So why get married?

With current divorce statistics, are you curious why anyone ever gets married?

John's and my choice was driven largely by the fact that I had a baby on the way. We were scared to death.

Sometimes, I'm curious about my friends who spent a year trying on dresses and selecting china patterns.  Honestly, I'm not so sure if the Caribbean-Honeymoon-Ending-In-A-Hefty-Dose-of-Real-Life was much different than our Sink-or-Swim experience. (Except there were a lot fewer issues of Bride Magazine involved.)

To be fair, it was a different world in the 1980's when John and I married. The idea was colored by expectations set by Disney movies where a wedding ring was the pinnacle of a woman's life.  Now most 20-somethings I know live together before marriage and if you are LGBQT then for a long time your choices were shaped by the state you lived in.

So why marry?  (For the sake of this blog post, I'm deliberately taking religious views off the table to look at it through my experience.)

I think the answer lies in how we view break-ups. 

Most of our thoughts around the break-up of a relationship are about disappointment.  After all, if my romantic partner doesn't help me create the life I want then boyfriend/girlfriend 2.0 is right around the corner (who we are pretty sure will do a much better job of delivering on that life.)

The thing is, we don't actually break up over the small disappointments. Right?

No.  We stay and grow just a little bit resentful.  And the disappointment builds up, until something happens that actually pushes the point.  (Like maybe we meet 2.0 at work one day and have an oh-so-understanding conversation, or we blame our partner for our disappointment forgetting that we co-created this life we are living.) 

The thing about marriage is that it is hard to undo. As anyone who has ever been through a divorce knows, it is easier to separate conjoined twins than to dismantle sets of friends, a home, bank accounts, children, etc. And so we find ourselves well and truly stuck.  And here is the beautiful part...this stuckness keeps us from running away.  Because we would all rather run away than to stay and own the pieces of what we've created that we don't want to look at. It is so much easier to chalk it up to our spouse's flaws and walk.

Of course the stuckness doesn't always work as designed.  People can run away without ever leaving a marriage by walling up, spending all their time at work, or worse scenarios that we can all think of.

However, if we use the "stuckness" for what it is intended for, then we get to make these incredible gearshifts.  All this longing inside of us for home and family, doesn't get fulfilled by walking down an aisle, it gets built in minutes and days in the thousands of tiny choices for "us" instead of for "me."

I should point out that none of us will marry someone completely unbroken—no matter how perfect for us they seem at the time.  Instead we will choose someone based on chemistry and idealism that will completely unravel revealing the real person inside as the years go on.  And that real person probably looks nothing like our ideal of 2.0. Conversely, they are probably perfectly designed to reveal the parts of ourselves that we aren't that fond of .

But that stuff is hidden, and it takes a lot of trial and fire to bring it out—both the beautiful and the ugly.  If you actually survive these crashes then what you have on the other side is indescribable to those who haven't experienced it.  It is what we are all looking for—a love with strength and substance to it. 

My observation of serial monogamy is that you keep having to start over. That there are places you can't get to as a couple because you simply run out of time before one of you feels the need to run. And the series of trusted relationships that get ripped apart cause scar tissue.  It isn't that it can't be is simply that the healing takes time.

I wish more people wrote about the realities of marriage—something beyond this Hollywood ideal of "the one" and more like the depths that you explore over time as you create something.

We look at those who have made it to milestone anniversaries with love shining in their eyes and we wonder at it because it really is something magical.  It isn't that they found "the right" one.  It's that they became the right ones.  And the thing about stuckness is that it requires you to do it together. 

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© Random Cathy
Maira Gall