Recently I was discussing the topic of marriage with a good friend. Both of us are divorced and have very vivid stories from manipulative, co dependent relationships. I told him that most people I see getting married I don’t think should be. He confided he felt the same way. This is not because we don’t believe in the bonds of love or the institution of marriage. Quite the opposite, we understand the importance of that commitment, and from where we stand, most people making that leap do not understand it. It is a long term commitment they think they can pull off because of a short term emotional feeling or expression. It is a compromise in order to stay comfortable. It is a self imposed expectation to feel a sense of progress at a certain time in their life. I’ve been divorced for twelve years and in that time I have only seen two couples get married who I internally thought “wow, I’m so happy for these two people”. Two couples in twelve wedding seasons. After my first round of college there were many many college star couples that got married, very few of them are still together.

The pain that comes within marriage are the deepest kinds of hurts, and I’m not talking about financial stress. Financial stress just exacerbates the frustrations and pains that are already there. The pain that is caused by someone who has said that they love you and joined themselves to you are the worst, and many times these things are covered over by smiling family photos on the front of greeting cards. It is not just physical beatings, many times these things are much more nuanced. It doesn’t just happen to women, men are much more private about living with a manipulative, gas lighting angry female. I’ve seen this over and over, on both side, and ultimately what I find is, that the two people should have never gotten married to begin with. They didn’t know each other long enough..or they did and got married out of convenience. Ultimately someone was not being honest, be it with their significant other or to themselves. That second part is much harder…to realize you were not deceived at all, there was no disguise-your wife or husband was always a manipulative, disrespectful jerk and they never hid it…you just refused to accept what they showed you -because you did not want to believe it, or you were trying to prove something or you were just impatient. It is more difficult to get out of that situation.

Of all the analogies I have heard about marriage the most beautiful one came from my divorced friend who was mentioned at the beginning. See we talk about these things because we have enjoyed our single life in the decade or so since our divorces. We have grown and healed and seen many friends bite the bullet too soon, and drown as a result. We’ve seen people get married because they were in love with the idea of a wedding. We have seen them engaged because they didn’t want to be alone. He told me that he didn’t know what made people get married today, or at least the younger people. People used to choose a mate to join their family…yes they created their own family but it was an extension of the one they had. He described his step mother who became a sister to his fathers sisters, and who also respected the mother he was born to. He described the joining of two families, not as crazy in laws that make up the main fodder for comics and chic flicks…but as two communities building a fortress. Sadly today, most young people romanticize a notion built in a love song that says “its you and me against the world” and “no one understands” and if the family doesn’t like it ..well we are hell bent on doing it…Well me and any very young divorcee can tell you “been there done that…and a two years later woke up (hopefully without children but most of the time not) with the shades off our eyes, having to deal with the reality.

There are friends and there are lovers, and I think everyone that passes through our lives serves a purpose. If I have a lover, I have a lover. If I have a friend then I have a friend. Maybe someone who is both. But if I choose a husband, he needs to be a brother to my brothers, and a son to my mother, and someone my family doesn’t have to lose sleep worrying about because my life is in his hands and he couldn’t care less. I know what is like for someone to say they love you yet insult and hate everything you come from. I know what it is like to be married to someone who makes fun of your family. I know what it is like to be married to someone who hurts you, in some way, that drains you to the point that it takes twelve years to get over. Sadly many of these things could be avoided by ourselves, if we look in the mirror and understand our reflection. If we cannot live with ourselves alone, then we cannot live with ourselves joined to anyone else either. If we don’t know ourselves, we should not give that opportunity to anyone else. If we are trying to progress and find ourselves, or if we just thinks this is what is expected or what should be done-we are still doing it wrong. Women around the world are still forced into arranged marriages and beg to get married for the right reasons…they would do anything for the time we have to NOT get married. Enjoy your life, find yourself and yes learn from others, dont go dashing down any aisles until they have seen you evolve and grow and you have seen them do the same and the kinship remains.

People always ask me why I’m not married. Or when I’m getting married. Now they just ask me when I plan on having kids…which is another level of personal that is no ones business. It used to make me angry, and I gave some kind of neon feminist answer. It doesn’t make me angry anymore, because I’m not angry anymore. I have enjoyed my life and have had ample opportunity to grow and learn and will continue to do so. I also understand that nothing that is alive stays stagnate-so the illusion that I have to stop moving to get married no longer holds my thoughts on the ordeal. My answer now is, I know what marriage is…and anyone I marry needs to understand and respect it as well. I know who I am now, and it would have been wrong -and selfish-of me to marry someone not knowing that. It would have been more of the same. That is how long it takes sometimes for people to heal over emotional abuse, and isolation from other loved ones. We used to have a saying at the Bible College I attended a decade ago…”why am I with you”…it was an exercise for paired off students to really comprehend and articulate in their minds why they were a. dating b. engaged. Needless to say it was hard for some people to answer. Before anyone gets married they should be able to coherently answer that question, without fantasy or ideals-but thoughts on the continuum of souls and families joining and what that means present and future tense.