Something New

Mike and I decided to get married. There was no proposal. No grand gesture that involved an orchestra, or an airplane.  No scavenger hunt, no youtube, no flash mob. It was just the two of us, having a conversation on a Sunday afternoon. Probably over coffee and bacon, or folding our laundry. To be honest, I really can’t remember.

I recently explained this to a woman I was waiting on the other day. And she asked me “So, what changed? What changed from last year, at this time, to now?” It was a good question.

I’ve been wanting to have kids for several years. We haven’t tried, but it’s something I’ve wanted. They say, ‘you’ll never be ready,’ to those who try to wait until they are. Waiting until we’re financially stable, is slowly being overshadowed by our age. I’m 33, Mike is 36.

I’m not saying we’re old, but being that I’m in my thirties, my ovaries are no ‘spring chickens’. And, I might be a little crazy, but they’ve actually started doing a tap dance routine when a baby is within a ten-foot radius. It’s like I can literally feel their high kicks and their jazz hands. I picture it being similar to the movie Space Balls when the alien crawls out of the man’s stomach wearing a top hat, with a cane in hand singing, “Hello my baby.” Same song. Same dance.

As this was happening to me for some time, I approached Mike last July and said we needed to start having kids soon. He agreed. I then asked him, “If we were going to have kids, would you rather be married?” (Being that we’ve been together for eight years or so, I already knew this answer, but I felt it necessary to ask for dramatic flare.) He said “yes.” I was preparing myself for this conversation because as everything in a relationship is a compromise, I knew the subject of marriage was going to remain on the table; often buried by my blog, our autonomy, or the idea that we didn’t need to fix what wasn’t broke. But all the while, it still remained, and I knew Mike wanted it there.

Mike used to propose to me all the time. It was usually after he, or we, had several drinks. Sometimes it would be just us and sometimes it was in front of our friends. I always said ‘yes’, but he knew it wasn’t what I wanted. It wasn’t about the committment, I was already committed. What I wanted, was what we had; just us simply being together– no papers, no false expectations, no pressure.

I watched a show once on t.v, where a couple explained their process on whether or not the wife should take her husband’s last name. She said, she didn’t necessarily want to, but her not wanting to was only at a 7 or 8. However, his wanting her to was at a 10. He wanted it more than she didn’t want it. So, she took his name. It was a compromise she was willing to make.

So, when I asked him, I knew what was coming; the question of, ‘who wants it more?’

I want kids. I want Mike to be the father of them and I’d like us to stick around for a while longer. Mike wants those same things, but he also wants to be married.

Will signing a marriage license solidify our wants? Who knows. For some people, I think it does. And for others, it doesn’t.

Is marriage going to enhance my life? I don’t know, but I do know our relationship has and hopefully will continue to as long as we let it.

I started this blog as an extension of research I’ve done over the years to write a book about our culture and marriage. I’m still always researching, writing and talking with others about the subject. And while, I’m hoping I can make the blog a priority again, in the meantime, I’ll be planning my wedding.

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Tuesdays With Morrie

 

 An Excerpt from Tuesdays With Morrie
By Mitch Albom

 

“Still,” Morrie said, “there are a few rules I know to be true about love and marriage: If you don’t respect the other person, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. If you don’t know how to compromise, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. If you can’t talk openly about what goes on between you, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. And if you don’t have a common set of values in life, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. Your values must be alike.

“And the biggest one of those values, Mitch?”

Yes?

“Your belief in the importance of your marriage.”

He sniffed, then closed his eyes for a moment.

“Personally,” he sighed, his eyes still closed, “I think marriage is a very important thing to do, and you’re missing a lot if you don’t try it.”

He ended the subject by quoting a poem he believed in like a prayer:                    “Love each other or perish.”

 

 

 

Tuesdays With Morrie

 

 

The Single Files

Singled Out

It seems like everywhere you look, people are getting married. Media is inundating us with rom-coms, commercials and television shows: Say Yes to the Dress (should that dress really be white?), Four Weddings (you don’t need to invite three strangers to judge your wedding, the mothers and other wives are already doing it), or good ‘ol  Bridezilla (your makeup is running).

In case you choose not to watch the shows on t.v, there’s always social media where we can see couples who post everything from the day they got engaged to the hairstyle the soon-to-be bride wants. (The Sock Bun Curls are a smash this year.) With Tumblr, Pinterest and Facebook, you don’t even need to be invited to be able to see the wedding pics. And those who aren’t in relationships, whether they choose it or not, watch it all unfold from the front row.

Our culture puts so much emphasis on “coupledom” it overshadows those who are single, as though they just haven’t found their happiness yet. And the sad part is that some people will never get to know how liberating being single really is. It’s the only time they’ll get to experience the world however they wish; without compromise. I have friends who have never gone longer than a few months being alone.They are the most perplexed about my choosing not to be married. I do not judge them, nor do they judge me, we just have different views–or perhaps, different fears.

I learned to appreciate my independence when I was in college. I didn’t want to be single, but I didn’t have a choice. I was forced to be my own companion. (And I’m not talking about Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself either, get your mind out of the gutter.) I was lonely and I hated it. However, after a while, I learned to become comfortable with my own thoughts and I faced my fears of being alone.

The reason my relationship with Mike has lasted as long as it has is because we both enjoy our independence and we both allow each other to have it. If I had never been single during those years that I had, I would never have realized that I’m okay on my own which adds a little security and removes a certain dependence in my relationship.

“We don’t need stories of how to become couples. They are legion. We need stories about how to be single. We need them whether we are gay or straight. We need them whether we are single by choice, through separation, divorce, or bereavement or because this, for you, is how life has turned out.”- Jim Friel, Is It Really a Sin to be Single?

If you are single, you’ve got company…

All the single ladies.

According to the United States Census Bureau:

In year 2011, there were 102 Million unmarried people in the United States. ‘Unmarried people’ include those who were never married, widowed or divorced.

  • This group comprised 44.1% of all U.S residents 18 years or older.
  • 53% were women, 47% were men.
  • For every 100 unmarried women, there were 89 unmarried men.
  • 62% had never been married, 24% were divorced and 14% were widowed.
  • 55 Million households were maintained by unmarried men and women, 46% of households nation wide.
  • 33 Million people lived alone in 2011, 28% of all households. Up 17% from 1970.

…and my favorite fact:

Single Origin Middle English : via Old French from Latin singulus, related to simplussimple.’

Nothing is more simple than greatness; indeed, to be simple is to be great.~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Another Rush…

Chi Omega Sorority Class of 1908.  Sororities have evolved since then.

Together, Mike and I have been to fifteen weddings.  Now that Mike is 35-years-old, his single friends are dwindling. Everyone suspected he would be the first to get married. Among several circles of friends, we would be the last.

With each wedding comes more and more people asking when it is going to be our turn. Trying to match their excitement, my response is, “we’ll see” with a forced smile and a shoulder shrug. It’s inevitably awkward.  If I try and explain that I’m not sure I’m ready or that I just don’t know if the institution is for me, it’s not received well. Especially, in a wedding ceremony setting. I don’t want to sound negative, but it seems it’s the easiest category for married people to put me in.

Being at a wedding with the majority of the people married, feels like an upper class recruiting event. Maybe it’s the country club feel of the ceremony, but it seems as though it’s just a ploy to get the next couple to join.

It reminds me of when I was a freshman in college and all the girls were deciding whether or not to join a sorority. One of them approached me in the most friendly manner asking what I thought about rushing. I mistakenly responded honestly because I thought she sincerely wanted to know. As I confided in my new friend, her face began to change. I wanted to retract, but it was too late, I said the wrong answer.

It went something like this…

“So, how do you feel about rushing a sorority? Have you given it any thought yet? I really like your shirt!” Says girl who seems like she wants to be my friend. “Well, kind of. I mean, I don’t have any friends. But there are all these rules to follow and I just moved out of my parents to finally not have any rules. And I don’t want to exclude anyone because they aren’t in my sorority. Ya know? I don’t want to be categorized.” Potential friend is starring at me with a confused look. “Oh, okay.” Potential friend drops any interest in me and walks away. (I continue to wear same shirt every day to attract new “potential friend”. I’m wearing it now.)

It seems to be a similar situation when people ask me, “Are you two next?” It’s a simple question. They have good intentions, perhaps just to have a conversation, but I’ve realized not joining in on the romance or the ideology of marriage seems to make people uncomfortable. So, instead, I have to pretend I’m just as excited about it as they are in order not to offend them by once again, giving the wrong answer. Because, the thing is, it’s not just a question with a “yes” or “no” response, it’s a loaded question that has a whole belief system, a way of life, behind it and by not choosing that same way is not choosing them. When really it has nothing to do with them, I actually think they’re lovely. I was just answering the question.

Marriage is a great institution, but I’m not ready for an institution. ~Mae West

Public Affairs

In an article, from Marie Claire’s September issue, An Affair to Forget:Can I forgive my husband for his infidelity?, author Catherine Barnes writes about her husband’s affair after an 18 year marriage. Barnes’ husband, Paul, decided he wanted to quit his job to work for the Foreign Service. The family was relocated to Bangkok where Paul was able to pursue his career. Before her move, Barnes read several warnings about marital affairs in Thailand. Apparently, it was common for Western men, including married ones, to be heavily pursued. The couple and their two kids had been living there for two years before Barnes discovered her husband was having an affair with a Thai woman.
Barnes said she felt ashamed she had not created a better security net for herself, “Like so many other educated women who should know better; I never kept my own bank account or ensured our investments were in both our names.”

After the affair, Barnes sought help through counseling but the incident between the Thai woman and the Western husband was such a common one in Thailand, the counselor couldn’t provide much help. In the end, Barnes chose to stay with her husband and give her marriage another shot.

In Psychology Today, an article titled, From Promise to Promiscuity, says “70 percent of couples choose to rebuild the relationship after infidelity.”

I admire Barnes for writing her article. It can’t be easy to not only admit that your husband is having an affair, but also that you are willing to stay and work things out. I’m sure she’s going to receive much criticism from friends and family for making this choice. Evidently, other spouses are making this same decision–she just seems to be the only one talking about it.

I’m curious as to why Barnes felt “ashamed” for believing in her marriage enough to not have had a safety net? Perhaps, if we all had our own safety nets, no one would really allow themselves to be one hundred percent available. It kind of seems like an “I love you…but just in case…” Or, maybe it’s the opposite, that the “safety net” (though, never really guarding us from the inevitable heartache of divorce) would allow us to dive right in. After all, it’s the times when we are most prepared that we end up not needing to be.

A few tips for the Happy Couple

What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility.

~George Levinger

In Psychology Today’s July/August issue, an article called, Advance Warning, discusses why sometimes even couples who seem happy often still end up getting a divorce. Author, Mary Diduch, says UCLA researchers tracked couples for 10 years and found certain patterns that lead to divorce were present from the beginning. Negative characteristics such as: aggression, anger and contempt can sometimes outweigh the the positives: commitment, lack of stress or strengths in personality.

Diduch notes that in the beginning of a marriage, the good times are still outweighing the bad, until eventually, communication breaks down. Three main reason for this: aggression, repression and denial.

Aggression in seemly healthy couples may just boil down to the lack of controlling our tempers. (The article points to husbands, but I know many woman who can have tempers, so let’s be real and throw us gals into the aggression mix.)

Repression, which does probably have women in the front lines, is the conflict-avoidance game we all play. In fact, I think if repression were an Olympic Sport, women would be kicking some serious ass in it. I personally, could have earned many gold medals. I would have been the Michael Phelps of Conflict-Avoidance.

I can hear the announcer now, “And now we have Kari Laskowski waking up to a house full of empty beer bottles, the Wii playing in the background and her boyfriend asleep on the couch. Did you see the look on her face? It’s pure ambivalence. What amazing strength she has. How is she going to handle it Bob?” Bob replies, “Well, we’ve seen it before, Sunday morning, her boyfriend and his friends up drinking having a good time and Kari waking from a sleepless night after several requests to “be quiet” or “turn in down” knowing she had to work in the morning. Oh, hang on, it looks like she’s making a move…it looks like she’s leaving…and she just slammed the door! Pretty good slam, but I think she will still remain a front runner. She has several hours of the “silent treatment” still coming. We’ve all seen how good she is at that. I think it will be enough to medal again this year!”

The last behavior is Denial. Here couples try to maintain a healthy looking relationship despite the reality that his avid t.v watching is driving her crazy or her nagging him is never ending. Instead of approaching the problem couples choose to admit that it’s not a problem worth addressing after all. Eventually, as minor as it may be the issue will chip away at the the relationship.

So basically, as happy as we may seem, if we don’t address the “minor” issues they can turn into “major” ones over night. If we learn to be aware of our aggression then approaching conflicts won’t be as draining. And we all know it’s repression that makes the conflict bigger than it needs to be.

I’ve found over the years, if you explain why “this” is annoying it’s more appreciated than the full on screaming monster than comes out when the filter is in overdrive (or when one of you is drunk).

Just a side note: when you decide to take on this tactic of “approaching the issue” just know it’s more than likely going to be reciprocated. So, bring neutral energy and be ready to accept responsibility for your part. And whatever you do: Don’t take it personally! As ugly as it can be, it comes from love and it can’t be as ugly as divorce.

Family Ties

I waited on a man who went on a voyage to India to better understand himself. After his travels he was at peace with the fact that he didn’t need to get married. To his surprise, when he came back his girlfriend proposed to him. (Perhaps he should have ran these reasons for this ‘voyage’ by her. He could have saved himself a lot of money.)  He said,” yes,” but asked why it was important to her.

She said she wanted to profess their love in front of their friends and family, each other and God.

As for getting married for my family…

Christmas sweater my dad used to wear and gave to Mike.

I do see an importance to this when it comes to the older people in my family who enjoy a good ol’ fashioned wedding. When Mike’s grandmother passed away, I felt badly about not giving her the chance to see her grandson get married. I also have several relatives who may not be able to travel because it’s just not safe for them to do so. If there’s any regret at this point for not getting married, it’s for not doing it in front of them.

As far as my immediate family; God love em, but it’s just not enough for me to “take the plunge” in order to appease the otherwise mystified, “hilarious”, or just plain blunt comments.(And clearly, there’s way too much analyzing going on in my head in order to think this would be reason enough.) Nonetheless, even though this is my choosing, it’s not like I’ve somehow become resilient to them.

In her book, CommittedElizabeth Gilbert says getting married helps family members understand the importance of this person in your life and allows them to accept him as a new member.

Luckily, Mike hit it off with my dad from the beginning. They share nerdy history books and watch documentaries about war. Sometimes my dad tries to give him his clothes. It isn’t very easy to say “no” to my dad so Mike usually ends up saving them for theme parties. (Obvious picture to the left.)

When it comes to my family, these are the times I think being married could help:

When I told my parents we were moving in together.

Every year after that we’ve since continued to live together (four total).

When I see my oldest sister stare blankly at Mike after trying not to internalize his very “Larry David” comment. (To his defense, she has never seen Curb Your Enthusiasm. To her defense, sometimes you just need to know your audience.)

The first time I announce, “I’m pregnant.”

Any time after that (if) I continue to announce, “I’m pregnant.”

When my conservative parents still have my thirty-five-year-old, live-in boyfriend of seven years sleep in a different bed.

When we go home for events where my extended family and parents’ friends are there.

Basically, when we go home.

To me, getting married in front of each other holds the most weight. If it’s something that is important to Mike then it needs to be important to me. I understand that Mike eventually, wants to get married. I have a hard time with getting married because I think it can make people a little nutty, and I’m just not sure I’m impervious to the “nutty.” Therefore, not getting married for whatever crazy reasons I have, is also important. And if you think about it, I’ve clearly voiced my concerns.

So if we just made a minor change, “for good or for bat-ass crazy” then we’ll all be happy. I will never say “I told you so” it was right there in our vows.

(I’ve already touched on the getting married in front of God. If the curiosity strikes see Somewhere Between Church and State.)

Justice or Revenge?

Justice that love gives is a surrender, justice that law gives is a punishment- Mahatma Gandhi

In Marie Claire’s July issue was an article titled, “My Ex Sued Me-and Won.” The author, Kim Gamble, was in relationship for a few months when she and her boyfriend went on a trip to India. The trip didn’t go so well. After it ended the relationship did too. Her boyfriend ended up suing her for his half of the trip. It was for $900 and he won.

In France, a woman sued her husband for $14,000 for withholding sex. The women filed for divorce citing, “lack of sex in the bedroom.” According to Time, the ex-husband refused his wife relations over the 21 years they were married. He blamed it on health issues and exhaustion. The judge ruled in favor of the woman saying that sharing a life together implies having sex with each other.

In New York, a man is in a pending lawsuit against his ex-girlfriend for taking his dog, a Puggle named Knuckles, to California. He claimed the dog was kidnapped. Thus far, he has spent his life savings, $60,000, trying to get him back. The ex-girlfriend said they both paid for Knuckles and split the vet bills down the middle.

Are these cases created out of justice or revenge? If it is revenge, it makes you wonder how far people will go. In the article, “My Ex Sued Me-and Won,” Gamble mentions her ex, “didn’t want my money; he wanted to punish me.” She was sure this was an act of control, to make her come to court to see him one last time, to hear him out and give him the last say. She decided writing the check to avoid the court appearance was the best way to write him off for good.

The guy who spent $60,000 to get his dog back, well, the reason it’s all over the news is because, it’s a little crazy. It was his life’s savings. The ex-girlfriend claims he wants revenge for the relationship ending and her moving on. If he doesn’t win, I think he’s going to be really, really mad. I keep picturing him as the guy on the street corner with a beard and a harmonica with his dog sitting next to him. But, at least he’ll be able to sleep knowing  he won-even if it is in a cardboard box.

In the case of the woman in France, she was married to her husband for 21 years when she decided to divorce him. It wasn’t enough to divorce him and walk away, she needed to come back two years later and sue him. Perhaps, he had moved on or maybe, she just needed the time to muster up the confidence. Either way, the man’s ex-wife publicly humiliated his “sex-life” (or lack there of), and he had to pay her $14,000. I wonder how she came up with the evidence, or the amount in damages.

I put this article on our fridge so Mike could see it with a note that said, “Put out or get out, it’s legal now!” This made him very confused. He brought up a trip, decades ago, when apparantly I wasn’t feeling “up to it”…I don’t even know what he’s talking about. Lies!

 

To Be or Not to Be…Married.

I was never the little girl who imagined her wedding. I still can’t, not without anxiety. I once had a dream I was getting married, but I was running so late, I missed my own wedding. And that’s the closest I’ve ever come to my “dream wedding”.

I am thirty-one-years old. I’ve been in a committed relationship for seven years.

I started this blog to write about marriage. I want to know everything: what attracts us to each other, why we choose the mates we choose, how to survive each other during, and if possible, how to come out happy in the end.

Today, more people than ever are choosing not to get married. According to 2010 census figures, only 30% of people between 18 and 34 years are married. This is the first time in our culture where couples are choosing to stay together as life partners in a committed relationship and not tying the knot.

And so the question remains, to be or not to be married?

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