly enough I was thinking many of these things last night, and wondering if I would steer my daughters in the way that I may have been when I was growing up. Lovely blog.

    • Thank you. I think it’s becoming harder for parents who are trying to steer their children in the wisest direction, especially with their own parents breathing down their necks. As a child, I recognised that my parents were still trying to appease their own parents. I knew that if I forged my own route, part of them would be mortified and the other part would be on my side, wishing they had done the same. x

  2. So much to think about there, and very well said. I would add that “we have seen the mistakes of our parents and grandparents…” and we have a *choice*. My own mother was turned away from skilled jobs with advice like, “We only have one woman working for our company, and she’s ugly. You’re pretty, so you’ll find yourself a nice husband and end up leaving.” We’re not trapped in that way — we don’t have to get married in order to survive in some modicum of comfort, or to have sex without children, or to become respectable in society — and so we think of marriage differently. Many parents may have trouble wrapping their heads around that.

    I’m really enjoying your blog; it always gets me thinking about things in different and interesting ways. Thank you.

    • Thanks for the kind words! We do need to give our parents time to wrap their heads around our choices! It’s quite harrowing that the results of that lack of choice are still trapping people today–my mum did things the ‘right’ way for her time, and now that she’s been out of the workforce for twenty-five years, she has a formidable leap to make to be able to do something truly for herself. Having been provided for by her loving husband, as was correct, calling any money her own just feels wrong, and puts her off pursuing her interests. No one has done anything wrong, they are simply cornered by old ideas in a changing world.

  3. Truth. As someone contemplating entering into my second marriage, I think of the things that wne twrong before, and how I will do things differently, etc., but the truth is, we just can’t control the big stuff. Its great to have an ally in life, and I feel we can do our due diligence, but there comes a point beyond which we cannot see. I reckon its a very good idea to take that leap seriously.

    • I like what you say about having an ‘ally.’ I definitely feel empowered by having a sidekick, a kindred spirit who knocks about with me and appreciates the things I do. And I’ve always felt that if you work hard enough, you can be happy enough with anyone–so maybe you could take marriage seriously, or you could take it lightly, and hope for the best. The take-it-lightly moments usually follow discussions on the hard things that are just beyond planning for. So do we do what we can with this ancient institution, or do we walk away and say that it demands the impossible?

      (I love following your projects too). x

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