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Friday, February 11, 2011

First Comes Love, Then Comes....

I'm sitting here (again in my chair) snuggling my most beautiful Elliott Ocean.  He has deep ocean-blue eyes (appropriately), a fuzzy blondish head, and gulps his milk so sweetly in his animal footed pj's.  I want to give him the universe.
Growing up, I always knew I wanted a family.  I wanted at least three children.  I hoped for a modest home to love, with a garden, near the ocean, in a great town that I could live in forever.  I dreamed I would share all of this with my love, my husband.  And... we would live happily ever after...

What defines "family"?  Is it blood?  Marriage?  Cohabitation?  If marriage, then what is left when a marriage dissolves?  What about babies born out of wedlock?  Aren't they still family?  I'm obviously asking rhetorical questions.  With a 50% divorce rate, enough of us come from "creative" families to understand that the societal ideals rarely frame the real family portrait.  But should we be any less proud of the family that is, when it is not the ideal?  (Ok, before you start preparing your arguments, I'm not condoning mistreatment or a laissez faire approach to commitment here.  I'm just saying, life doesn't usually work according to plan; and if it seems to, watch out.)

50%... I know I've mentioned this several times but, c'mon... fifty percent!  And that's just on first marriages.  It goes up consecutively with second , third and so on.  So, if I've failed once shouldn't I just throw in the towel?  Christianity doesn't appear to help either.  In 1999, the Barna Research Group studied 3,854 adults from the 48 contiguous states and found that divorce rates among conservative Christians were significantly higher than for other faith groups, and much higher than Atheists and Agnostics.  So, if people are supporting marriage because of their faith, they might want to think twice.

Why doesn't it work?  I can't believe that it's because half of those getting divorced are just bad people and therefore are to blame.  Maybe it has to do with unrealistic expectations; looking for the fairytale.  Or, it could be the business of it all; it is largely a business relationship.  Getting married because, "that's what we do," is also clearly flawed.  I know we've all watched friends walk down that aisle because they didn't want to 'miss the boat'.  I remember feeling that twinge of stress when I graduated college single.  

Are we just a hopelessly optimistic people? Why does anyone get married?  I've read the arguments for marriage.  Men appear to live longer if they're married.  Married people are better off financially.  The government clearly rewards the marital union with tax breaks, health benefits, etc..  There's a reduced risk of STD's.  Maybe less loneliness as well?  Probably the most obvious benefit of marriage is the team approach to parenting; good for the parents as well as the children.  

Of course, several of the above justifications could be accomplished in a monogamous, committed relationship as well, right?  Not necessarily marriage.  Yes, I've also read the statistics of cohabitation.  Women who cohabitate are 80% more likely to divorce when they marry than women who don't.  Hmmm... Well, clearly, those women were cohabitating with the ultimate goal of marriage.  And might I stretch that further to suspect that said women were living with their partners because their partners were, maybe, not as committed to the idea of marriage as the women were? Or, not as committed to the women themselves? I've also read that cohabitation is highly successful when both partners are committed to non-marriage as well as to each other.  

Then you might ask, why not get married?  If two people are committed to such a union, what's stopping them from the ultimate plunge?  I think it might have something to do with the government's involvement.  You know, sticking it to the man?  Also, with the realistic possibility of breaking up at some point, maybe they're hoping to avoid the hassle of a divorce.  There are also those who refuse to marry until gay marriage is made legal; more of an admiral humanitarian stand.   

I think some have a deeper, more romantic motivation for non-marriage.  There is something to be said for loving your partner enough to always grant them the freedom to leave.  The idea that they stay because of love, choice, not legality. And knowing that you too have the same freedom.  It's empowering to know that you have the freedom to leave, or stay and choose the relationship every day.  Maybe it's the idea of a more spiritual commitment between just the two, without the dictation from society in general.  (If only there were better identifications than: "significant other"- other? Really? "Boy/girlfriend" - seems kind of trivial, right?  And don't even get me started on "partner".  Hmmm... does "spouse" work?)


When marriage does work, it's a good thing.  There's a sense of belonging, of comfort, in the bond of marriage.  I guess it feels more like family when forever is promised.  It fosters a real, "we're in this ship together," mentality.  

AND, it comes with a pretty ring and a wedding!  Beautiful flowers, long white dress with customary veil, tuxedo, friends and family... Or, maybe, like me, you prefer something a little less traditional, a little more intimate.  However you go about it, you stand with another and publicly vow, "From hence forth, wherever you go, I go.  Our home is together.  Our families are each other's.  Your joy is mine, your pain, mine."  Outside of parenthood, marriage is (or should be) the boldest and most profound commitment one can make to another.  

Perhaps that's why it is so very devastating when it fails.  And why it is so scary for those of us who have felt its sting.  

I guess, ultimately, no matter what form of union you choose, LOVE itself is a risk.  And it's what we want so much.  Even when we attempt to guard ourselves from falling, we eventually gravitate back to it.  And then we are left, facing another vulnerable soul, hoping. 

If you made it through this little dissertation of mine, I hope you will do me this favor.  Share your thoughts with me.  What do you think/feel about the value of marriage?  Why did you choose to marry or not?  What have you learned?  Were you certain beyond question when you walked down the aisle, or were you afraid?  

I leave you with this...

"A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; 
it is the prerogative of the brave.
~ Mahatma Gandhi


  1. I love your mind Cherie. I love how it works, interprets, and creates.

    I married for wrong reasons both times I got married. The first, I just wanted out. I wanted to be "an adult". I failed miserably. No ones sole fault. Doomed from the get go.

    The second time I married because I was afraid of being alone, of struggling. In love? Yes, but with limits, with boundaries, with conditions. When my second marriage started to suffer I knew I would either end up alone again, and find some other poor soul to be husband number 3, or I would have to do some soul searching. Real searching, not the kind you hear in songs where you just need to be alone for a little while. I discovered something... I was trying to find some"one" to make me happy. Someone to satisfy my need for laughter, pleasure, conversation, dreams. I didn't get that no one is capable of that. I didn't know that those things were inside me. I thought that marriage was about ME, not about HIM. I get it now. I live to please him. I live to see him smile, and watch him enjoy being married to me. We are happy. Indeed we are happy.

    I want to be married, but I have several friends, whom I respect, that do not want to be married... ever.

    Some women are afraid of not being married. Some are afraid to be married. Some are just so independent that they really don't need that commitment.

    For those naysayers who will tell you that relationships cannot make it without the marriage certificate... I tell you to look at Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell 26 and counting. Oprah and Stedman - 20 and counting. Sam Sheperd and Jessica Lange, 27 and going strong. My friends Faye and George, 22 years and smitten.

    Cherie, there is no universal right or wrong, there is only what's right or wrong for you.

    I know this. You are stong, capable, and yet you can be vulnerable. You know your strengths and weaknesses. You know your heart, mind, and dreams. Follow them.

  2. 57% of divorced are due to money issues.....

    Unless you are deliberate about it, it’s easy to go your whole marriage without really talking about money much. You handle the budget, or your spouse does, and it’s not a topic that comes up that often unless there’s a crisis. I understand that, and I used to be okay with that approach to marriage until I started reading some scary statistics.

    The number-one cause of divorce in North America is money fights and money problems. A study from Citibank found that 57% of divorced couples said money fights were the primary reason they didn’t get along. Sure, that seems scary, but the truth is that data alone rarely has teeth. We’re not inspired to change just because we hear a big statistic. We need motivation. We need a story that can help it all make sense.

    So here is one about bears....

    For easier math, let’s just say that 50% of divorces involve money issues. But instead of money, let’s talk about bears. Imagine that 50% of your neighbors were attacked by bears. That means that of the 10 people in your cul-de-sac, five of them were mauled by bears while at the mailbox, in the driveway, or sitting on the back porch.

    Would that change the way you thought about bears?

    Would you and your spouse talk about bears more? Would you plan and prepare for bear safety? Would you, as a couple, do everything you could to prevent a bear attack? Would you carry bear spray and learn some sort of bear kung fu?

    Of course you would. In a world where 50% of people were attacked by bears, we would all care deeply and passionately about bear preparation.

    So why don’t we talk about money with our spouses when we know that over half of all divorces involve money? Why do we think we’ll be part of the minority who won’t get burned by money problems in a marriage? Why aren’t we honest? Why don’t we carve out time from our busy schedules to really work on it?

    We don’t, because money can be an uncomfortable topic. But it’s a critical one, too. Talk about it with your spouse. Be honest. Be open. And be ready. The world is crawling with bears.

  3. Mrsllbees: Very eloquently stated. Love the self reflection you've done.

    Anonymous: I agree that money is involved in a great deal of the divorces, however, I don't think it's from NOT talking about it. I think the talking happens. In my experience, the issue lies more in the category of respect and honesty. I believe dishonesty in finances is probably the REAL issue behind that statistic. A plan is very helpful, but only when the pair are in it together. I know I can take a lot of financial hardship and loss. What I CAN'T take is being left in the dark, waiting for the bombs to go off.


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