Redefining marriage: Eternity or happiness?

Sometimes divorce is a good thing. And sometimes it doesn’t happen like you see in the movies.

My husband of 17 years and I are divorcing. There are no plates being hurled at each other, no tantrums, and very few harsh words. We’re not bitter, we’ve worked through the anger and the grief, and it is time to move on.

We’ve done over two years of counselling, and we’ve told our parents, our children and a few close friends. Gradually the word will get out.

It feels odd. I feel almost dreamlike at times. Marriage for us had become a habit.

When I married him, I honestly believed it would be until death. I also believed that any marriage that wasn’t forever was a failure. I know differently now.

I now view our marriage, even though it has ended, as a successful marriage.

We were happy through most of it.
We have two amazing kids.
We were good partners for each other.
We supported each other.
And we’re now going our own ways amicably.
This is joint decision.
It is what is best for both of us.
We are in agreement.
We will continue to co-parent, even though we’re separating.
I trust that he has the best interests of our kids at heart.
I trust him to be fair and honest with me in his dealings.
He trusts me to be fair and honest in my dealings with him.
We are good friends.

Redefining marriage

So what makes a marriage successful? Is it just the “till death do us part” bit? Or is it something else?

I think we need to re-assess what it means for a marriage to be successful. We must redefine it, because our current definitions, quite frankly, are making people miserable. They don’t work for a lot of people, they place unrealistic expectations on couples, and they encourage couples to stay together in situations where they would very much be better off apart.

The fact is, sometimes sticking together no matter what isn’t always the best decision.

Think about it:

  • Is a marriage successful if two people stick it out in absolute misery until death, simply because society tells them they must?
  • Is a marriage successful if a couple despise each other but stay together in a sham relationship “for the kids” when everyone around them knows the whole thing is a fake?
  • Is a marriage successful if two people stay together for no other reason than habit?
  • Is a marriage successful if two people stay together simply because they are afraid to leave? Afraid of the unknown? Of the “what if…”? Is fear a good or healthy reason for a couple to be together?
  • Is a marriage successful if it lasts a lifetime but one or both members physically or emotionally abuse each other?
  • Is a marriage successful if one or both members are cheating on the other, sleeping around, lying to their partner, yet remaining married?


I’d argue that none of the above constitute success.

If that’s how we measure “success” in our society, then society has it wrong.
If that’s the best society can do, then it’s not good enough for us.

I believe my marriage was successful because we were both strong enough and brave enough to say “Now is the time for us to end this.”
We were willing to be honest with each other.
We didn’t cheat, we didn’t lie, we didn’t sleep around behind the other’s back while pretending everything was rosy.

Instead, we saw that what we had wasn’t working, and we tried to fix it. And when we realised it couldn’t be fixed, we had the strength and honesty to say, let it go.

This is a frightening time for me. It probably is for him too. I don’t know what my life will be in a year from now, in ten years from now. Separating takes away all certainty. The thought of being a single mother in her forties is scary.

I’m scared but I will face the future with what strength I have.

strength

Why are we moving on? I can only speak for myself. I’m moving on because I have to believe that I can bring joy into someone’s life, and that someone can bring joy into mine. Life is too short to merely exist. I want my life to be rich, and full of purpose and deep satisfaction.

Maybe I’ll fail to achieve what I want, but at the end of my life if I have failed to fly, I don’t want to have failed because I was afraid to spread my wings.

bird

Is monogamy dying? And did it ever really live?

Most of my friends are, publicly or not, in open relationships.

Most didn’t start out that way. Most started with the whole girlfriend-boyfriend dating thing, and moved on to marriage or permanent de facto status. Many even vowed to “forsake all others”, and probably meant it when they made those vows.

But times change, and when you’re in your twenties, or whatever, you don’t really comprehend, at a visceral level, what “forsaking all others” really means.

marriage

I couldn’t have imagined the person I am now, when I was in my twenties. I couldn’t have imagined everything I would go through, and suffer through, to get to this point in my life.

I had no idea of the changes that would happen in me, and in my partner. To say I was naive when I got married is an understatement.

My experiences weren’t typical – I had a harder lot than most – but everyone goes through some hard stuff in their life. And everyone’s relationships change, some for the better, some for the worse.

But now, talking privately with close friends the other night, it came out that not one of us was in the closed, monogamous relationship we’d envisaged when we’d made our vows and promises as our younger selves.

Some of my friends are cheating on their partners. Other have divorced, or are separating. Many are in open marriages, with regular partners on the side for one or other of them.

Some have had affairs. Others separated and got back together and separated again. And some are still with their partner, but just don’t have sex and are plain old miserable.

I’ve friends who have been so lonely in their marriages that they cried themselves to sleep at night while their partner snored on unknowingly beside them. Others who might as well be celibate, for all the sex they’re having. And others who have taken on same-sex lovers, after realising that the reason their marriage didn’t work is because they’re gay.

My friends aren’t unusual. They’re a pretty typical mix of 30 and 40-something middle class New Zealanders. Some better off, some worse off. Most in professional jobs, some in blue collar work. Some are stay at home mums.

But all of this got me thinking,

– Is monogamy dead? Is it something that only ever existed in name only, on a church register, while in reality it never actually worked for anyone outside of a Disney fairytale?

– Are we the first generation to experience this? Or did previous generations do the same? Are they doing the same?

– Why is society clinging to the idea of monogamy if it isn’t working for most of us, maybe for any of us? Is it time for a change? And, if so, what do we replace it with?

We’re no different to previous generations

I honestly think, looking at the evidence, that we’re no different to previous generations. With one major difference: women can leave miserable situations, whereas in the past they often couldn’t.

I look at my mother, who was the “love child” of an affair her mother had, in between two marriages.

I look at my paternal grandmother, who had (I think) five, maybe six, marriages in her life. Serial monogamy, maybe, but not exactly Disney. And one of the guys she married was a bigamist – there was scandal attached at the time!

I look at my distant family tree in the past, with relative after relative whose paternity was “under question”. My family was no different from any other. The world is full of bastard children and “young aunts” who were actually unwed mothers.

Looking at all of this, it seems monogamy was always something that people aimed for, rather than the standard everyone typically achieved.

And it shows me that we are no different to the generations that went before. Yes, single mothers get a lot of criticism – but there were always single mothers, and lots of them. It’s just that in the past their ‘sins” were hushed up and the children taken away.

I think the Disney fairytale, the “happily ever after” we’re led to believe in, is cruel and hurtful.
And it’s a fairytale – not true, nor likely to be true.

Why does society cling to monogamy, if it clearly doesn’t work?

I really don’t know the answer to this one. Maybe you do. The best I can do is wonder what would happen if monogamy didn’t exist.

Would people reform into tribes, or poly groups, rather than “nuclear” family units? Would the shape of housing change? Would children be better off with potentially more adults caring for them?

Or would women be left with the burden of supporting any children they gave birth to alone, as men moved from one partner to another without legal responsibility?

I don’t know.

In name only

What I do know is that monogamy doesn’t exist among my friends. It’s probably pretty rare everywhere, once marriages hit five years old or so.

I wonder at what point this will all become open and honest and people will start to discuss what’s actually going on in society?

Food for thought.

What do you think?

Same sex marriage laws change in the UK – and the Churches get all confused

With the change in laws allowing same sex marriages to take place in the United Kingdom, the first marriages have taken place.

gaymarriageuk

Not everyone is happy of course. The Churches are looking all confused – on the one hand preaching that “God is love” while on the other hand saying, “wee-eeeell, maybe God is love – but not quite for all people. Not for you gay people over in the corner, anyway.”

And the politicians who, in not too distant memory were all iffy and uffy about same sex marriage, now rush in their full acceptance of the cause, saying, “We were on your side all along! Yes, really!”

Then there are groups who claim that same-sex marriage will persecute traditional marriage types. I’m not sure how – and neither are they, as they don’t quite specify the details – but they’re vehement on the matter.

Vaguely familiar

The thing is, all this denying and delaying and complaing and whinging about being persecuted sounds eerily familiar. The same complaints were heard, and the same arguments, every time a persecuted minority (or majority) has gained rights.

The same arguments were used against the civil rights movement in the US (didn’t you know whites are discriminated against?), and the same against women rights (men are being persecuted now – didn’t you know?). It’s the same old line, used over and over.

It never held water then, and it doesn’t now.

Australia is a backwater

My home country of Australia is starting to look more and more like a backwater of human rights. I’m embarrassed. I’m living in New Zealand now, but I follow the Aussie news, and I feel ashamed that Australia hasn’t led the way on this issue. Especially when so much of the population is clearly in favour. It seems like the politicians have stopped listening to the people. Or maybe that happened a while back…

But you can’t stop change. The Churches in the UK are against this, but popular opinion is changing so swiftly in favour of this issue that they’ll soon be left behind, if they aren’t already. Just one more way in which mainstream religions are losing touch with popular culture.

These are interesting times we live in. I think there are some issues that are changing a little too fast for my liking, such as the amount of violence on TV and film. But other issues, such as rights for minorities, can’t change fast enough.

What do you think?

Men: Why women like flowers on Valentine’s Day

Flowers are useless. They don’t do anything.

Flowers are expensive. You can pay fifty bucks or more – perfectly good dollars that could be spent on something useful, like a dinner or a movie or some chocolates or some wine – for a bunch of flowers that will wilt and die in a few days.

Flowers are pointless. They don’t have any purpose. They just sit there looking pretty until they keel over in a wilted mess, and you pour the browned, icky water they were standing in down the drain.

Most guys don’t get it: why do women love flowers on Valentine’s Day?

I’ll tell you why: because you spent money that could have been spent on useful, important stuff on some flowers for the woman you love. And that tells her that you love her more than all of that “useful stuff”. She’s more important that any of it.

When you buy a woman flowers, you’re saying a lot of things.

You’re saying you love her more than the chocolates you could have bought.

Or the dinner.

Or the movie.

Or the wine.

And you’re not a money-grubbing cheapass that didn’t buy her anything, and couldn’t even be bothered springing her a few flowers.

Don't be this guy.
Don’t be this guy.

You were willing to buy something beautiful for her that doesn’t last, simply because it’s beautiful and she might enjoy it.

You were willing to take a leap of faith for her. You’re not a money-loving guy. You love her more than your money. Enough to spring for a few lousy roses. You’re not cheap.

roses

You were willing to buy something beautiful that she might appreciate, and think screw the money! because she meant more to you than those few dollars.

No excuses!

I spent my whole life making excuses for lousy guys who didn’t buy me flowers.

Oh, they had plenty of excuses: “I’d rather buy you some chocolates” or
“I’d rather take you to a movie” or
“I’d rather we went out to dinner” or
“I just don’t buy into that Valentine’s Day stuff – it’s too commercial for me. It’s just the shops making a fast buck.”

And I was weak. I’d nod my head, and agree, because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings, and come across as grasping and greedy and shallow – as someone who might be swayed by something as unimportant as a bunch of flowers.

Most women would do the same. They’ll say nothing, or they’ll make excuses for you. Because they love you and don’t want to hurt you.

But inside they’re disappointed, wondering if you really don’t think they’re worth even a few bucks for some flowers. They’re wondering why. Would you have bothered if they were prettier? Younger? Thinner? That’s what went on in my head, year after year, when I never got any flowers given to me on Valentine’s Day.

But you know what? The little things matter.

That guy who makes excuses for no flowers today will be making excuses for no attention tomorrow. He’ll be ignoring your needs in a whole stack of ways. If he can’t be bothered with flowers do you really think he’ll be that supportive when you really need him?

Give us the flowers we deserve!

Very few women will be forthright and admit that we love flowers. We’ll deny it with blank faces. You can tell the women whose partners are ignoring them, because they’re the women who are embarrassed to look at the flower displays when Valentine’s Day is near. They’re ashamed at how forgotten they are.

Being forgotten and ignored hurts.

Women will even agree with you when you say it’s a waste of money to spend your hard earned cash on something that will die so quickly.

But inside, the little girl in all of us wants flowers.

My father used to buy me daffodils when I was a little girl. No reason – he just did. And even now, as a grown woman, I still love daffodils, and love that bright colour yellow. When I moved into my house one of the first things I did was plant hundreds of daffodil bulbs. They make me smile every spring. They mean happiness to me.

My favourite flowers - daffodils :)
My favourite flowers – daffodils 🙂

Buy your girl flowers. Show her that she’s important enough to waste a few dollars that of course you could spend on something much more useful.

Show her that she’s more important to you than all the useful things in the world. That’s what love is about, after all.

Marriage is about children. So let’s ban gay marriage. Right?

Here’s the proposal, and you’ve heard it before: gay couples shouldn’t be allowed to marry, because marriage is about children, and having families. Gay couples can’t have children together, so they shouldn’t be allowed to marry.

If a society allows gay marriages to happen, it’s saying that marriage is more about sex than having a family.

Right?

I’m going to pour cold water on that one right now.

Case 1: My grandmother, a widow, got married again in her seventies (my grandfather died when he was 49 from cancer). According to the logic above (let’s call it “Santorum logic“), that marriage shouldn’t have been allowed, right? Because there was no way on earth my grandma was capable of having kids with her new husband, who was rocking along in his mid 80s.

Case 2: Then there’s a friend of mine, who is in a wheelchair, and can’t have kids, thanks to a car accident when he was in his early 20s. He’s getting married next year, to the woman he got engaged to before the accident. She’s been with him through all his therapy, and if that ain’t true love, I don’t know what is. But they’ll never have children.

So, according to Santorum Logic, they should also be shoved in the “NO MARRIAGE FOR YOU” box. Right?

Cases 3 and 4: My husband had two great aunts, both of whom got married then found they could neither of them ever have children with their husbands. I’m sure they really wanted to, but couldn’t. Some people just can’t have children. If you’re religious, you can call it an “Act of God”. And it’s cruel.

Does that mean that their loving, lifelong marriages with their husbands were something less than a “real” marriage because children didn’t happen? Or maybe, according to the Santorum Logic that “having kids is what marriage is for“, their husbands should have dumped them by the side of the road, Bible-style, and married again?

Of course, we don’t know that the problem was with the women. Fertility problems are actually pretty even between the genders. But hey, this is a patriarchal society, so let’s go right ahead and assume that the blame should be laid on women.

Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s clarify what “Biblical Marriage” (that often bandied-about term) actually is. Here’s a handy graphic:

biblical-marriages

Doesn’t sound that lovely to me!

I’ve just outlined four cases below that I know of, with real people that are friends or relatives of mine, where their marriages were NOT anything to do with children, and where to have children wasn’t an option.

Yet so many anti gay marriage people would never say a word against their marriages.

So let’s call this anti gay marriage hocus what it actually is: bigotry.

It’s bigotry. Hatecrime. Based on suspicion and fear.

I don’t believe any person should have the right to control or prevent the happiness of another. This is a human rights issue, loud and clear. It’s that simple.

So to end my post, here’s a lovely photo of some happy senior newlyweds, in honour of my grandma who I loved:

Great smile!
Great smile!

And some happy disabled newlyweds, in honour of my friend, who I care for:

Congratulations :)
Congratulations 🙂

And some happy gay newlyweds, in hope that all my gay friends will one day have equal rights everywhere:

Love the kilts!
Love the kilts!