3.04.2011

Soul Stories: on taking the plunge.

To marry or not to marry? Which path do you choose?
When we were kids, my sister and I used to play Barbie wedding. It was kind of like regular Barbies, except that the dolls were dressed up in their finest and instead of playing in one of our rooms, we played in the living room. That was where the stereo was.

My mom had a CD of wedding music and while we may have played a song or two as the bridesmaids marched down the aisle, la piece de resistance was the enormous sound of an organ in the first few notes of "here comes the bride."

We played wedding often, though it was usually sparked by a Days of Our Lives wedding on TV. Upon seeing the processional and sensing the emotion, it put us in the mood. And while I loved the grandeur of it and the tradition, I have to say that I can't remember connecting it with me and my wedding.

When I graduated college in 2003, weddings weren't on anyone's minds. Oh sure, there were the kids that had known each other since high school or those who were deeply religious, but for the rest of us, we moved to New York or another large city and hit the dating scene. Sometimes you went to bars and sometimes you went to parties, but most of the time you sat around wondering if bars or parties would give you a better shot at meeting a good guy.

I think we did see marriage as the step that comes after a few years of dating, but back then it was so far off that there wasn't much point in hashing it out yet. The scarier thing was that, as people got into relationships and were dating for a few years, we started to hear about marriage threats and the delicate conversations that were hard for people to have in their mid-20s about whether marriage was coming down the pike- or not.

Marriage (and a wedding) is positioned as the inevitable next step in a relationship and one of the things I thought a lot about last week on vacation was... why?? We live in a generation in which half of the people we know have divorced parents. And another half of the ones who remain married are in such a state of miscommunication and bitterness that they might as well be.

If you're in a long-term relationship in 2011 and you haven't seriously considered not getting married, then you're either a fool or naive or both.

At some point during a long dinner with two French friends (one of whom is raising 2 sons with her partner (male) and plans to never marry), I started to think about the people I know who are married. And how much they complain! And how insensitive some can be! And how some of the cruelest things I've witnessed first-hand have been the cutting and disrespectful language someone uses on a spouse. Not to a stranger! To the person they MARRIED!

Marriage started to feel like the goal that everybody slogs towards, attempting to push their not-yet-ready relationships across a finish line, the goal that becomes the reason for regret within a couple of years. And I did sit there and think "are we ready for this? Are we getting married for the right reasons? Why are we getting married?" Because as much as I love the idea of getting people in a room to celebrate, I can't bear the thought of being at such odds with Chris one day that we can't even be civil anymore.

So why go through it?

There are some goals in life that aren't for everybody. A PhD is a great example of this. Tons of people want to get PhDs, but only a handful succeed. That's because it's hard work to get a PhD; you know it's going to be when you start out and you (hopefully) know what you're getting yourself into. A PhD isn't the end of anything, but rather the beginning of a long and sometimes difficult career.

So what if we imagined marriage to be this sort of project? Not everyone should get married. And if they choose to, then they should know that the marriage is just the beginning of a long and difficult road ahead. It isn't easy to live with someone for your whole life. It isn't easy to constantly recalibrate your day or your feelings to account for someone else's.

But some of us are interested in exactly this sort of thing.

Chris and I talked for a while when I got back last Sunday about all of this. I wanted to know his feelings on the subject. And in the end, we agreed that we're interested in working on a life-long relationship. That's why we're getting married. We feel that, in embarking on this kind of mission, he is the best possible partner for me and I am the best possible partner for him. That's why we're choosing each other for this mission: because in the face of something extremely daunting, we're each others' best chances.

Nothing is going to change by me writing this post. People will continue to roll through life towards marriage as if it is an inevitability, just as having a baby will replace marriage as the next thing to do. But last week's conversations illuminated this subtle (yet important) distinction for us: we are choosing marriage. We aren't tricking each other into it and we aren't pressured by others to get it done, we are deciding that it's the right step for us.

Now how about we let gay people go through this same process, hm?

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