Monday, May 19, 2008

"Who Wants Marriage Anyway?"

I read this post on Yahoo's new "Shine" site -- it really moved me, because it shows how conditioned we are to want marriage even when we already have all the things that we think marriage is going to do for us! The woman who wrote this post, Donna, sounds really nice, and I really felt for her on for her post and my response:

In this fast paced times, when everything can be automatic, ready made, and instant, questions of quality, permanence and commitment often comes out.

As an open-minded individual I am often confronted with different views from different people and sometimes I begin asking myself, too.

I grew up attending weddings. I was usually asked to be a flower girl back in those sugar coated days. I have been in different kinds of wedding small and simple, intimate and sweet, grand and extravagant, name it. But as a young girl it never occurred to me that I would be a bride someday.

After some time the little flower girl became one of the bride’s maid and once or twice I was asked to be the maid of honor. I came to realize the gravity of weddings, entourage and all the things that make up nuptials. But then again I never saw myself walking down the aisle in white.

As I grew up, talks about dream weddings, wedding plans, and ideal husbands always occurred. I thought about the different things I heard and learned from other people. I thought, “Maybe I don’t really need to think about it, too.”

It’s not that I’m loveless or a man-hater of any sort. I actually had one serious relationship before meeting my one true love. It just never occurred to me that a wedding or marriage is something to be pondered upon.

I know a lot of couples, and saw a lot of them throughout their relationships. Some of them grew apart and parted ways; some walked the journey together and tied themselves in marriage; while some of them enjoyed the journey and hang on, they didn’t marry and yet they’re still together.

Our society’s way of thinking regarding weddings and marriages differ. Others think that everyone is entitled to have a lifetime partner and get married (well, at least those who don’t have religious vocations of any sort). Others think that the type of wedding doesn’t matter (whether civil or in church) as long as the couples are married. And a very few believe that marriage is just a piece of paper, what is important is the relationship and how they will be handling it.

As for me, I had an unplanned pregnancy. I almost resorted to abortion. But my better sense and my faith in God took hold of me, I carried on. Growing up from a Catholic family and having attended a Catholic school all my life, it’s odd that I never felt I owe anyone an explanation for what happened. Even if I get different reactions and see mortified looks in other people’s eyes…I was unmoved.

I have my reasons. I am confident with my partner. I know that we love each other. Unfortunately he can’t marry me during the time that I got pregnant. He was in an institution which forbids him to do so while still in it. We had our plans beforehand. We even thought of getting married right after his graduation.

From then on I suddenly saw myself often daydreaming about a white, flowing gown, walking down a white carpet (take note, not a red carpet!), with fresh flowers on my hair as well as my hands. I would always give a second look on gowns on display in malls and in magazines. Sometimes I list names of would be bride’s maids and groom’s men and my maid of honor as well as our sponsors.

But then my daydream would be cut by a gentle tug at my hands and a cute voice calling “mama” would get me back to my senses. I am not a single parent. My partner and I live under the same roof. Both of us are well accepted in our respective families. We are considered husband and wife by everyone except the law and the church.

Often times people ask me, “Are you married?” I smile then I am tempted to answer, “Yes, I am…” but when I open my mouth a simple, “No, not yet” would come out and my smile would fade.

Graduation came and as much as I am happy that my partner has already graduated, my anticipation and excitement about the foresighted wedding can’t be contained.

I often make hints to obvious questions regarding our wedding, from which I receive a shrug or “later…” as an answer.

I am not holding any grudges from my partner, I love him and whatever reasons he has I understand and am willing to accept.

He loves me so much and has proven it a thousand times. However lately, I have been wondering if my daydreams would be a reality, though.

I started to steer clear when topics about marriage and weddings come out. I often find myself blushing when my friends talk about they’re civil or church weddings.

I started questioning myself…

Who wants marriage, anyway? We are like husband and wife who make a budget every month. We talk about our salaries and compensations and how much is our share for daily expenses. I ask help from him and he asks help from me.

Who wants marriage, anyway? Our families love us. His parents and relatives treat me as one of the family and love our son dearly. My parents and relatives do the same thing to him.

Who wants marriage, anyway? He religiously does his responsibilities as a father and a husband. He provides for us and takes care of our needs as well as our wants.

Who wants marriage, anyway? We have shared plans about our future: our future house, future car, maybe a daughter, 2 or 3 years from now.

Who wants marriage, anyway? He introduces me as his wife to everyone and I do the same thing. He never fails to acknowledge that I am his and he is mine.

Who wants marriage, anyway? I have an ideal partner who loves me unconditionally, who stays with me even if I am irrational and unpredictable at times. He respects my decisions and I respect his. He is faithful no matter how many times I saw temptations pass by and my loyalty for him has been tested and proven. We are very good friends, we joke a lot, we have fun together, we like each other as much as we love each other. Whenever people talk about happy couples our names are bound to come up. So what more could I ask for?

After all, marriage might cause trouble in our relationship. It might cause too much pressure that we can’t handle yet, so far we’re doing great in this kind of set-up. I don’t want to be like other couples who spent so much time, effort and money on their weddings but not with their marriages. I want to be different, I want something that lasts.

So tell me who wants marriage, anyway? … Well, I do...

My response:

You have a child with this man and what sounds like a relationship that really works for you -- be happy about that! The reality of the situation is that, these days, LOTS of men (perhaps even MOST) don't want to get married anymore (if they ever really wanted to in days gone by) -- and that's OK. It doesn't make them incapable of love, commitment and support.

Once you already have the love, commitment and support, it is tempting to give in to the social and cultural conditioning which tells you that the next logical step is marriage and that if it isn't happening, then Something Must Be Wrong!!! And you must Feel Very Bad About It, because Other People Are Judging You. This is not correct. I understand wanting the big party, the validation and praise and social approval -- who doesn't want that? And I understand wanting to fit in and feel validated. And I understand the desire to feel truly secure -- who wouldn't want these things? And who wouldn't understand wanting these things?

But the point I'm trying to make is that if you step away from these desires and stay focused on the day-to-day lived experience of being with this person, in a loving relationship, you can see what is really important. Also, remind yourself, if you are afraid he might not want to marry you because he secretly might want to leave you someday, do you think being married would make him stay? And even if being married would make him stay when he might want to leave, is that what you want? For him to stay with you even though he doesn't want to? What do you think the quality of such a relationship would be? Do you think it would still be loving and supportive? I doubt it...more likely, it would be lonely and toxic, for both of you and your child.

I can recommend a really good book, called "Unmarried to Each Other" -- about being in a long-term committed relationship without formal marriage. It may help you feel better and appreciate your present situation.

As you may have guessed, my boyfriend and I are unmarried to each other, and I struggled with that for a long time, but have grown to embrace it and feel both proud and grateful, to the extent that I want to support and encourage everyone to think about possibilities beyond those which have been handed to us and which may not work so well anymore, anyway (50% divorce rate holding strong!) -- you are not alone, and you can change and grow through this experience!!!

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