Sunday 8 March 2015

The Evolution of Marriage

The more I see or hear of people getting engaged or married, especially at an early age, the more I find myself becoming cynical of marriage. Every guy I've ever felt something positive or romantic towards, is now either unappealing, married or engaged. I feel left behind and it's kind of like being back in high school all over again.

I didn't really get to start my life or do catch up until I was 22 when I'd moved out of home and was really learning how to survive in the world entirely on my own steam. I know it's bad to compare, but sometimes I just can't help it. I feel like I'm still just figuring out my life now and people are already settled down and married or whatever and I've never been on a date or held a guy's hand.

I was discussing it with a good friend the other day. He himself had been briefly engaged to the point where he'd applied for a mortgage to support his future wife only to find that her mentally ill mother had essentially brainwashed her into breaking up with him.

I told him about the guy I used to work with and how it was making me dislike the idea of marriage even more. So many people seemed to be getting married so young, I wondered whether it was because they felt some kind of societal obligation to or they genuinely thought it was the right thing to do so they did it.

During a conversation with another friend, I told her about the guy from high school being married at my age, she said 25 is still so young which I concurred with. I always thought a more mature or appropriate age was late 20's to early 30's, that way you'd gotten all of your fun living stuff out of the way and were ready to move on to the next stage of your life.

I've known a few people who got married really young because it was part of their culture which I think is fair enough, but when you've got a choice to do so, why rush it?

I've always loved the idea of marriage though. I've dreamed about my wedding day so many times, the dress, the music, the location, the vows, etc. But seeing what my parents were like and how much they fought when I was growing up, plus only seeing them show affection maybe once or twice in my entire life, that's enough to ruin any fantasy.

My parents didn't believe in divorce, for both religious and personal reasons. My dad's parents' divorce was incredibly painful and messy, I know this because no one ever talks about it. Mum was a school teacher who saw kids who were caught in the middle of a nasty divorce battles getting left behind and forgotten, it broke her heart to see it so it seemed my parents just settled for a blah marriage. Sure they still love each other deep down, but you'd never think or know it just by looking at them. I get that some couples are very private and aren't big on PDA, but the incredibly few times my parents actually acted like what I'd consider a happily married couple surprised me so much that I had to check it was really them.

One of my greatest fears which the psychic I mentioned in an earlier post picked up on during the first reading I ever had with her was that I'd just settle for whatever. She told me that wasn't going to happen to me and I was immensely relieved.

I was discussing my new found disdain for nuptials with another close friend. I told her that for me it felt like a trap. You made a legally binding agreement to love, honor, obey, trust and be loyal to someone for the rest of your life. While that's not the hardest thing to do, people change as much as life does, I don't get how you can promise something like that when you have no idea how you're going to feel tomorrow, next week or in a few years time. Maybe my disdain comes from my family's inability to do a happy marriage well, hence my upbringing and the string of divorces and defactos on my dad's side.

I posted a question on Facebook a few years back pondering it. One of the responses was that they believed the person they were married to is the person they were meant for and it was an easy thing to do when that happened. Another response was that it was a continual effort to make it happen but you did it because you love that person. Fair enough.

In the movie 'Ever After' which was and still is one of my all-time favorites because it's a version of Cinderella where she isn't depending on a prince to save her and knows how to fend for herself, the prince asks Leonardo Da Vinci when talking about his impending nuptials to a Spanish princess, how is he meant to know who the right person is for him. If he marries someone, does that mean that she's the right one, or if she dies and he marries someone new, does that mean that the new person is? What if the two were walking side by side, how would he know then?

It made me wonder, how can I be completely certain that the person I end up marrying is the right one for me? What if just after I've gotten married I meet someone new and fall madly in love with them?
I've met, had strong feelings for and eventually gotten over my fair share of guys, who's to say that won't change when it comes to marriage?

When one of my close friends and I have talked about marriage, she's fairly indifferent and unexcited about the whole thing which she attributes to her mother dying when she was so young and her father not knowing how to raise her or her brother so she was essentially taught not to show emotion. Even though her fiance is absolutely crazy about her and wants to settle down as soon as possible despite his poor lifestyle choices and deep seated insecurities, she's content just to go to a marriage registry and be done with it, he's the one that wants the whole shebang.

I told her I was always thrilled by weddings and even did a certificate in wedding planning. I loved the event and spectacle of it even though a former teacher who I had an obsessive crush on getting married was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. But with time and wisdom I've learnt that it's not about the wedding itself, there's so much more to it and that's kind of terrifying when you realize how quickly things can change.

In an episode of Buffy where Xander and Anya are preparing for their wedding and his family comes to town who he can't stand, and Anya's friends and family who are mostly demons (she's a vengeance demon) are treated poorly by them because they aren't human, the two of them end up locking themselves in the bathroom to escape from it all. Xander tells Anya that their marriage will be different but they just need to get through the wedding because they were two different things.

I remember mum telling me about just after she and dad got married and he told her he was a traditional guy and what he would and wouldn't stand for. She immediately wondered if she'd made a mistake but somehow convinced herself it was all okay to this day.

I know of couples who have had the same thing happen. A family friend married her high school sweetheart and a year or so in he split after deciding he didn't want to be married any more. She's since moved on and is happy now, but it shows how easy it is to happen.

One of dad's half brothers married his girlfriend and from what my dad's sister told me, a year or so later she'd left in order to pursue her career. She said he treated her like a princess and told me that I should never settle for crap. She herself had been engaged to her high school boyfriend and had run off with him for a few years until he mistreated her one day and she decided to leave. I asked her about him and she laughed and said she assumed he was probably dead by now, implying that he got mixed up in drugs or something.

From the last time I saw dad's extended family I found that the formerly married uncle was either single or with a new girl, one uncle who had had 2 boys with his house mate who he'd eventually married was now divorced and sharing custody with her, and the third one was either committed to or engaged to his partner and they had 2 boys together.

My grandfather and his wife of 40 or so years seem to be going strong still. They're not the most affectionate couple but their foundations haven't appeared to have shaken even if they are from a different generation.

That's another thing I struggle with. I've seen so many posts and comments about how back in the day couples would sort out their differences instead of getting a divorce, mum would always say that to me but I asked her, what if the other person wasn't prepared to change or refused to acknowledge there was a problem, would you really choose or be prepared to spend the rest of your life with them knowing they make you miserable? Clinging to religion in the hopes that it will save you is all well and good, but it's also a waste of energy when you could find happiness somewhere else.

When I talked to another friend about it she agreed that it was a tough call and it was possible to love more than one person at a time. She said that some people get to a point in their lives where they don't want to be with anyone else and are ready to settle down. I knew it made sense because I'd had a similar conversation with different close friend who'd said she was in the best relationship of her life and would quite happily get married tomorrow because she knew nothing about the relationship would change.

From the conversations I've had with my dad and boss, I could see where she was coming from, but wasn't sure if that was entirely true.

I could understand the thought process though. If you've been with someone for so long and put so much effort and energy into the relationship, it's easier to commit to each other for the rest of your life or whatever, rather than having to start all over again with someone new.

My cousin on the other hand has openly admitted that the thought of kids in the suburbs is her worst nightmare. Given that doesn't seem to possess any maternal or remotely emotional part in her body and her sister started having kids at 19 before finally married her partner 5 kids later, it kind of makes sense.

I've always loved the idea of having a family and knew I wanted kids since I was 5 when my parents continually refused to give me another sibling whether naturally or by adoption.
It all seemed so fairytale-like, but getting to my mid-20's has opened my eyes significantly to the reality of it all.

It's funny how much has changed. I used to collect images of wedding dresses and rings and mentally note songs that would be featured in the wedding, but now it almost makes me cringe. Maybe I'll feel differently when I meet someone just like the indifferent friend did. She always swore she'd never get married or have kids, but since her fiance wants both more than anything, she's open to the idea more than she ever was before.

I've seen and heard from a variety of couples through the years. Some of them still appear to love and cherish each other almost as much as they did when they were first married, for others the romance has dried up. I guess it's different for everyone.

A little while after I moved out of home but still went back to visit on a weekly basis, dad would open up to me about the earlier years of their marriage and tell me how quickly things changed. Mum stopped being the woman he'd been dating for a year or so and turned into her mother because she thought that's the kind of person a wife should be. Only for mum, it didn't work out so well because that's just not who she was but tried too hard to be.

I felt for dad. So much of the distance in their marriage came from mum's idea of what a wife should be, coupled with her inability to cope with mental illness and the strains that marriage and motherhood placed on her, it wasn't easy for anyone.

To my parents credit though, when I was in hospital with my surgeries, they worked like a well-oiled team to make sure I was cared for at every stage. Dad told me that it wasn't easy for anyone to deal with but somehow we made it work and no one fell apart, well not obviously at least.

Now that mum's going through her own health problems, I'm proud of my dad for stepping up and fulfilling his duties as a husband should. It's a hard time for everyone, but he's been endlessly supportive to mum and the rest of the family, just doing whatever he can to get through it all.
Life changes, people change, everything evolves in it's own time. If people can sustain a marriage through those changes then great for them, if not, decide what it is that you really want, how much you're willing to fight for it, then it's time to either take action, or move on.

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