Wednesday, July 26, 2006

What is marriage

I don't think I ever questioned the concept of marriage when I was younger. Growing up, parents and tv shows defined marriage. Those snapshots never explained the true meaning, just the American ideal or its extremes.

I had quick dinner with C3 last week. During the conversation, we talked about marriage. I expressed my growing confusion over what it means and how to identify the "right" person. When I asked her how she knew GPS was the person she wanted to marry, her answer was, "I didn't."

C3 admitted to being young at the time (23). There really wasn't a good answer from her. Whenever I see them together, they appear very happy. He embarrasses her at times, but they have a lot in common. Having similar childhood experiences and family expectations makes things easier. I know they've been through a lot, and it seems like they found a way to keep the bond strong. Marriages are work. She reminded me about Hula's remark that "you want to marry the person who annoys you the least."

It's a negative way to look at things, but she meant it half-jokingly. The conversation provided no enlightenment. After eight years of marriage, I thought she would have a better understanding.

Several years ago, I visited a friend, Buglet, who had recently moved in with her boyfriend. Her parents could not accept the situation, and she was distressed about the conflict between her and her parents. They were angry that this boy could be "disrespectful" to live with their girl but offer no tangible commitment (i.e. engagement). Buglet and Paddler had already been dating for maybe two years. She was feeling the desire to get more serious, but he was not willing to discuss marriage at this time.

The thought of freezing her eggs was on her mind. She was concerned about being able to have children someday. (She was 31 at the time?) Buglet seemed too young to be considering such a dramatic and expensive measure. I would guess that Paddler's reluctance to commit was forcing her to put off family until he was ready.

Then, she laid out the real question - why do we need to get married? I had never really thought about it that way before. If two people are committed to each other, what more does getting married offer? It is a good question. If you assume the two people love each other and want to stay together - marriage is simply a peace of paper. It's not a guarantee.

We discussed the institution in depth. I think she was asking a lot of questions to make herself feel better about just being a couple who lived together and to qwell the fears her parents had stirred up. Marriage is a societal expectation. The reason to make it official is to please those around you, such as family. It shouldn't change anything about the relationship itself (but it does).

As the discussion progressed, I exposed the real reasons - money and children. Because of our laws, you must demonstrate a legal connection to your partner. Otherwise, you can't visit them in the hospital, you can't easily inherit upon death, and it ties people with their children (i.e. the father). The financial complications of not being married can get hairy. (Of course, there are always exceptions.)

(And of note, Buglet and Paddler bought a house two years ago and married last year - four years after they started dating.)

Now that I've rambled for several minutes, where am I going with this?

Basically, I'm saying that I've have lost sight of what makes a marriage.

- Who is a good candidate for me to marry? How different is that from what I think I want in a man?
- How practical should I be? (i.e. How unromantic is the search for a husband at this age?)
- Do I really want to be married? Can I have a healthy marriage?
- How much do I want kids? Am I willing to raise one alone?
- How do you separate wanting to be with someone because you're lonely versus because you have genuine feelings for the person?
- At what point do I give up my "ideal" (attainable wants) guy and go for who's best, right now? What can I live with? What can I live without?

Maybe it's because I just attended Pku's wedding. It's terrible that I question her love for Bama. Part of me can't help wonder if she felt pressure due to her age and said, "he's not perfect, but he is good enough."

I'm so confused about what should be important. I've also lost faith that the person exists who will want to stay with me for the long-term. There are times I feel like I should just say "yes" to the next nice guy who likes me, regardless of how I feel. On the other hand, I don't want to settle. Also, I would feel that I wronged the other person because they deserved to be loved as much as they love the other person. I wouldn't feel comfortable that I would be able to give them that. I also fear that I would cease to be myself in either situation.

I want to be with someone for the right reasons. It just seems that I don't know what those reasons are anymore.


Anna May Won't said...

this has been on my mind too! i may have to post about it.

after my own experience, i do rather feel like marriage is a societal expectation, something you do to please others. once you go down that path, everything about that relationship changes because now there's this added factor of pleasing others. it's not just the two of you in this little love oasis.

this isn't to say marriage doesn't work at all. like you said, one should marry for the right reasons, but nowadays it's tough to tell what "right" is.

zerodoll said...

i've been confused by this too. my ex was anti-marriage so i had kinda gotten used to the idea that it wasn't going to happen for me. I was never so set on it and the whole wedding industry sickens me, but I did always want to wear the white dress (my friends think this is bizarre, knowing me.) i think a part of it is also the commitment, the getting up in front of the people you love and declaring your love, but why is that necessary, really? legally it does make thing simpler, but if it ends, it makes things worse. so confusing.

jayfish said...

i think society and one's family put too much pressure on a person about getting married. like it's the one of the things that defines you as an adult (kids & owning a house are others).

i say get married only if the relationship you are in is solid enough and you both want to make a larger commitment. that's something i don't think can or should be forced. if you're only looking for a husband, you'll only be momentarily happy (and probably always wondering if you made the right choice). look for a companion, a friend, a lover. someone who cares for you as much as you care for them and then marriage will just happen.

imo, you're putting way too much pressure on yourself about this and i think that's a sure way to turn off any potential suitors.

Pandax said...

Zerodoll: There is something about the dress... ;)

Jay: What you say is probably true. Sometimes, I am so conscious of it, I go to the other extreme and avoid that conversation with people I date. That's not good either. The pressure I think comes a lot from family expectations (especially in Asian culture). It's human nature to want to "fit in" and please the parents. Age doesn't help. As much as I try to let go, it always creeps back in.