marriage myths


Bora Bora

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Rob picked the movie last night. He’s a big Vince Vaughn fan but we’d ended up taking Couples Retreat out of the library because Rob had gone searching for Jon Favreau films because the guy is responsible for IronMan. We’d watched IronMan 2 the other night – and it was time sucked from life that we’ll never recover, nevermind that Robert Downey Jr. plays narcissism like a Stradivarius. But, Couple’s Retreat. I think Vaughn is one-dimensional on his best day of acting but I’ll watch Jason Bateman in anything.

The premise of the film is that a group of friends travel to an exotic island to a resort that combines holiday and couple’s counseling. Bateman’s character and his wife, played by Kristen Bell, are on the verge of divorce after a year of unsuccessfully trying to conceive and they need the others to come along on this last-ditch effort to save their marriage because the resort offers a reduced rate for groups.

Mostly, it’s not funny. All the couples are in various states of dysfunction or relationship neglect. How that is funny escapes me, but there was a tantric yoga scene that was hilarious.

Yoga can be … intimate. Even when it doesn’t mean to be.

Tantric yoga though – is trying hard to be … cozy.

Along with yoga, there is the prerequisite counseling sessions with a shady looking bunch of therapists, dubious skill building activities and painfully unfunny dialogue

Ultimately, however, there is a happy ending. All is well. Unsurprisingly it is when the couples simply talk to each other that they are able to work through the issues that threaten them. Talking? Who knew? Apparently, a lot of people or why would the idea of couple’s therapy be cliché enough to make a rom-com about it?

It’s progress that the most stereotypical unlucky in love single in the movie is a guy and not the proverbially desperate white female of a certain age (that age being shockingly young anymore). And again, the problem was a common one – not copping to what you want, need and just being who you are – because honestly, that should be good enough if someone really loves you.

And that’s where the happy ending was to be found in Couple’s Retreat. In being one’s self and not accepting another person’s crap for your personal layering. Lesson being this – it’s only when you understand who you are, what you need and that you will be okay if taking action to be and get causes upheaval in your life – it’s then that everything will be okay. And more likely, people will still love you.

Just saying.


"MARRIAGE AND PISTOL LICENSE" office...

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New, and yet not particularly new at all, research on sex and its many tentacles wrapped around America is snaking through the Internet in various forms. One section of the report in particular garners a predictable amount of attention in our “endangered” man era, and that is the “revelation” that young men aren’t faring well academically or career-wise when compared to young women.

That the sky is falling on masculinity is not new. As early as a decade ago, the plight of boys struggling to cope with a female dominated and driven public education system was already causing much wringing of hands and dire predictions for the future. But what is causing angst now is that despite being poor catches overall, young men still set the romantic and sexual agenda and women play ball or buy a vibrator.

And I am left wondering, how this is different from when I was a twenty-something? Men were not “endangered” and yet still got to make the rules where dating and relationships were concerned. Men decide “where, when, and what type of commitment” now and always from my perspective. So nothing new to see here, people, move along.

That the problem is men has never been a real issue. This male “crisis” is just another distraction from the real problem, which is that women – to a large degree – take a long time getting over the idea that they have to bend over to have a relationship at all. We are schooled in tactical compromise from birth and foolishly never really learn to set our boundaries and walk away when they are violated.

Our training begins with each other. It’s in the feral packs that make up the mined land of girlish friendship where indoctrination begins. We can’t blame men for this. We are vicious and conniving and manipulative from near go when boys don’t matter one iota, and the prize is the “best friend” or the highest ranking social clique. Training ground zero that sets us up neatly for the games that boys and men play to maximize their “innate”* need to sow as many fertile fields as possible with the least amount of encumbrance.

I posted a link to my Facebook page from Slate’s DoubleX, summarizing the continuing state of affairs – that being that men are still encouraged by society to be schmucks, and women are expected to contort themselves in flanking maneuvers – and ended up in a discussion with a writer friend who is decidedly anti-marriage at the least and anti-monogamy at the most. Her contention – as tired and worn as feminism itself –  is that marriage is a trap. Women should strive to be militant in their abhorrence of it, and that the fact that marriage is on the downward slope (although – statistically, relationships dominate in terms of society. More of us couple exclusively than don’t) is proof that women have “come a long way, baby”.

Marriage or civil unions, in my opinion, protect both partners when the aim is a long-term – possibly life long – relationship. There is no other option that better ensures the safety of each than a certificate of binding and entwining. People who live together without any sort of legal sanction, even if they are proactive enough to change all the beneficiaries on insurance and studiously set up the joint this and that will still find themselves a signature or legal protection short at the end of that terrible day when something unthinkable happens. And something unthinkable is not just what happens to other people. Though the cohabitation crowd thinks not and begs the question, who is really the romantic with unrealistic expectations here?

But my friend, not really knowing me at all, thought my belief in marriage, and my ire at the way young people today blithely ignore reality because it gets in the way of spontaneity or is so “yesterday in a grandparent kind of way”, is based on my sweetly romantic notions about relationships.

What?

I am not sweet nor  particularly romantic. I am the women who nagged her husband of just a month to make an appointment with the lawyer so we could draw up wills, get POA’s and such settled before our marriage certificate was even inked and in the post. I am the one who point-blank told her late husband that “I don’t play house so when spring rolls around if we are not planning a wedding, I will consider myself free to pursue other options”. Knowing what you want, stating it, and acting is  – in my opinion – what “independence” means.

My marriage is quite cuddly, and I am of the opinion that married is a far preferable state to single, but that is because Rob and I work at the cuddly, fan those flames and because out of the nearly 30 years I have been legally an adult, I have spent 2/3rds of the time single. I am not easily fooled by the feminist nostalgia about “having it all” nor I am dumb enough to fall for the notion that independence is something one can only have when one is alone. Independence is an internal mindset that should not be confused with one’s physical state of being – ever.

Being single is lonely and it can be scary when push comes to shove. It’s doable. I did it. But I am not naive enough to prefer it. I am also not so unschooled in the ways of survival that I don’t know that there is a definite advantage to being properly matched and mated. I don’t advocate pairing up with just anyone. And that’s brings me back to the problem of young men and young women. The latter still believes that men can be molded and the former know this well enough to use the knowledge to get sex without deserving it.

You should like the person you live with. Respect him and be respected in turn. There should be fun and love and a willingness to throw in together come what may. There should also be a healthy realistic perspective because no relationship is perfect and bumps and ebb/flow is normal. My perception is that too few people go into relationships with any idea of where they want to ultimately be years down the road. They are suckered by the ridiculous free love notions of the 70’s and the Me/Me/Me mentality of the Boomers that is the root of a lot more than relationship issues in our society today.

I love being married, but only because I love Rob. He is my match. My lobster. There is just as much to lose as there is to gain when troths are plighted, and one must put priority on the intangibles first. Love is more important than physical independence, but it’s not attainable until you are truly independent. Only those who have the courage to state their needs and see that they are met and who listen and give in the same vein are going to find contentment in marriage. It’s only when you peel away the juvenile view of romance that you find the real thing.

*Which is just so much bullshit. Men and women are not bonobos. We are not slaves to our Jungian archetypes. The human species is the least endangered in terms of population, so the idea that men are “seed sowers” and can’t help themselves is just one more baseless argument put forth by people who are just too selfish and lazy and own – out loud – that they are selfish and lazy where relationships are concerned.


I tepidly tip-toed into the Al and Tipper split angst at my mommy gig.  Basically falling back on the whole “marriage is work” and that successful marriages – and I am taking the gold standard of “til death do we part”* – are made up of two committed people.  Commitment being key and something that a couple must do over and over again as their relationship rolls on and time/circumstances change them and it.

But I ran across a piece by Leslie Bennets at The Daily Beast that I really wanted to comment on, but didn’t.  Bennets is the author of The Feminine Mistake, which takes to task women who drop out of the workplace to raise children. In Bennets’ opinion, this is idiotic at best and suicidal at worst but as she is working for a world-view model that places material wealth as the most important thing – her arguments make sense.

The Beast post talked about the myriad of ways that marriages die.

There are so many ways a marriage can die.

Some are blown up in a fateful instant; a couple might have been married for years, might appear the ideal couple to everyone who knows them, even believe it themselves—and one day a stranger walks into a room and one partner is struck by acoup de foudre as decisive as a mortal blow. When this happens—and it sometimes does—even the most devoted spouse hasn’t got a chance. Other marriages take years to wither, with love seeping away, bit by bit, as if leaking from a small, fatal hole that can drain an enormous reservoir.

I won’t argue the “withering, fatal hole” position. I have my own theories but won’t share them here as I have done so already in past posts. But I call bullshit on the statement in bold.

The idea that a happily married person or sometimes two lock eyes across a crowded patio at a neighborhood barbeque and are struck by kismet is utter crap. The rationalizing that has to gone on to justify anything so Hollywood High School makes me wonder whether to laugh in someone’s face or just give a patronizing eye-roll.

No one is fated to be with just one other person. Sorry. And any person who has used this sorry-ass excuse on a partner to justify abandoning that person is engaging in classic denial of personal responsibility and was probably the lazy end of the duo in terms of anything requiring heavy-lifting skills to begin with.

Leaving your spouse for someone else is an avoidance tactic of the highest magnitude. It’s one thing to decide – as perhaps the Gores did – that effort, reaffirmation of love and commitment to a partnership aren’t worth the work anymore – but it’s quite another to cop out with “kismet” and “soul-mates” and “this can’t be denied” excusing of one’s very bad, infantile and supremo-selfish behavior.

You’re being harsh, Anniegirl. How would you know even?

Yeah, I heard that. You out there who’s probably pulled this cheesy escape hatch once or twice.

Rob and I couldn’t be more well-matched. In a lot of ways, he suits me better than Will could ever have done. I feel that I have known him always – that we’ve spent the better part of our early existences involved with each other – probably intimately. You can’t get more “kismet” than us.

But, if he and I had met by chance – at one of these across the room affairs – back in the mid-90’s when he, Shelley and the girls were living in Kansas, would it have led to a soul-implosion?

No.

Why?

Because he was a devoted married man who loved his wife and his daughters and knew that marriage wasn’t a trivial thing to be tossed aside to chase sexually fueled mirages. In fact, dollars to donuts that he wouldn’t have noticed me beyond a shared interest in Star Trek and a half-hour’s worth of nerdy conversation.

And me? I didn’t note married men beyond “too bad he’s married”.

There are rules to engagement, and people who disregard boundaries like “marriage” are the least likely to stick with you later on when the going gets tough – and it does for everyone at some time or another.

Those couples exist though, Anniegirl. You’ve heard the stories of the cousin’s sister’s co-workers mom and stepdad, or the neighbor’s best friend’s uncle who left their spouse for a random stranger and spent 30 wonderful years together, right?

Anecdotal urban myths.

People like that exist in so few a number that they might as well be the Lost Ark or the Holy Grail. They are like believing in Disney Princess stories. Most people who leave a partner for someone else – eventually leave that person too. That’s the rule. Haven’t we talked about “exceptions” versus “rule” before, people?

It’s irritating that people like, Bennets – who are quick to chastise people about their relationship choices in general – so willingly feed the mythology of failed marriages by promoting ridiculous ideas like “destiny” and “eyes locking across a crowded PTA meeting”. Marriage is a one of many relationship vehicles that we are presented with in life to work on ourselves in some way or to assist others in their life journey – mostly the latter, but that’s my opinion only.

*Knowing fully well that an awful lot of widowed folk call bs on that as it’s not a standard part of the vows, which can vary a lot depending on religion and civil standards. Although, my personal opinion is that anyone going into marriage thinking they can call the ball on length are living in the Magic Kingdom too.