Today’s question: why would you want to get married?
On the surface, that question packs a cynical punch, doesn’t it? The way I phrased it implies something like “why the hell would you want to get married, especially because half of all marriages end in divorce.” But that is not what I mean by my question. When two people get married they have reasons and my question seeks those reasons.
A common answer to the question is “we love each other.” Other answers might include companionship, children, tradition, building a life together. Our parents or grandparents might have wed so they could have guilt-free sex; you weren’t supposed to have sex with someone unless you were married to them.
In the year 2012, however, you can have sex, children, companionship, a life together and love without getting married. So are there deeper reasons why people get married?
My friend CJ announced today that she is getting married. Again. She has been married as many times as I have so she and I will probably share a laugh about that soon. I have met one of her ex husbands, a few ex boyfriends and the man she now lives with and will be marrying. This guy is definitely the best and I am truly happy for them. He has known her a little over one year; I’ve known her a dozen years. I mean no disrespect by what I am about to say, but … well, she is a destination dater. She specifically dates men with the idea that she might marry one. She wants a husband. That might fall into the ‘tradition’ category I mentioned in the first paragraph. Marriage completes her.
There is nothing wrong or unusual about that but I know from doing this three times (and she does too) that the wedding day is not the finish line it is the starting line. People who look at getting married as the ultimate goal often don’t think through the reality of what is hopefully a lifetime commitment. In the middle of the romance, it is easy to forget about things like attitudes toward family and friends, how to spend time, who does which household chores, whose career gets priority, how is income and spending divided. None of that is very romantic. All of it is very important to a successful marriage. “It’ll all work itself out” is not necessarily true. Communication and day-to-day compatibility are the two most important factors, in my “expert” opinion.
CJ and her man definitely get along and they are compatible in many ways. They have shared an address for awhile now so some of those realistic ‘roommate’ issues have probably worked out fine. They have a lot in common and, of course, have separate interests too. I have seen them in social settings with her friends and he gets along with them quite well. He treats her like royalty, which is something she craves.
But I wonder why they want to get married. Yes, back to my question. They already have everything a married couple has except the legal document and pictures of the ceremony. They have been together a year; is that enough time? For some people (me, for example) a year is definitely not enough time. My own pattern has been similar to hers and I can tell you that in every case, had I waited long enough to explore the non-romantic stuff I would have called it off. The breakdown usually involved communication, or rather lack of deeply effective communication. Problem resolution. Learning how to talk about difficult and sensitive issues.
My parents had the ‘perfect’ marriage, which is probably why mine have not been. Whenever I tell people theirs was perfect I am told it probably wasn’t but they just hid stuff from their children. I disagree. They got testy with each other sometimes but they respected and loved each other a lot and always resoled disagreements. We lived in a very small house and I know I would have heard arguments if there were any. They were in sync with each other, agreed with each other on most things and agreed to disagree on the rest. They each had their own interests but also shared a lot. They liked each other’s friends and relatives. They lived by their generation’s gender roles most of the time but they weren’t always locked into them. The irony is that they probably never discussed that stuff in advance; it ‘just happened’ for them. They had synergy, at least by my definition of that word. They could often anticipate each other’s reactions to things and often gave each other that knowing ‘look’ simultaneously.
I’ve never had that with a wife and have rarely had it with a girlfriend or female non-girlfriend friend.
Certainly a marriage doesn’t have to be perfect to be successful, but it is so easy to get caught up in the magical part and to ignore the practical part. Attraction and chemistry often fade over time; it’s the deeper connections that determine whether a marriage will last. It is impossible to predict or anticipate every possible problem and unrealistic to expect a mate to possess every perfect characteristic; but paying attention to those things in advance increases the chance for success. I think.