Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Has Marriage Outlasted Its Purpose?
Today marks the 10th anniversary of my D.C. roommate Matt's wedding to his college girlfriend Anna. The remarkable thing about his wedding was how quickly it happened. He was on the BYU Washington Seminar program while his girlfriend was back in Provo at school. She had come out to visit a couple of times, while he went back to Utah for a funeral in March and returned an engaged man! I was the first person he shared the news to, and he had purposely waited so he could tell me first, even though he saw our friend Janell first. I was touched by that gesture, but it would not have been a big deal if he had told her first.
The biggest shocker, though, was that he had set a wedding date just three months later. For me, that wouldn't be enough time to prepare for such a major event. Because his wedding date was the day before the wedding date of one of my best friends, in which I had the honours of being the Best Man, I could not attend both weddings. Not that I could attend Matt and Anna's, though, because they got married in the Manti LDS Temple, which means that only Mormons who have a Temple Recommend card would be allowed to witness the event. They did have a reception at a local Stake Center, though. Even if they scheduled the wedding later that summer, I probably would not have been able to attend anyway, due to my dwindling finances and the need to find a job.
That Matt got married one day before Nathan's wedding, means that I will always remember those dates (I sent a tenth anniversary card to both couples). Seven years later, my other best friend held a wedding in June. Now, I learn that this Friday is the official date of Christine's wedding to the Dutch guy. What is with all the June weddings? As a matter of fact, June is considered the most popular month to hold a wedding, probably because school is out, the weather is usually good (not unbearably hot like in July or August), and its kind of traditional, especially for a garden wedding.
For me, though, I want to get married in October or November. Most likely October, though I really would love to get married on 11 November next year because of the numbers involved. If that should happen, the invites would indicate the date as such: 11 / 11 / 11. First, though, I have to find a career and a serious relationship. Unfortunately, I don't move very fast when it comes to building a lasting relationship. Perhaps this is the push I need to change my modus operandi?
Anyhow, a recent issue of Newsweek (the one with a cover story on Sarah Palin being the leader of evangelical conservatives) had an interesting article about the decline of marriage among the younger generations. It was intriguing, because our generation was the first to really be affected by divorce and blended families. It was still somewhat of a stigma (as well as unwed pregnancies) for our parents generation. Now, its not a big deal.
The writers of the article acknowledged that the feminist movement (and technological advances) helped to liberate women so that they did not need a man for their own financial security. The sexual revolution of the late 60s and early 70s also liberated the men. As one man was quoted in the article: "If I had to be married to have sex, I would probably be married, as would every guy I know." He was 28 years old. When I was at BYU, many men got married soon after they returned from their LDS mission at age 21. There was no waiting until after graduation from school and landing a job. Many got married while still in college and perhaps even had a child or two before they graduated. Yikes! I knew the reason why they married young. The LDS Church considers (like many religions) sex before marriage as a "sin." For those who don't believe that, the impulse to marry so young is taken away. What a relief for those who have liberated themselves from this archaic religious dogma!
The article also quotes an anthropologist (Helen Fisher), who actually studies love. Her theory is that "humans aren't meant to be together forever, but in short-term monogamous relationship of three or four years." I'm not sure I agree with that view, but I also don't believe in the Mormon view of marriage literally being FOREVER! Why limit yourself for the rest of eternity? I know myself pretty well, so I believe that I'll only get married once (like Thomas Jefferson). If that marriage does not last for whatever reason, I don't see myself getting married a second time. The dating game is just too painful to endure. Trying to match up attraction seems especially challenging for me: I'm attracted to women who are attracted to someone else. Women are attracted to me but I'm not attracted to them. It feels like punishment! Who wants to go through all of that? Marriage is a one shot deal for me, so I expect to choose wisely. My view on the sanctity of marriage is why I have a harsh opinion of men who cheat on their wives. They already made their choice and now they want to spoil someone else for another man who is looking for a wife? Greedy assholes is what they are. Once you make your choice, zip it. Live with it! Deal with it! Don't covet available women.
You might be wondering, "doesn't it take two?" Yeah. I've read a theory about women who are attracted to married men. Basically, its a self esteem issue, by which the woman in an affair feels better about herself if she is able to cause a man to cheat on the vows he had made to his wife. It might not be a conscious thing with them, but subconsciously, it is a self-esteem issue. Its the reason why you see cat-fighting on the Jerry Springer Show when the man is revealed to have cheated. The women seem more interested in scratching each other than going after the man, and the man just stands there all smug because its a self-esteem issue for him as well to see two women fighting over him.
I'm not interested in all that kind of drama. I do want to be married, though. To an intelligent woman who wants children, because I definitely want children. Because I have been in deadend, low wage jobs for the past decade, still searching for a career, time has passed by so rapidly that I'm at the age where I have to consider a woman's age if I hope to have children someday. This is one of the biggest reasons why I wish I could turn back the clock to 1999 so I could make different choices. I'm certain that I would be married with at least two children by now, had I not put my career hopes and dreams on being a political aide in the Gore Administration. Had I been open to a career in Los Angeles, perhaps, or somewhere else in D.C., who knows? But I can't go back now. All I know is that time continues to tick away and I have to do something drastic in order to find a living wage career so I can turn my attention towards dating and marriage. This year is critical for that, especially if I hope to take advantage of the 11 / 11 / 11 date that would be an awesome day to get married! Even if its just a quick Vegas wedding, I'm game for that. But unlike the people in the article, marriage is still important to me and worth participating in.
The article also mentioned that our generation (and the younger ones) have something else that delays marriage: infinite opportunities to accomplish dreams. With love in an age of "too many options", how do we choose? Its pretty scary. Also in the article, the writers state that "while little girls may still dream of Prince Charming, they'll be more likely to keep him if they don't expect too much." Yes, I agree that the fairy tale fantasy is a big marriage killer. Happily ever after does not exist in the real world. Relationships take work, with compromises, negotiations, dialogues, sharing. Its not a bossy little girl grabbing a boy to play house with at recess in Kindergarten.
The article concluded with another quote from the anthropologist, who said: "Committing to one person forever is a long time. I wonder how many people really think about that." The answer? Not many. Our human minds have difficulty fathoming what forever means, which is why I found the Mormon belief in Eternal Marriage to be such a farce. How can you promise at 21 to commit to another person for the rest of eternity? I couldn't and I wouldn't do that. In fact, when I get married some day, I will be writing my own vows and it will not include "til death do us part" and the words "eternity" or "forever" will not be part of ceremony. I'm of the opinion that marital vows should be re-done every five years or so. While it would be ideal to be married to one person for the rest of my life on earth, there's always the possibility that the couple will grow in different directions and need to go their separate ways (as the Gores recently taught us). I know for myself, I can't promise forever. Perhaps the rest of this life, but not beyond that.
In another book, I had read about a lady who was dumped by her husband when she was diagnosed with cancer. I was shocked. For me, this is where I would shine the most. My loyalty was meant for a crisis like that. Its just amazing that some men are so heartless that they would abandon their wives and seek another relationship during her greatest trial. This is where real love is proven, where it matters the most. This is where my loyalty would be an asset, because I don't abandon people in their time of need. Throughout my life, I've always been the kind of friend people come to when their other friends had abandoned them. Its a role I know how to play well and one I'm good at. Not that I want to be in a relationship with someone who gets stricken with a life-threatening illness. But I consider that to be an important part of marital vows. To not honour that portion of the vow is a major violation. A sin, even. People who abandon their spouses during such trials do not deserve to get remarried. They shouldn't even get married in the first place.
To my married friends...I thank you for your inspiration. I hope to one day join your ranks, but its not likely to happen until I land my career. Had I gotten married younger (like to an Italian lady as I had wanted to do when I moved to Italy), my freedom of choice would have been limited to whatever the wife was willing to do. Freedom has always been the most important value in my life, because I hate feeling the suffocation that a lack of choice brings about. This is the reason why I know a lady is a "keeper" when I have the thought: "I could give up my freedom for this lady." Only three ladies inspired such a thought. Hopefully, the fourth one will be the charm.