Thursday, August 13, 2009

Destination Dating

Back in the day (I'm talking way back), dating was the journey, marriage was the destination. That might not be true anymore, but I don't really know.

By my observation, twentysomethings mostly hang in groups and usually 'hook-up' as couples only for those needs that can't be met in groups … until those hook-ups become exclusive … seconds later their Facebook status changes to "in a relationship" - a public celebration and declaration of something that looks a lot like a marriage. They reached their destination.

Thirtysomethings seem to take a more 'mature' approach (whatever the hell that means). They appear more cautious about hooking up and about getting involved, but most thirtysomethings I know are married. Go figure.

Fortysomethings are all over the place and fiftysomethings are talking about the '529 college savings' plans for their offspring and what they want to do in retirement.

All of that to ask this: does marriage matter anymore?

If you know me in real life, you're laughing right now. I'm on #3, so I'm an expert. Clearly I like the "idea" of marriage but honestly, it's more about my upbringing and parental role models than it is about actually being married. I grew up watching a marriage that worked, so deep down, I think I can replicate it. The evidence would prove otherwise. My parents did genuinely love each other. They were totally matched in beliefs and expectations that really mattered to them and they accepted each other in areas where they might not have agreed. But one thing that made marriage a lifetime commitment with no possibility of parole was the generational expectation of their era. Many people in their age range might not have had the great marriage my parents did, but they stayed together anyway "for the children" or for religious or societal reasons. Divorce was not an option.

Today, divorce is almost the norm. Yet, marriage does still seem to matter and it still appears to be the destination. Humans are social by nature and biology fits in somewhere, as does psychology.

I've been paying a lot of attention lately to modern-day marriages that are successful, searching for modern-day role models. Married couples who are couples because they want to be, not because the government or clergy said they had to be just because they promised to do that forever during a ceremony attended by witnesses. The few I've found have some of these traits in common: the couples share many parts of their individual interests and beliefs, but remain individual. They give each other space to pursue interests that are not in common and they give each other 'alone' space too. They share duties, friendships and bank accounts. They speak of their spouses in loving terms. They have decent conflict resolution skills. They hold hands in public.

More than once I've convinced myself I had all of that with someone and more than once I've been wrong. Currently I'm flying down a two-lane backroad with no map and no clear destination. I'm not the only Boomer in this position, but I seem to be the only one I know. No, no, no, I’m not dating, despite my earlier analogy; the marriage commitment still looms over me like a dark raincloud daring me to walk under it without an umbrella. Further analysis of this is a personal matter and not for this blog; I've said too much already. But I'll hit 'publish post' anyway and share this because part of my self-discovery mission demands that I present all sides of me, not just the optimistic parts or the expected parts.

Deep down, I'm the most grounded person I know, solid as a rock, but sometimes pieces can chip off even the hardest boulder.

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