Marriage: I Still Don’t, But…

Oh, the can of worms I’ve opened with yesterday’s posting. Part of my thing on marriage was tongue-in-cheek, but the other part, probably far too ground in my own past.

First of all, it’s not too often that I don’t explain myself clearly, but I guess I didn’t want to get too into things in that posting. It’d been a long night of insomnia, too many thoughts racing in my mind, and those little words, “I don’t” popped into my mind, and I thought, “Hey, let’s have some fun with that.”

Unfortunately, that “fun” has left me lying in bed for the last couple hours, thinking about just how wrong my parent’s marriage was. How much they lacked, and ultimately, how long it was all so bad. I hate the marriage that my parents had. I hate the way its demise wrecked both their lives. My father’s still a shell of a man all these years later. I’ve seen what a bad marriage can do, and even this morning, I’m left awash in sadness at the thought of it.

I often remember being in grade 7, on a cold, dismal morning, and my father was supposed to drive me to the schoolbus, which would drive me all the way out to my private school in the valley. An argument had begun just after breakfast, and it never really resolved before the drive was supposed to begin. Those fated words, “Go outside, I’ll be there in a minute,” were spoken by Dad, and the good girl I was, I went out on the frost-covered porch and began the wait.

In those days, I was in my Catholic school tunic and long socks. I must have stood on that porch for nearly an hour. The bus? Missed that. Dad had to drive me all the way to school that day, and he himself was late for teaching. I remember the anger and uselessness that seemed to emanate from him on that drive. But mostly, I remember the shame and bewilderment that 12-year-old girl felt as she stood out there in the frozen morning, listening to the angry shouting and the hurtful words being hurled in that house. It’d been that bad for three years, and would stay that bad for another three, but honestly, it was never, ever good.

No, I never witnessed a healthy relationship. I remember being aware, as young as grade four, of just how pathetic my parents’ marriage was. They never touched each other, never joked, and never seemed romantic. That said, they were both people with troubled pasts and generations of distant family behaviour before they set foot in that marriage.

The legacy of hurt, I think, tends to be established long before the rings land on the finger. It’s not marriage that’s bad, and I’ve not meant to suggest that. But this notion of saying “love, honour, and cherish,” and that will somehow be enough to get the ball rolling, that, to me, is a joke. It’s laughable. Marriage will be – and should be – the hardest, most challenging thing for a person to commit to in their lives.

We hear lip-service to that effect all the time, but that point needs to be driven home. People need to understand all the challenges they’ll face in relationships. Most people enter the “institution” with ignorant, idealized perceptions of what it is, and the vows and ceremony do sweet fuck all to affect that.

Honestly, I’m a romantic, I want nothing more than to dedicate my life to a guy who deserves it, and I want to know I deserve all that goodness to be repaid in kind. I believe in karma, I believe in respect, I believe in sharing, in trust, and in faith.

What I don’t believe is that one general definition of what marriage is, is the right way for our society to operate anymore. I don’t believe the vows say enough. I think we need to expand our perceptions of how marriages can operate. These days, there are new commuter marriages and even “open marriages.” Me, I’m more traditional than that. Yeah, I’d like to maintain separate bedrooms, but that’s because I’m at heart a pragmatic woman… and I can be a real night-owl and I suffer insomnia. It’s pragmatism, not cynicism.

Maybe if I’d been raised in a house where love ruled, maybe I’d be a different woman today. I know I would be. But let’s face it, I’m not the exception. I’m an average girl who was raised in an average marriage that fell apart in an average length of time. I’m a statistic. I’m the mean and the median, and I’m here to tell you, it just ain’t working.

But then, what today is? Relationships of all kinds need better guidance. People everywhere don’t know how to communicate. Whether it’s with a business client, a boss, or a lover, we really need to get our shit together. We need more respect. We need more understanding. But we also need to set a broader, more encompassing groundwork in all those relationships. We don’t know what the words “honour and cherish” mean anymore. We can’t even commit to buying a fucking cell phone, for god’s sake, and you want to talk lifetime commitment?

No, marriage as it stands today is not something I would enter into. Its recent history is one that is predominantly uninspiring. Love is all you need, right? Right, sure. It’s too bad, but most marriages detonate like a time bomb. People enter into marriage based on the models they know – the vows they speak, the parents they’ve had, the little they see in the media – thus, so many end so poorly.

I’m not saying a pledge of undying love is cheesy or antiquated – I’m just saying that marriage needs more. It needs much, much more, and none of that is suggested by the ceremony of old.

And I couldn’t even begin to suggest how to fix it. All I know is, the marriage I see around me is not the marriage I’ll have. I probably will marry in some way, but it sure as shit won’t be the routine marriage the media wants us to believe is still laden with love and affection. THAT is the anomaly, and yes, its rare occurrence is worth defending and fighting for. The few of you who have that, speak loudly, because the rest of us do indeed need to see it’s possible. We need to see something more real, more lasting than the bullshit like Bad/Jen/Angelina that the media wants us to idolize.

Love will never, ever be dated. Commitment will never, ever be antiquated. But the societal rules and the ceremonial approaches can be, and are, out-of-touch with the world at large. Marriage is broke. When 60% of them die on the vines, it’s time to find out where the fuck we’re going wrong. This is no time for romantics. There’s nothing sadder than watching a marriage die, especially when you’re a kid in the mix with front-row seats.

No kid needs to stand in the frosted air outside their house and hear the reality of a failed marriage, its insults and coldness, being hurled back and forth inside. No kid needs to write in their journal wondering when in the hell the yelling and name-calling is finally going to end, wishing for a divorce. Society needs a reality check. Kids deserve something better than the average marriage and the pettiness most marriages dissolve into.

And I wish I could suggest what that might be, instead of pointing my finger at the obvious. But just don’t tell me that marriage is a slice of pie. I’ve seen otherwise, and I know there’s a hell of a lot of people who can empathize with my experiences. That, in itself, is every bit as tragic as all of what I’ve had to write on this topic, but seriously: Ain’t it time we get to fixin’ this mess?

(This is long, but I just don’t have the heart to edit it. My folk’s marriage devastated me as a kid, and I suppose I’m still a little too in touch with that reality. But fuck this, I’m gonna have me some breakfast and coffee and pretend it’s not on my mind anymore.)