This is a continuation of last week’s post in which I discussed disposable relationships, esp. marriage.
I’ve seen the term ‘starter marriage’ used in the media to convey that first, brief, childless marriage usually occurring during or right after college. I know people who’ve had such marriages. I also know people who got married because they discovered they were expecting a baby. Too many of those “Because of Baby” marriages didn’t work.
Now, I’m not saying that it can’t work. But consider: a somewhat shaky relationship between a man and women. Neither have had time to ponder what they want out of life, what they want out of a relationship, what they hope to accomplish individually and together. Now add a complete stranger to the relationship. A totally helpless, dependent stranger who is going to count on you for the next 18 to 20 years. That’s a heavy load for even the most stable relationship.
I myself wasn’t always keen on the idea of marriage. I just didn’t understand my parents’ relationship. It seemed dysfunctional to me, yet they stayed together through thick and thin until my dad’s death in 1991.
I never really appreciated their marriage and the lesson from it until I started these last two posts. For my parents, for some reason (probably religious on her part, who-knows-what on his), marriage was forever.
Marriage = Forever
And that’s the subliminal message I grew up with. And although I’m only 16 and a half years into ‘forever,’ here are my thoughts on love and marriage.
1) Marriage = Forever*
The exceptions would be in cases of physical and/or emotional abuse, some cases of infidelity if – and only if – the trust between the husband and wife can not be rebuilt, and some cases of addiction if the addicted party is unwilling to seek help.
2) As a Catholic, I believe that Marriage is a Sacrament. I stood before God, thanked him for bringing this amazing person into my life and pledged to love him always. For better or worse (fortunately things have been pretty damn good), for richer or poorer (I think we’ve got the poorer part nailed), in sickness and in health (yeah, been there, done that).
3) True or False: Love fades. I guess it depends on what love means to you. If you mean the butterflies-in-the-stomach, can’t keep our hands off each other, just calling to hear the sound of your voice stuff – well, that’s not love. It’s a chemical reaction in the brain (and perhaps a couple of other body parts). Hormones. Lust. And it’s why I believe in long engagements.
4) Love is 10% emotion and 90% choice. Every morning you have the opportunity to choose to love the person lying next to you. No, I don’t wake Dear Hubby and say, “Today I choose to love you and reaffirm my commitment to you. Now how do you want your eggs?” It’s just a brief nanosecond mental note of why we’re together. It’s how I assume responsibility for my marriage rather than putting it on auto-pilot. When you forget to choose, or you’re too busy to choose is when complacency sets in.
5) True or False: Passion fades. Answer: Not necessarily. It’s more like the ocean tide. It ebbs and it flows. Sometimes you have to work at it. Other times, it sneaks up on you by surprise (as it did with my parents – see yesterday’s post). The trick is to have something to keep you in the game, so to speak, during the dry spells. If your significant other is fun to be with, trustworthy, respectful, has a good sense of humor – well, that can certainly carry you through any dry patches.
6) Sometimes you have to redefine “romance.” Dear Hubby still brings me flowers sometimes. We hardly ever hold hands with each other in public as we used to do – we’re usually holding our children’s hands instead. He doesn’t write the love letters that he used to occasionally write. He does, however, make sure the three boys get their baths so I can have a few minutes to myself at the end of the day. That’s pretty romantic to me.
I admit I get a little frustrated when I hear someone say that they’re divorcing because they “drifted apart” or “fell out of love.” I asked a friend who was going through this what she did to try to save her marriage. Did you try to talk it out? Did you try to get away just the two of you to reconnect? Did you try to put the spark back in the relationship? Did you try counseling? Did you try?
Now, I don’t want to offend anyone who had a marriage end. Some marriages just can’t be saved, and I’m sure you have reasons just as good – or even better – than the ones I listed in #1 above. Some marriages should’ve never had happened in the first place. If that’s your situation, then this next statement obviously doesn’t pertain to you. But in this disposable society, I think too many people enter into marriage without ever giving serious thought to what it means. And too many people give up so quickly. Someone once said that “parenthood ain’t for quitters.”
Neither is marriage.