On Marriage

I was supposed to write a post on marriage for 50 Something, the grog where I am a contributer. It was a response to an article in The Atlantic Journal by a writer/performer/blogger named Sandra Tsing Loh. She’s getting divorced. Not because she is a lazy Gen-X with delusions of having it all, as long as the all doesn’t include any drudgery like working on her relationship, but because marriage is an outmoded and impractical institution whose very existence is why people cannot manage to commit and stay together. Or something like that.

But then, the governor of South Carolina went hiking the Applachian Trail in Brazil and proved to be a horrid author of bad love letters, Farrah died – which is somehow pivotal to my inner child and Michael Jackson super-nova’d all over the media providing me with a chance to show a cruel heartless side of myself I usually reserve for the widdas.

Of course a child-free weekend and a wedding anniversary may have played into this too, but somehow the whole marriage piece didn’t get written.

And then someone else did a much better job than I could have and I thought, Meh, why revisit it? It’s not as if I have vast experience to draw on.

It was then that it occurred to me that just being married didn’t make me any more of an expert on marriage than being widowed made me a role model for other grieving people. Ultimately our paths through life are hacked through life’s jungle with painstaking perseverance and intestinal fortitude.

But I did go back and reread Ms. Tsing Loh’s article. She was married for twenty years and I wondered what possessed a person to walk away from a mate who wasn’t engaged in any deal-breaking activity. Perhaps I had judged her too harshly?

And a quick second through convinced me I hadn’t.

Marriage was just too much work. Work that, on a rating scale, fell after the maintenance of children, home and career. Marriage, apparently, is supposed to sustain itself forever and ever on the initial burst of lust and Disney Princess fervor from which it began. If it can’t, it wasn’t meant to be.

And certainly some relationships have a shelf life. Tsing Loh’s probably falls in the category of those unions that haven’t anywhere to go, but is it grown up to recognize, own it and move on or have an affair, blame it on hunter/gatherer DNA and trash marriage in general?

I approach my marriage as a work in progress. A masterpiece revealing itself to be a mural to rival Monet’s lillies. It will take as much forever as I am allowed to see it all and whatever work is involved is, therefore, worth the time and effort.

Anyway, I’d have written something like that if I hadn’t been distracted by life.

12 responses to “On Marriage

  1. I have always disdained references to marriage/ relationships as an “it”, as in “It didn’t work out.” I remain unconvinced that a relationship is greater than the sum of its parts.

    In order to stay in a relationship, does it take anything more than staying in the relationship? To be happy in it takes an ability to be happy. Does it take more than each person in the relationship taking responsibility for their own happiness, and putting some effort into facilitating the happiness of their partner?

    I dunno- ask me this time next year, when I will have reached a milestone in my relationship history by staying with Rob longer than with any previous human partner…

  2. my husband and i ‘declared failure’ and ended our marriage after 25 years. amicable and obviously the right thing for both of us, i still can’t help but feel a failure… he’s a good human. i did not want to spend my life with him. highly unlikely to commit to another one. i’d rather be alone than risk entrapment. but that’s just me…

    we’re all wired differently, and i try not to judge – because you never really know what goes on inside a marriage… the article was interesting, and the author chhose to put it out there – reads quite defensively to me…

  3. I agree that marriage is work. But I didn’t get quite the same thing out of Loh’s piece. Yeah, it’s apparent that she deliberately chose to end the marriage rather than work on it more. But it sounded as if counseling had already happened. We can’t know or hear her husband’s piece of the marriage. But I do know that working on a marriage doesn’t work unless *both* parties are working on it. Somehow I got the impression that Loh’s husband wasn’t as interested in changing the status quo. But maybe I inferred too much from what she didn’t write.

    • We do only get her version. In my experience, when marriages end with both sides in agreement women are quick to point that out. But we don’t have the full picture that is certain.

  4. Marriage is a lot of work. It’s also a commitment. A marriage will not succeed if one or both of the partners has one foot in and one foot out of the relationship. When someone gets involved in an affair, s/he has already started out the door and it will take twice as much work to get the marriage back on track. I know men and women who have cheated, and only rarely has the marriage survived the infidelity. Not all marriages are destined to survive the tests of time, but the people involved need to a make a good-faith effort if they have any hope of staying married. I’m going on 32 years married because we’ve both made the commitment and done the work. We have made the choices we’ve made because we still love each other, and we are better together than we would be apart.

  5. I approach marriage like any other relationship. Whether it lasts a day or a lifetime it is useful in it’s own way.
    Staying together for the sake of fairytale and tradition is silly, I think, but when it happens to last it’s wonderful.

  6. I’ll be honest with you; I don’t click on to 50 Something very often and if you had posted this fine piece over there, I probably would have missed it. So I’m glad it’s here.

    You’re going to think I’m a pig but I’ll say it anyway. Do you know what I miss? I miss sleeping with other women. And I don’t mean whoring around. I mean kissing someone for that first time (no two kiss exactly alike) and getting to know someone’s curves. It’s a singular thrill that I’ll never know again.

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