In last week’s blog I told you that my husband is my best friend and I want you to know that every time I share that nugget of knowledgy goodness I cringe a little inside because there have been so many times when that statement has been met with everything from underhanded derision to outright ridicule. You’d think I was advocating some sort of universal healthcare.
When we were engaged and I was flitting about in a cloud of bridal euphoria I got a lot of this reaction, mainly from people over 45: “Yeah, you’re happy now. Just wait…” Or, “You’re getting married? Who would choose to purposely make themselves miserable?” I actually got quite irritated after a while. What kind of person sees someone filled with joy and seeks to squash it like a bug underfoot? An unhappy person.
Marriage has long been a bone of contention between the sexes. Most religions mandate it if you want to get busy, most families expect that their children will grow up and get married and have their own children in wedlock. It has all these ideas and expectations attached to it; marriage is just another way we can judge each other. Through most of the 20th century women went to college to get their MRS. degrees, rather than to further their educations. That diamond ring was the shining example of success and security for a woman. In some parts of India a woman is expected to throw herself on her husband’s funeral pyre if she outlives him – her life is worthless without him to define her. So I get it: there’s a lot of misery tied to marriage. Many millions of middle aged and older people are married but unhappy because they got married for all those reasons stated above and not because they were so in love with someone that they couldn’t imagine not spending the rest of their lives together. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the marriages based on couples who unexpectedly found themselves expecting a family.
Of course, there are exceptions. My grandparents were one example. They met, fell in love, and were getting married within 4 weeks of meeting each other. That marriage lasted until my grandma’s death in 2004 and they were truly in love with each other through the good times and the bad.
I think my generation has more marriage that looks like my grandparents’. You hear a lot less, “I promise to obey…” in marital vows and a lot more, “I plan to spend my life with my best friend…”
Why is that? I think that it’s because our societal pressures and expectations have eased up. There are lots and lots of people who decry this as the end of morals and proper civilization, but I ask what was so great about your lives of quiet desperation?
It is my opinion, based on observation, that people choosing to get married now are choosing not a societal obligation, but a life of real companionship and intimacy with someone they are truly close to because we really don’t need marriage for any other reason. Those people never ask the engaged, “What are you thinking?” They don’t refer to their spouses as the ol’ ball and chain. Rather than entering a prison, marriage is, and should be, very freeing. It should be something you do with your very best friend.
I like that we have this new societal norm and if that is the disintegration of our moral fiber, then let’s disintegrate.