Butterfly Cauldron

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Maybe I'm just not the marrying kind?

Molly has an excellent post on the benefits of modern marriage to women. And she's got some good points. I just...I have issues with marriage personally and I'm not sure even the promise of an equitable divorce can coax me out of them.

My marriage issues are kind of strange, I suppose, given that practically everyone in my family has a history of marriage success. There have been exactly two divorces in my family and both were caused by an abusive spouse. So, I've got lots of examples of good, functioning, equitable marraiges. And I still can't bring myself to take that step.

I came close once. I was vastly in love with a man I dated in college. I could see the two of us together longterm (and well, we were. For nearly seven years.) and yet...and yet I just couldn't do it. He knew that too. He told me once, if he thought I'd say yes, he'd have asked me to marry him after our first year together. But he never did, because he knew I'd say no. We lived together for several years though. And that, maybe, is what really sealed my opposition to marriage.

See, I was in school full time and working, so I made all the money. And he was in school full time, but not working. So, he was home a lot more than I was. And it always seemed to me that I was paying for everything. I paid the rent, I had the car, I bought groceries, I paid for our nights out and for renting videos. Hell, I even paid for all the birth control. (Which, frankly, I will continue to do. If I pay for it, I know we've got it, so none of this "Oh, I don't have a condom. Just this once won't hurt..." shit.) It built a great deal of resentment in me. He would get to be home while I was working and he'd read or watch tv or play on the computer or hang out with friends and...the dishes wouldn't get done, the laundry wouldn't get done, the vacuuming wouldn't get done...and I'd come home and he'd be all snuggly and kissy and I was just so tired and pissed off that nothing had gotten done at the house....And when I finally got on him enough to get a job, he found one in another town, which meant he had to move and that really spelled the end for us. Because I got my life back. I got my freedom to do what I wanted back. I could do the dishes at midnight if I wanted. Or I could skip them. If I wanted, it wasn't a forced thing.

And then, I started to get really, really sick. And he wasn't there. He wanted to be, I think, but he was working in another town and could only come up on the weekends. And at first, it was fine. He'd take care of me and we'd be together and it was okay. Then it got to where...he wanted to be with our friends, not staying home taking care of a very sick girlfriend. And there goes more resentment, more anger, more certainity that this whole relationship thing wasn't for me. Eventually, he moved to Texas and that was it for us.

It took me a few years to get over that, but I did. And I meet another man who I just loved. I can't explain how much I loved this man. It was...it was scary, actually. He was great, he understood me and he didn't care that I was sick. It was amazing. But as good as it was, we also fought like crazy. No one has ever made me feel as incredible or as awful as he did. There was no middle ground with us, we were either on top of the world or tearing each other's throats out. I know now, it was a very unhealthy relationship, but at the time...at the time it was like a drug. We'd finally reached a sort of even balance when he moved. Literally left the country. He was originally from Europe and he just went home. Just...gone. And he didn't even tell me he was leaving. No goodbye, nothing. Just, one day he was there, the next he was gone. He sent me an email when he got home, saying it would have been too hard for him to tell me goodbye in person.

Seriously. Fucking hell. Just...poof. One day it's 'you're my best friend' the next it's 'Hey, anyone seen K?' Arg.

So, after that, I kinda decided this relationship thing? It doesn't work for me. (Actually, there was at least one other man who did something similar to me, but two examples should do, no?)

So, for me, the thought of a long-term/marriage relationship is possibly the most frightening thing on the planet. In the end, material things don't matter that much to me. I can get another car, find another apartment, get new furniture, pay off credit cards, whatever. But the emotional damage a divorce/breakup can do is just...I know I can survive them, but how many times should I be expected to?

And yes, I realize not all men are this way. Not all women are, either. And I believe, should I meet someone that I really felt drawn to, that I'd be able to have some kind of relationship. But the thought of taking vows? It just....I don't know that I could.

Because after the vows comes the expectations. Where are we going to live? When are we having children? (Uh, never. Sorry.) What happens when I start to get sick again? What happens when/if I get so sick I can't work? How are we going to pay the bills? How are we going to blend our families? What happens when my father decides he hates him? (And he will. I have yet to find anyone good enough for me, according to my father.) What happens when his mother decides she hates me?

I know, intellectually, that all those things can be worked out. I know, because I've seen it. But I haven't been able to live that sort of relationship. I wish I could, but I don't seem to be able to manage it.

Marriage to me feels like a trap. It feels like I'd be giving up who I am to become A Wife. My poor mother...for the longest time, she was always 'Zan's mother' or 'Lee's wife'. She wasn't herself, ya know? People didn't seem to know her name or what she did or what she liked. She was always seen in reference to someone else. That was so very unfair. And I thought, no one is ever going to do that to me. No one is ever going to not know my name, not like that. I'm never going to live my life for someone else.

And yet, my parents have a happy, stable marriage. They've been married for 35 or 36 years. So clearly, they know something I don't. My brother has been married for probably 8 years now. They're happy. My paternal grandparents were married until my grandfather died. They seemed happy. (Of course, my grandmother is perfectly happy on her own too.) So, I don't know. It's such a deeply personal issue, it seems almost wrong to bring political views into it. (There's certainly room to critque the historical problems with marriage for women. Even critique modern problems too. Maybe it's me, but my objections to marriage, for myself, are much more personal than that.)

So, where does that leave me? Am I fated to be single for the rest of my life? On one hand, I don't really mind that too much. I'm happy enough and I can certainly take care of myself. On the other hand, it would be nice to have someone to come home to. It would be nice to have someone I could count on when I get sick. But marriage isn't a guarantee of those things, it's not some magic pill like a lot of people seem to believe. So, I just don't know.

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posted by Zan at 9:39 AM


Zan, This can be a hard one. I was married once, but that was 40 years ago, and I've never cared to repeat the experience. Sometimes I'm lonely and sometimes, frankly, when I've been sick, it would be nice if there was someone else who could make a cup of tea or feed the cats or earn the money. But . . . I make all of the decisions. I eat what I want, when I want, how I want. I read without anyone talking to me. I watch what I want, and only what I want, on the TV. I go out or stay in, I get dressed or don't, depending only on my desires. I like it.

2:48 AM  

Marriage just isn't for everyone, and there's no shortage of people who will look at you like you're out of your mind for saying so...

My problem with marriage has never been from the relationship aspect. I've always wanted a long term, commited, monogamous relationship. I've always wanted to have kids and all of that. My issues have been purely political.

There's a 50/50 chance if I do find the person I want to spend the rest of my life with, I could not legally marry her. Knowing that that option is not available to all consenting adults infuriates me, and makes me want to "boycott" marriage as a whole. Even if that special happened to be male, and I could marry him, I'm not sure that I'd want to. I'd feel guilty.

Plus, you know, marriage has been the institution to make women second class citizens since the dawn of history, and that pisses me off too. The crazy religious BS doesn't sit too well with me, either.

I feel that instead of legal marriage, ALL couples interested in a domestic parternship should just get civil unions and marriage should be a church only thing. But that will never happen. Ha.

4:13 AM  

That's another thing -- I love making my own decisions and not having anyone around but the cats to question them. And frankly, the cats don't care. There's a wonderful freedom in decorating the way I want, in watching or reading what and when I want, in cooking or eating ice cream for dinner, in blowing a day at the movies if I want, in going to visit my family when I want. And I never have to worry about 'whose house do we go to for Christmas this year.'

And I feel you too, Lacy. What if the person I fall in love with is a woman? What if I meet the perfect girl and decide I want to take that step with her? Well, I can't. Maybe not even in Mass. anymore, since the Supreme Court there just agreed to put the same-sex marriage issue on the ballot. So...well, I could move to Spain. Or the Netherlands or Belgium. Or Canada. All of which have their selling points. But yes, I get that impulse. It's just so complicated.

Particularly here in the south. I'm certain people think I'm a lesbian because I'm almost 32 and never been married and don't have any children. (I have to fight the impulse to tell them I am a lesbian, but only part-time. I like imagining the look on their faces as they try to figure that out.) Then again, I have women who've been married for many, many years who, when they find out I'm not married or a mother, just nod and tell me I'm making the right decision. So...is marriage that terrible? Seriously...it's all messed up and makes me wanna be a hermit.

8:09 AM  

I'm a spinster who's nearly a hermit, and I feel much the way you do, particularly about the trap and loss of identity.

I'm not having children, in part because I don't want to owe anyone.

I can't live with anyone because I figure I shouldn't have to be aggravated in my own home.
(I think) I'd like to have a boyfriend, but I don't know whether I could share my apt. even overnight. It seems like it'd be nice to be babied when I'm sick, but just as at any other time, I want what I want and then people need to go away. I don't like noise unless I'm making it. I don't want to fight, especially not over the remote or cleaning or family. I can't even live with a cat because I don't think it's fair not to concede the territory.

5:16 AM  

Oh, yes. I understand that well. The thing is, I'm usually not lonely by myself. That really seems to boggle a lot of people. I'd like to have more friends, male or female, but I don't know about the boyfriend thing. Sure, if I meet someone. But it's not like....I have a friend who actually went to counseling because she couldn't find a boyfriend! Seriously. Now, it helped her because the counselor was able to get her to shift her focus from "Find a Man" to "Have a Life" but...not having a boyfriend should not drive anyone to counseling.

7:24 AM  

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