Tuesday, July 13, 2010

i do: my case for marriage.

"A modern woman to me is one that is happy with her
life choices and doesn’t wait for others to tell her
how she should feel about herself."

via here

I stopped getting Newsweek months ago. It had been, perhaps, the best gift Jordan had ever gotten me, but something had to go in the great budget meeting of 2010, and that magazine subscription was it. I haven’t thought too much about it, really, until a month old copy found its way to my office.

Sarah Palin’s glowing mug was gracing the cover, and since that woman gets all my panties in a twist, I figured I’d spend Friday afternoon getting all riled up, then writing my own rebuttal. What I didn’t count on was not even being able to compose myself post-Palin, thanks to another article, tucked near the back of the magazine.

I Don’t: The Case Against Marriage” practically screamed at me.

Lately, it’s a topic so often covered (by the Times, in popular fiction, around the proverbial water cooler) that I’m beginning to wonder if it’s a desperate cry from the unfulfilled masses, begging for legitimacy and pointing their fingers at just how terrible marriage has become.

Whatever the case, it’s a topic I’m tired of seeing splayed across magazines and on newspaper covers, probably because I’m married, and I happen to take offense when I’m called backward, naïve, and narrow-minded for taking part in an ancient tradition that I happen to think was the right thing for me.

As you may know by now, I didn’t date much, not in high school or college. It was rare for me, a young woman growing up, as the media would call it, evangelical, to abhor the concept of courting, the “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” movement. It just wasn’t something I bought into. I never wore a purity ring; I didn't even understand the joke when people asked if I was going to Faulkner to earn my MRS degree.

For the record, I wasn’t. Marriage simply wasn’t on my radar screen.

When my friends and I would get together for late night slumber parties, we’d do what all girls do: giggle and eat, then stay up late sharing our hopes and dreams. Marriage would inevitably come up. I always said — for a reason I still don’t entirely understand — that I would get married at 25. Not earlier, not necessarily later. Just 25, the magic number. I figured that was enough time for me to live on my own, maybe in New York, maybe earn my master’s degree, maybe become some fabulous newspaper columnist.

And lest you think that I was all talk, I’m pretty sure my family was shocked when I brought home my best friend from college — and he was a boy.

I won’t go into the details of our dating history, or how I knew Jordan was “the one” (which, for the record, is kind of a dumb phrase, and I’m not sure there ever was an “aha” moment for me).

Instead, I’ll tell you that Jordan proposing was a huge shock. We’d talked about it on occasion, but our discussions were rarely, if ever, timing specific. I have a friend who will testify that approximately ten minutes before being proposed to, I was waxing philosophical about how 2008 was going to be my calm, get-to-know-myself year. My own “Eat Pray Love” sabbatical. It was far, far from that.

But I never felt pressured to marry.

My parents didn’t go to Christian college, weren’t immersed in that suffocating “you must find your spouse now” atmosphere. They got married later, and, for selfish reasons, I’m glad.

They didn’t instill in me ideals of passionate, Disney-saturated romance (though I do love Beauty and the Beast). In tenth grade, when I had to write out my parents’ engagement story for a class, I realized that my mother had never had an engagement ring. My dad didn’t spell her name out in fireworks or propose in front of a crowd of friends and family. In fact, it could be argued that he didn’t propose at all. (I’m not sure if “Hey, you’re going to marry me,” qualifies as a proposal.)

So I told Jordan from the get-go: no big proposal, no ring necessary.

Because that’s just not what love is.

The authors of the Newsweek piece argue some great — and rather convincing — points: high divorce rates, confusion over household roles, financial independence, being with the same person… for the rest of your life.

According to the story, there’s really only one reason people in our generation are even crazy enough to get married: when someone’s our soulmate.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I’m not sure I believe in the concept of the soulmate.

I will say that I think Jordan and I are made for each other in the sense that he’s the best friend I’ve ever had, and I don’t think just anybody could marry Jordan, nor do I think just anybody could marry (or deal with) me.

But I firmly believe that we chose each other.

And as a result, we chose marriage.

Marriage defined as a partnership, a mutual meeting of the minds.

I don’t need Jordan for financial stability.

I don’t need Jordan to get a tax deduction.

I don’t need Jordan for household help.

I don’t need Jordan for spiritual fulfillment or deep and utter happiness.

I don’t even need him for grocery shopping or late night McDonald’s runs (although he is a huge help in the latter arena).

I chose marriage because I wanted a partner, and I saw in Jordan someone who would keep me laughing, keep me on my toes, and keep me spiritually and emotionally rooted. I saw in Jordan someone who didn’t mind if I didn’t look like a 1950s housewife, who knew and cared about my dreams, and who talked to me, not down to me or up to me.

Our marriage is a partnership in which we are equals. Jordan’s gifts and talents are drastically different from my mine, and I love him for it.

These differences are what make our marriage work.

I understand why people our age are wary of the “institution of marriage.” The phrase in and of itself is daunting. On the one hand, we’ve watched people we know and love be devastated by marriages that either last too long or don't last long enough. And on the other hand, we’ve allowed television shows and movies and songs teach us that marriage is the end. Nothing happens after the princess kisses her prince charming. The credits roll, the screen goes black, and the story is complete.

Married people are boring and lost and suffocated, dying for a chance to get out and breathe a little, because their story has ended prematurely.

But that’s just not true. Marriage isn’t the end. It’s not the beginning, either. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t wake up the day after your wedding and greet a new person in the mirror. You’re still you. Your life doesn't start over the day you meet your soulmate.

Instead, marriage is a continuation of what you’ve both already started. It is challenging. I would be lying if I didn’t say that it can be hard. There are days when I have wondered: Did I really have to get married at 22? But then I remember: No, I didn’t. I wanted to.

Did I get married because my faith tells me that, eventually, that’s what people who love each other do?


But I’d like to think that I also got married because I loved Jordan, and I knew I could become a better, more selfless version of myself with him by my side. That my life would be enriched, not stifled, by a partner to share it with.

The Newsweek article made a strong case against marriage, strong enough to make me wonder why evangelicals are so consumed with fighting gay marriage. Why not instead, take a stand for marriage itself? For the kind of marriage the world would want to admire and respect, rather than degrade?

I’m tired of people telling me that marriage is dumb, that young marriage is dumber, and that marriage forever is impossible.

It’s not.

Or at least it doesn’t have to be.

"there is no greater risk than matrimony.
but there is nothing happier than a happy marriage."

via here 


Carie said...

Fantastic Annie! I have been waiting a long while for someone to say all that I've been thinking. Thanks for sharing, and throwing in a little Palin bash :).

Anonymous said...

I love you, Friend! AND..I love this post! I'm convinced that all of these folks who say marriage is unnecessary or a narrow minded option, are already living as if they are married without the commitment, so..."There's no need"! Drives me nuts!!! Thank you!
--Morgan, morgan@exitintouch.com

Steve said...

You might find my blog of interest where I critique Josh Harris's book.

I Kissed Dating Goodbye: Wisdom or Foolishness?

Unfortunately Josh Harris is quick to point out the problems with dating but reluctant to share any of the problems with his approach.

Hope this helps.

Jessica said...

hey annie, i don't believe in a soulmate either. i agree with you that it is a choice. a big choice in the beginning and then daily, every minute sometimes, choices. i love matthew and he loves me and we are committed to one another, but we both recognize that our life could have gone a different direction. maybe that's why the divorce rate is so high. people enter into marriage thinking that they've found their one and only soulmate for life and everything will be grand. how could it not with that idea? but then things aren't that great all the time and you feel letdown. however, if you've prepared yourself that it is a commitment, a choice that you vowed to make every second of every day, the crash isn't so hard and you can sustain it. i believe in the providence of god, but i don't believe that he only has one single solitary person picked out for us. i believe he can work all sorts of things out for good.

La Bella Donna said...

A very interesting article and a very interesting blog post.

A lot of what they said is true: men often report being happier in marriages than women; marriages today are motivated for different reasons, i.e. women no longer need to be financially supported by a husband or aquire legal rights to their children by marrying the father.

Those things are true so their article points out to me moreso than anything else that our motivations for marriages have changed and with that so have expectations. If people expect a soulmate to complete them I fear they will never find happiness because they will always find themselves to be lesser without the other. If that's true than as a recently single woman then I am somehow less complete without a man; the problems in that statement are infinite.

As long as we expect our partners to somehow make us whole there will be problems. I am whole and alone. I am full and complete and by myself. If I somehow saw myself in need of a partner to complete myself, got married to secure that, then found that he did not make me whole or complete then yes, the quest of divorcec and continued seeking would continue.

The greater problem, to me, is this idea that we are somehow lesser and in need of fulfillment from another lesser, incomplete person. I can be full from a complete Savior but if I'm 'broken' or not whole then I am positive that I will not find wholeness is someone else that is also broken or not whole. It is like trying to put together two halves of an apple and expecting them to make one apple- impossible.

However, if I don't need to get married to secure financial security, legal rights, or emotional completion why then should I get married? I think educated, upper-middle class people are starting to figure out that marriages that are partnerships have the best chances for success. However, I expect it is going to take at least two generations for that to change, i.e. our grandchildren will hopefully have a lower divorce rate than us. Trends in expectations in marriage seemt to take at least that long.

PS- they referenced stephanie coontz who I believe to be a crackpot historian. if you want to read some really interesting work on marriage and cultural changes read public vows by nancy cott.