What’s Wrong with Getting Married?

I just spent two full days on a road trip with my oldest daughter. We got along great most of the time. The only time we came close to arguing is when we were talking about people having children without getting married. She’s convinced that I’m critical of women who have children “out of wedlock.” Which is ludicrous because when she had her first child she didn’t marry the father and I have always supported her decision and even thought that she was wise to handle it that way. But that was mainly because she had no interest in being in a relationship with the baby’s father.

Now she’s pregnant with her second child, but this time she’s with the guy that she intends to marry—eventually. They’re (he is) apparently not ready yet, and that worries me. When is he going to be ready? Will he ever be ready? Or will he just be content with being involved with her without making that final commitment?

She said that her dad (my ex) has never said anything about them not being married. But she’s not exactly being fair to me. I’m not critical of them not getting married because I think it’s immoral or bad for society. I did say that I thought celebrities who don’t get married help to perpetrate the idea that marriage is an optional, even obsolete, institution and I don’t think it is. But I realize that you can be married without that sense of commitment and not married and have it. I hate that when celebrities get married—maybe when anyone gets married—people ask themselves, “I wonder how long it’ll last?” Instead of thinking, “Isn’t it wonderful that they want to spend their lives together?” How did we get so cynical about marriage?

It’s funny how gay people are fighting for the right to get married while straight people are eschewing it. I think marriage is important because of what it symbolizes: that you’re committed to one another and plan to make a life together. I know I tend to think that people who don’t get married aren’t willing to make that commitment and that’s not necessarily true. But if they are committed, why don’t they formalize that commitment and announce it to the world?

People blame marriage for causing bad relationships when it’s people who cause bad relationships. When a marriage fails, it’s not because the couple got married. It’s because people change. Or they realize that they don’t have what it takes to stay married to this person, which of course is something they should have realized long before they considered marrying him or her. But I don’t think it’s right to blame marriage per se for making people unhappy with each other. It’s not marriage that’s the problem; it’s that people see it differently than they used to.

Some people are against marriage because they’ve been burned before. My daughter’s boyfriend (intended? significant other?) is one of those people. He married once before and it was a disaster. But that’s obviously because he married the wrong person. Now he’s supposedly with the right person and he’s dragging his feet.

Part of my reaction is on behalf of my daughter. She deserves to be with someone who loves her so much he wants everyone to know that he’s totally committed to her. I tend to see marriage as “proof” that you can’t live without each other.

I guess part of my “problem” is that I’m almost 60 and “I just don’t understand” the younger generation. But I came of age in the era of free love and distrust of anything that smacked of the Establishment. Plus I’m a feminist. It could be that I’ve gotten more conservative in my old age. But I don’t think that’s all of it.

Marriage just seems like a logical step to take when you’re ready to make a life-long commitment to another person. If you’re not ready to do that, then for God’s sake, don’t get married. But even I’m not clueless enough not to realize that getting married doesn’t ensure that you’re going to stay together forever. And that getting married before you’re ready will almost guarantee that you won’t.

The fact that I’ve been married four times could mean that I really, really believe in the institution of marriage. Or it could mean that I just don’t learn from my mistakes. But the thing is, I don’t see a marriage that ends as a failure. I see it as a good try. At least I feel like mine have always been the result of my commitment to that particular person at that moment in time. The fact that my first three marriages didn’t last doesn’t mean that I failed at marriage. If anything, it means that t took me a while that it was okay to not be married.

In between my marriages, I actually enjoyed myself. By the time my third marriage ended, I had come to prefer my own company to that of a man I couldn’t completely count on when the going got tough. If I hadn’t found a man like that, I wouldn’t have married a fourth time.

The only negative I can see about marriage is that if it doesn’t work out between you and your spouse, you have to go through the legal machinery of getting a divorce. But anytime you’ve mingled your life with another’s you’re going to have entanglements that won’t be so easy to get out of. I’d rather risk having to get divorced if things go wrong than to not risk banking my entire life on another person.

Headlines You Will Only See On April 1st

  • Stay-at-home moms and homemakers to earn Social Security credit.
  • Stay-at-home moms and homemakers paid for their work.
  • All American children guaranteed health insurance.
  • All Americans guaranteed health insurance.
  • Health insurance premiums dip to new low.
  • Health care costs decrease.
  • California upholds legality of same-sex marriages.
  • All states legalize same-sex marriage.
  • Federal mandate makes it illegal to discriminate against mothers.
  • Women’s political participation surpasses 50%  mark.
  • Women make up majority in House and Senate.
  • Vatican rules that women can be priests.
  • Vatican rules that priests can be married.
  • Equal Rights Amendment added to Constitution.
  • Transgender declared a “third sex.”

Continue reading “Headlines You Will Only See On April 1st”

Babies Before (Or Instead Of) Marriage: What’s Your Opinion?

Does it matter when Baby comes?

The just-released State of Our Unions report tells us that the percentage of kids born outside of marriage rose from 18% to 40% just since 1980. Not only that, but the number of kids whose parents are “just living together” rose from just under half a million to over 2.5 million during that same period. But that doesn’t mean that marriage is on its way out. The same report states that among high school seniors, 71% of boys and 82% of girls said that “having a good marriage and family life is extremely important” to them. But at the same time, over half also said “having a child without being married is experimenting with a worthwhile lifestyle or not affecting anyone else.” (Except for the child, of course.)

In data collected by The National Campaign, 47% of 18 to 24-year-olds say they expect to marry and have a baby with their current partner, but not necessarily in that order. Certainly, the example set by celebrities is that it’s almost the norm to have one or more children–or at least getting pregnant–before marrying (if they even marry at all).  Are young people today following the lead of those who are in the public eye, or are the celebrities merely mirroring the changing norms of society? Or is it a little of both?

It might sound like I’m disapproving. And I am, a little. I can understand an unplanned pregnancy precipitating a wedding. I can even accept a woman having a baby when she doesn’t have an ongoing relationship with the father. But if you’re going to get married anyway, why have your baby before the wedding? Wouldn’t you rather be husband and wife before you’re father and mother?

Continue reading “Babies Before (Or Instead Of) Marriage: What’s Your Opinion?”

What I Know

I just finished reading Alice Eve Cohen’s What I Thought I Knew which is a memoir about her late-in-life, unexpected pregnancy. Sprinkled throughout the book are lists that Cohen titles “What I Know.” The items change over time to the point where Cohen apparently decides that she never really knew what she thought she knew.

Using her lists as inspiration, I thought I’d write one myself, keeping in mind that what I know today may not be what I know tomorrow. So here it is:

What I Know

  • I love being a woman.
  • It’s hard to be a woman.
  • I thought I would be a perfect mother.
  • I failed, but my children survived anyway.
  • I loved having all daughters.
  • My grandson made me love boys.
  • The first time I married I wasn’t really ready.
  • The two marriages I rushed into turned out horribly.
  • The two I waited for were much better.
  • Marriage is all about expectations, failed and fulfilled.
  • Divorce isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you.
  • Death of a loved one is.
  • Getting older is disheartening and scary.
  • It is also liberating.
  • Being a woman isn’t about youth and beauty.
  • It’s about survival and wisdom.

Does Feminism Cause Divorce?

I’ve never had a problem with marriage. In fact, I marry too easily.  If I’m in a serious and exclusive relationship and the guy wants to marry me, I concur. And so I find myself married once again.

[That’s not entirely true. I had to convince my first husband to marry me. But we were only 20 and now I can understand his reluctance. I should have been reluctant, too. But instead, I was pressuring him. I had just become a feminist the year before, but I didn’t then and still don’t think that being a feminist means you can’t be married.]

I’ve always married—or agreed to marry—rather precipitously. My first husband and I started dating in November and married the following July (much to my parents’ consternation—we didn’t inform them that we were getting married until two months before the wedding date). My second marriage occurred six months after my first divorce. I was single for four years after that, but only because my third husband wasn’t free to marry until then because of a protracted divorce. And my fourth, present and last husband and I had to wait three years for his fiance visa to come through.

Now that I reconsider, I have to admit that the man’s desire to marry might just have had a lot to do with my own openness to it. I never once said, “I’m not ready. Let’s wait a while.” The times when the marriages didn’t happen right away were because of outside forces, not my own reluctance. I’ve just never been cautious about getting married. And I have three divorces to show for it.

Continue reading “Does Feminism Cause Divorce?”

I Could Have Used Feminism…(Part Two)

Feminist Buttons 1968 - 1972

I could have used feminism…

  • when my first marriage ended in divorce and I was faced with raising four daughters alone.
  • when I moved back in with my parents instead of getting my own place.
  • when my ex got the child support reduced and I didn’t fight it.
  • when I thought that remarrying would solve all my problems.
  • when I decided against going back to school after my remarriage because I thought I didn’t need it.
  • when I took another shit job instead of trying to make it as a writer, which is what I really wanted to do.
  • when my new husband became abusive and I still didn’t get out of the marriage for another three years.
  • when I became a single mother again (even though this time we had our own home).
  • when the father of my kids stopped paying child support.
  • when I was sexually and psychologically harassed at work.
  • when I got pathologically dependent on a new boyfriend.
  • when I thought again that getting married would solve all my problems.
  • when I stayed in my toxic job even though the abuse continued (for a total of 16 years).
  • as my children matured and I needed to give them a role model.
  • when my parents died and I became the matriarch of the family.