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A Diatribe on Marriage and Long Term Relationships

Every once in a while, during a conversation, I’ll end up blurting out this long diatribe on something or other without knowing I even started a diatribe: it’s just a surprise what coming out of my mouth.  Sometimes it’s only even tangent to what’s being talked about – but, it was enough of a trigger to cause a long verbal expulsion, even if it’s not a complete set of thoughts.

I did that the other day at lunch with other folks – something was said about marriage or something, and off I went for a good 5 minutes.  I’m not actually sure if anyone even heard me – I mean, John was nodding, but there a chance that was “Oh, crap, he’s doing that thing again.”  (He’s married to Brent, who often also does something similar.  So, John just may be immune to it entirely. 😉 )  Then, ended up having a very similar discussion a couple of days later with my friend Leah when we had lunch, as we discussed various approaches to relationships.

Now that my thoughts are more collected up, lemmie put it down on paper (well, blog) in a more coherent fashion.

I don’t have a problem with marriage as a concept.  Heck, I must like it at least some: I did it twice.  Let’s sarcastically call that phase of life a “failed experiment” of sorts.

Early on in life, I wanted nothing to do with marriage.  There’s a number of reasons why (that I’m not going to get into here, I’ve documented that before elsewhere in the blog, though good luck finding it), but until my mid-20’s, I just had no interest in that sort of long-term relationship.  Which is funny: I had already been engaged once.  (Long story made short:  I told her I wasn’t interested in getting married.  A week later she introduced me as her fiance.  Yeah.)

In my mid-20’s I started seeing the idea of long term relationships – and even marriage – as being viable concepts.  Twice in my 20’s I met someone I felt I really wouldn’t mind spending the rest of my life with.  One I thought marriage was a viable concept, though I didn’t really understand all the implications of marriage.  The other, I had come to the conclusion that we could probably maintain a relationship of the sort we were in pretty much indefinitely, and I’d be happy with that.

Now, it’s probably worth noting:  in my 20’s, I wasn’t particularly Christian.  I wasn’t particularly anything specific religiously:  I just explored everything.  So, marriage wasn’t a religious issue for me really, and instead a civil matter.

I actually observed something interesting along the way:  relationships, when looked at over a long term, follow a certain script.  Date, fall in love, move in together, get engaged (those two are swappable, order wise), get married (and, potentially get divorced.)   And, during this time of introspection on old relationships, I had to wonder why I ended up falling into that whole script thing.  I’m actually a fairly untraditional person in my approach to life in general.  I’m self employed (though, I currently hold a position as an adjunct at Mindfire Academy), own half of a startup, etc., etc.  I’m actually not much on “following the script.”

In my second marriage, there was some religion involved.  I finally picked a religion (and later, have unpicked it – but, that’s a blog post for another day), and that script isn’t a minor issue when you’re talking about Christian based religions:  it’s basically socially mandatory.  In fact, flip that whole bit about engaged, live together, get married just a bit, and you’ll see the standard socially accepted script in churches.  Though, I can say from experience:  that’s sometimes not the actual order 😉

But, what about the previous marriage?  I’m kind of at a loss as to my motivation there.  I mean, if I’m really not that big on following social order, why did I do it in almost exactly that script?  Honestly, I don’t fully know.  Though, I can say at one time, I felt that “how it’s done” must actually mean something – the wisdom of so many people who came before me must account for something, right?  Well, it does.  Sometimes.

I’m not normal.  I don’t follow conventional wisdom quite often (with good and bad results.)  But, looking back, I realize the relationship where I figured “heck with it, we can be like this indefinitely” did have something going for it.  It lacked a lot of stresses.

I’m used to “in your face” relationships.  You start spending all of your time together, and almost no time apart that isn’t something like school or work.  Yet, with that relationship, we never did that.  Sure, we spent a good amount of time together, but not every day.  We talked everyday, but often it was electronically.

We never made any plans to move in together.  She had her life, and I had mine.  We intersected in quite a few areas, and we we grew to trust each other with various things, but only twice did the subject of marriage even come up (once as a “it’s not a good option right now” sort of thing, and once as a joke.)  Maybe someday we would have decided that, yeah, we want to do something like live together.  And we would have talked it through, I’m sure, playing the pros and cons of the situation out.  She was unconventional, I was unconventional, and we did unconventional together fairly well.  We were also young, so we were also eventually going to do something stupid, I’m sure 🙂  And, it also meant there was never a real “goal” in mind:  with the standard script, you “win” by getting married (and having kids).  That’s the goal you work towards.  We never really had a goal – we just did whatever we were doing.  Sometimes we’d stop and talk about it along the way, but there was no push for anything.

Weighing all this made me realize something, now that I’ve got so much sample data to look back at:  I don’t think I ever really did want to do conventional.  I don’t think I ever want to be a swinger, for instance, but following the script?  Probably never again – probably.

It’s not that I’m opposed to marriage – I’ll defend anyone’s right to get married, no matter gender, etc.  (OK, gotta be of legal age, and also not marrying an animal.)  I’m opposed to the idea that the script is a one-size-fits-all solution.  Even getting to that whole “goal” of marriage is stressful.  I’ve been there.  You lose basically all privacy suddenly.  You spend a lot of money on things like moving, then later, a wedding.  You go through all sorts of adjustments. Finances have to be dealt with.  Responsibilities split.  Some of it sounds like a perfect teamwork situation, but it’s not.  I do believe in partnerships, don’t get me wrong:  but not all partnerships have to look the same.

I told someone recently that part of my mindset was going back 20 years, but with extra wisdom (experience might be a better choice in words than wisdom).  I’ve discovered that may be even more true than I expected.  I’m unconventional:  why would I seek conventional routes for a relationship?  Ya know what?  Fuck it.  In the future, it’s just gonna be whatever “we” decide (whoever constitutes a “we”), and just talk about things.  While it didn’t last forever, it still feels like it was a better idea than what I actually ended up doing.  Follow what works, not what society says is supposed to work.

Featured Image by BK on Flickr.

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