11 March 2011
I was thinking today about marriage.
Marriage, the legal union between two people who've decided they're done searching the world for a good partner with which to share their lives, is one of those social institutions so embedded into our culture that it means something a little different to everyone who engages in it, but also has solid legal, historical, religious, and traditional meaning as well.
So now's your chance to move on; go for it: hit that 'Next Blog' button up there. I'm warning you.
Still here? Okay, you asked for it.
What I was thinking is this: all the things we grow up thinking about marriage, all the things we read in books and see in movies and on TV, all the stuff your pastor and parents tell you about marriage, is all a joke. The idea of marriage, presented in the context of all this fluffy crap, is just plain silly. And I'll tell you why.
Marriage is this: dirty, heart-breaking, scandalous, exausting. It's a social and legal construct that forces us to act out expected behaviors that may or may not be agreeable to who we really are deep down, and hide those behaviors that are contrary to ideals held primarily by those around us, in particular the marital partner.
Now wait--I'm not necessarily knocking the whole package. Most of that silly stuff we grow up expecting is based, in some fashion, in truth. Marriage can be rewarding, fun, and satisfying in so many ways life as a single person could never be. At its greatest, a couple's marriage is the keystone of their household, the foundation for the family they build. And that's just the practical part. The most ideal part of marriage, the part which produces that bliss people talk about, is that you can be all done pretending for the rest of the world. I told a friend that once youv'e found a true mate, you are free to remove all your social filters and be your True Self. Your partner becomes a sanctuary. Likewise, you're expected to reciprocate and provide equal sanctuary to your partner, but in doing so you are able to further delight in your partner's True Self, that person who only you have priveleged access to, because you alone are the person s/he feels safe exposing it to.
Any married person reading this will now be shaking his or her head. I realize that marriage means different things in different cultures, and all those cultures have ideals and silly expectations regarding marriage unique to them, but I'm willing to bet that in all these cultures, most actual marriages deviate significantly from those ideals and expectations.
That's because none of what you learn about marriage beforehand can prepare you for the actual work of being married. Keep in mind that, while being your partner's sanctuary, you also have to make sure the bills are paid, shopping gets done, dinner is cooked, dishes are washed, laundry is done and put away, and--hold on a second, somebody better put away this box right now or the TV will not be turned back on the rest of the weekend! In short, there's a whole lot of work to be done in addition to all the work of marriage. Typically, there's so much other stuff that the marital work is taken for granted, put aside, postponed, or simply dismissed as unnecessary.