Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On Marriage

I never thought I would get married. Growing up, though my parents and grandparents seemed to have happy marriages, the faith community I lived in taught that Marriage was for LIFE and that you couldn’t get divorced EVER and that if you had a bad marriage, too bad, you should just pray more. Lots of time was spent telling couples to “strengthen their marriages” as if the marriage was a separate entity, not connected to the two of them. This always confused me, because the marriage *is* the relationship of two people involved - not some nebulous third party that has to be fed and paid attention to. And maybe it was just my childish understanding, but it seemed that life and relationships were complicated enough; I didn’t want to grow up and devote my time to a “marriage” at the expense of a relationship.

I saw women in absolutely awful marriages who believed 100% that they could not leave the marriage, because then God would hate them. So they put up with abuse, cruelty, addiction, etc for years - because the marriage had to be preserved at all costs. One woman did finally muster up the courage to leave her abusive spouse, and she was blasted for it by the community. We were supposed to feel bad for her ex husband, because she had “destroyed her marriage.” This didn’t make sense to me, because she herself was being destroyed by her marriage and somehow that was okay? I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that an institution was more important than a person.

So I figured I’d never get married. I decided that clearly I should be a nun, and I made this decision at the ripe age of 17, based on the following criteria: 1. I didn’t want to marry any of the boys I knew at the time and 2. I believed that I was too ugly to attract the attention of boys I didn’t know and 3. I didn’t want to get stuck in a bad marriage and then be unable to leave. I was even planning to run away to a convent when I was 18.

Needless to say, I never did run away and I ultimately decided that the faith I had grown up in was not for me - for a wide variety of reasons. The freedom was intoxicating - I could do anything I wanted to with my life! I didn’t have to go to confession any more! There were no busybodies getting up in my business, criticizing my choice to go to college, my choices of how to live my life, the clothes I wore, etc.

I met my husband about the same time that I was leaving my faith. We dated for six and a half years before getting engaged, and that gave me lots of time to think about what it was I really wanted in a marriage. Without the religious trappings, what *was* marriage?

I think I'll be finding that out for a long time.

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