I have all these post ideas about married life bumping around in my head… thoughts about what it means to be a partner, thoughts about sacrifice, thoughts about having ‘enough instead’ of ‘having it all.’ But for today those will have to wait. Today I want to talk about something a little bit bigger, something a little more taboo (in the world of weddings): Marriage Ambivalence.
The funny thing about writing this website (and I think one of the reasons I write this website) is that David and I don’t go to a whole lot of weddings. People always tell us, “Oh just wait, soon you’ll be going to 12 weddings a year, just like us.” But they’ve been telling us that for years, and we’re almost 30 and it hasn’t happened. And frankly, I don’t think it ever will. It’s not that we don’t have a lot of friends, but because (as the running joke goes), our friends are just not the marrying type.
Why is that? We move in very urban, slightly bohemian circles, and there are a lot of things at play. We know a lot of, achem, overly educated people. When you don’t get out of grad school till you’re almost 30, well, sometimes you get married a little later. Sensible. A lot of our friends are gay. While yes, of course they could get married, and yes some of them do, something about it not being legal here often puts a kabash on it. It’s a little bit of, “If society doesn’t recognize our union, then f*ck them. We’re not going to shell out money for a party.” And then there is the simple fact of slightly-bohemian marriage ambivalence. We have a lot of friends with kids who haven’t married their partners, or who married their partners well after having kids. While I know this is common in other countries (I’m looking at you Canada), it doesn’t tend to be in this country. But in our circles, there tends to be a sense of ‘We don’t need society’s approval,’ or not thinking that marriage is a necessary institution in the first place.
Because I grew up this way, because I grew up around reeeaaaaallllyyyy non-traditional relationships, I have spent years and years circling around topics like weddings and marriage and parenthood in my head. I’ve spent years knowing that these outwardly traditional institutions were important to me, but equally sure in the knowledge that I could not live them out in the way that we see modeled over and over again in popular culture (TV, movies, commercials, you name it). So I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I could take ownership of these institutions, and why I wanted to be part of them. So, in that sense, *of course* I have this blog, because I’m circling around the same questions endlessly here, and trying to come up with collective models for each of us, things that might actually work.
I think, in the end, a large part of the ambivalence towards marriage that I see around me (and inside me, some days) steams from what I’d call “Wedding Cake Topper Syndrome.” There is this feeling that marriage can’t be for you if you don’t look like/ fit in too the models of the wedding cake toppers. And *that* is why I care so passionately about discussing brave marriages, and marriage equality – because I know that no matter how I look, I can’t ever fit into the typical cultural mold of wife. So in a sense, I feel the reverse of the Sapphic Housewife: maybe if we broaden our view of who marriage can include, we’ll expand our opinion of what marriage can be.
So, some questions for you:
- Have any of you felt ambivalence about the institution of marriage? Maybe like so many near and dear to us, you are feeling it before: ‘Is there a point to getting married?’ Or maybe like me you are feeling it afterward: ‘Can I find a way to feel fully empowered within the cultural confines of the institution of marriage?’
- For those of you that are already married, how has it changed your relationship or your life (or not)? How has your perception of the institution changed?