Saturday, April 30, 2011

While we are talking about weddings and marriage...

...a few notes on marriage from a happily married woman.  

The unmarried often tell me they want my marriage, or comment that my husband is one of the good ones.  Mothers have asked me about marriage and sex after children so often I wrote a post on it.  Prior to William and Kate's wedding, it was one of my most popular posts.  Yasha and I just seem to put off this happily married aura.  It isn't a false aura.  We are happily married and I am more than willing to discuss the things that make marriage work--I want others to be happy too.  

Every girl wonders about love at first sight, about finding your “soulmate”, that one person meant for you.  I grant that it sometimes seems to happen that way.  Girl meets boy and they just "know."  In romance, it is the sought standard.  But it isn't the norm.  It isn't the only way to a good marriage, either.  In fact, love at first sight can mask the root of a happy marriage and lay the foundation for falling out of love.    

Love is a choice.  After you have sifted though the basics of relationships, similar goals, outlooks on life, etc., you find your soulmate when you decide that you have found your soulmate.  I mean--and this is obvious to the happily married--no combination of romance, lust, or convenience will sustain a relationship, no matter how strong at the beginning.  At some point, mundane and practical realities of life (to say nothing of the stresses of the not mundane realities of life) will intervene and the only thing to keep a couple together at that point is their agreement to stay together.  

For those relationships that started out with an effortless bang, this settling in can prove fatal to the relationship when they wonder where the fire went.  Caitlin Flanagan had a good article on this a few years back.  
And here—with that little faucet—is the heart of the matter. The Jill Bialoskys of the world may feel that they belong to the most outrageously liberated group of women yet to stride the earth. These women assume that in the very act of confession they are wearing the mantle of freedom. They are not only free enough to perform oral sex in a moving car—a bit of cutting-edge eroticism that, I believe, dates back to the Model T—but also free enough to admit, in tones of outrage and bewilderment, to the abrupt waning of their desire. What they don't understand, and what women of an earlier era might have been able to tell them, is that when the little faucet turns off, it is time not to rat out your husband (is there anything more wounding to a man, and therefore more cruel and vicious, than a wife's public admission that he is not satisfying her in bed?) but rather to turn it back on. It is not complicated; it requires putting the children to bed at a decent hour and adopting a good attitude. The rare and enviable woman is not the one liberated enough to tell hurtful secrets about her marriage to her girlfriends or the reading public. Nor is she the one capable of attracting the sexual attentions of a variety of worthy suitors. The rare woman—the good wife, and the happy one—is the woman who maintains her husband's sexual interest and who returns it in full measure.

Think of the differences between being married and shacking up.  When you are just shacking up and the division of labor isn’t working out the way you planned, or your previously unpredictable sex life is getting more routine, then you are more likely than a married person to start questioning if this is the person you are really meant to be with.  

When the exact same problems come to a married couple, they start problem solving instead.   They have made a public statement to remain together; they have made a covenant with God to stay together.  The time for them to ask whether this is the right person for them is past.  So they instead try to figure out how to make things work.  Usually, anyway.  

As with many things of significance in love, there's a pop song about all this, All I Ever Wanted by Train.  The guy wanted to keep going and she gave up. [Emphasis mine.] 

No more - hold on we can make it 
No more holding our breath while the truth all breaks it
Move on ya know we'll be stronger in the end

Hey wait 
Hey don't you know that this is there is where the whole thing went wrong
Hey wait 
Hey don't you wanna hear what I have to say
Hey wait 
Hey don't you know that this is where the strong will go on

I realize that things are not this simple in the modern age.  If you ever wondered why conservatives get so worked up about the devaluation of marriage, the above is precisely why.  Here is a similar 'Kate and William were just playing house' take from First Things.  (h/t RealClearPolitics) (My own Kate and William take here.) Sometimes it is only the fact that you are married that can carry you though the rough patches.  If you think of marriage as something temporary, or something that you can leave if it gets rough, then you are just as likely as the shacking up couple to look for greener pastures when the going gets tough.  

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