Leslie Cook

Do We Still Need Marriage?

In In My Opinion..., Marriage on June 23, 2009 at 5:23 pm

I just finished reading an essay by Sandra Tsing Loh about the demise of her marriage and the question she asks is, in the long run, are marriages still necessary?  Granted, her article is written from the losing end of the proposition.  She is, after all, getting a divorce and is a tad jaded about the subject.  But in this world where we’re seeking marriage equality for everyone, I suppose it is a valid question to ask.  Should anybody really bother doing it? (http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200907/divorce )

Initially it sounds like she’s having a crisis of expectations.  Yes, marriage over the years has been built up to be this amazing thing where two people come together and become one.  Angels sing, and all of your problems miraculously disappear.  Anyone who has ever been married knows this isn’t true, and yet we all still cling to that 1950’s “Father Know’s Best” image of a marriage and a family.  And, when our messy lives don’t meet this standard, we assume there’s something wrong with us, rather than grasping the reality that life is just messy and sometimes complicated.  Most problems can’t be wrapped up in 30 minutes.  Some of them will never be wrapped up.  And, from what I hear, if you throw a few kids into the mix, it is chaos forever, briefly injected with fleeting moments of peace.  Why would anyone want that?

Well, that’s what I thought about marriage until I met, at the ancient age of 41, the man I would eventually marry.  Totally untraditional I guess.  I mean, most people have been married and divorced at least twice by 41 (especially in my family).  But not me.  Can’t say way, other than a noticeable lack of proposals, but, the single life was never the gaping hole of failure that it was for all of my friends.  I kind of liked it.  But I kind of like being married too.

Marriage is obviously different than the single life.  You have to say “we” a lot and actually remember to inform the other person that they’re expected to accompany you to the 1st Annual Bulgarian Stomping Beetle Fest and Beer Chug.  But it’s also nice to be able to sit next to someone and not say a word, or just hold hands and watch a bad movie together.  True, this doesn’t require a marriage license. But there’s something to be said about knowing that the person sitting next to you can’t just up and leave without calling a lawyer first.  After all, marriage is just a contract between two people.  And sometimes it’s nice to have a contract.

And this is where I disagree with the “religious” people out there.  Marriage isn’t a “sacred” contract.  It’s just a legal contract.  If I wanted a sacred contract, I wouldn’t have to sign a papers.  All I’d have to do is declare my love and devotion to my husband and my god out loud and we’d be done.  Of course that would complicate the whole legal “in the eyes of the state” thing with property and such.  This isn’t a huge problem for my husband and I because we really don’t have anyone to pass name and property along to, other than the dogs.  I guess a legal marriage makes it easier to pass my stuff along to him after I’m dead, which is nice for both of us.  But now I’m just rambling.

Anyway, according to this article, my 4 year run of happiness will be up in August.  I’ll let you know how that works out.

Sandra’s parting words in the article, “… avoid marriage—or you too may suffer the emotional pain, the humiliation, and the logistical difficulty, not to mention the expense, of breaking up a long-term union at midlife for something as demonstrably fleeting as love.”    And I say, how is this different than being single with kids and breaking up?  Same pain, same expense, same humiliation.  It sounds like what she’s really saying is don’t ever fall in love and make a life with anyone…it’s just gonna hurt you in the end…which is true.  But what other reason are we put here on this earth?  I can almost guarantee that we weren’t meant to be alone.  And it helps if you have kids, cause someone has to pay for my social security when I’m old.

So my answer to her question is this.  Yes, marry if you like.  Have kids, have a good life.  If you pick the wrong person, break up.  Try not to hurt the kids too much while you do it.  Yes marriage is still relevant in this day and age, if only to make the break-up a little more organized.  But the perks of knowing that the one person you love most in the world will be with you forever, even if it’s by force of law, is a nice feeling.

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