Marriage is a tricky thing – an institution that’s based on a left-behind way of life is understandably, antiquated. Formerly (although unfortunately still true in some parts of the world), marriage was the only way for a woman to make a living. Since the era when global religious institutions ransacked culture, a decent life for a woman was contingent on arranging a decent marriage. Romance, was at best, a lucky addition.
Developing countries aside, women generally have the same, or at least similar opportunities to men to earn a living, so we’re no longer reliant on a marriage to make our way in the world. Yet the old institution hasn’t caught up to modern day, and our beliefs about marriage are stuck in the past.
Let’s take a closer look at some of our pretty backwards thoughts about marriage and what we can do to bring them up to the future.
Marriage is not an Economic milestone
These days, women are perfectly capable of making a living, so there’s no longer a financial need for a spouse. If we remove economics however – the reason marriage was invented -what’s the basis for matrimony?
Most would say love, or perhaps family. We want someone to fill our lives with roses and happiness forever and ever.
The truth? If marriage is about love, it may not be forever, and it may take more work than you imagine to keep a family together.
If you want a companion, be realistic. Your partner is going to piss you off at some point. You might spend time wondering if you made the wrong decision. There might even be financial hurdles to overcome. Loving someone is never perfect, but it will help you – both – grow.
If you’re with someone who knows you inside and out, has seen you through ups and downs, they know your bullshit. If they love you, they’ll call you out on it. Being by yourself will always be easier. You can be completely selfish and do whatever you want all the time. But you won’t have someone there for you when shit gets hard.
We grow during the difficult times. Having a partner helps that to happen, because they allow us a safe space to deal with our shit. The right person for you will love you through the mud, which is both very real and very beautiful, but that does not mean it’s easy. And that love could be expressed in every different ways, and it very well might not be with roses.
Here are a few other things about marriage. One: You are not required to stay in the same one forever and ever. A great marriage could last a decade, as long as you manage to undo it with some grace that’s perfectly fine. Two: You may have to work hard to overcome differences in order to stay together. That could mean spiritual evolution, a physical overhaul, therapy or lots of other things. If you’re looking for love, get ready to do the work – both inside and out.
Marriage is a partnership, not a dependency
I recently read a study which found that after the death of a spouse, mens’ health deteriorates while the woman’s most frequently improves. Why? Because they’re relieved of a burden.
Marriage should not be a burden. Women are no longer earning their living as a glorified housekeeper, so there is no reason they should have to caring for their male counterpart as if he was another child (injuries and sickness aside, of course).
Most men, upon entering matrimony, are perfectly healthy, capable human beings. With that assumption, there is no reason they should not take care of their own basic needs, their living space and their families. Our expectations for living inside of a marriage should be no different from those for outside a marriage.
Most people have shared living space with a non-romantic partner at some point – be it a college roommate or a sibling. To be frank, if one party takes on the majority share of the cleaning or domestic chores, it’s unlikely they’re going to want to continue living with the other. Why? Because it’s unpleasant to have to constantly clean up after another human, and in most cases its an unnecessary burden.
In a non-romantic situation, we more clearly see the option to simply move out and find someone else to live with. So why do we give spouses a free pass to be slobs?
Cleaning up after yourself isn’t a favor to your significant other – it’s the absolutely basic requirement of living with another human being. If you don’t want to do your share of the housework, don’t move in with someone. Find your own apartment and hire a maid. Getting married is not longer the same as hiring a maid.
If men and woman are equals financially, then we ought to expect equality domestically as well. Not doing so is simply perpetuating old and useless stereotypes. Every human being should be capable and happy to care for themselves. Depending on your spouse for your basic needs isn’t healthy, for either party.
When we no longer need each other, we are free to want each other. That’s a luxury that we shouldn’t be taking for granted.
Childrearing is not Women’s Work
There is no rule anywhere in the world that says women have to be the main caregivers to children. So why does it normally end up that way?
We live in a patriarchal culture. It was not until very recently that women were able to work out of the house, and even today it’s uncommon for women to earn as much as men. Thus, for the financial health of a family, the choice is frequently made that the man will continue working and the woman will takes on the childcare role.
Tradition dictates, but we do not have to listen.
Although they do no have the same physical necessity for leave time, men have just as much right and need to take leave after the birth of a child. They have just as much responsibility as a woman to be present for their offspring; to change diapers and sit through four-am feeds. Of course, men cannot breastfeed, so if you’re a new mother dedicated to breastfeeding your child, you are to some extent going to be chained to your kid more than dad is. If you’re okay with expressing your milk into bottles or formula feeding however, there is absolutely no reason why Dad can’t be taking care of half of the night feeding. Or the day feeding, for that matter.
There is also no reason why a woman cannot put her career first. More or less money, if working makes you feel realized, then you should keep doing it. It traveling is your passion, this should not stop after you have a child, man or women. Marriage is a partnership, and it’s up to both parts to make sure that each continues living their dreams. Get a nanny (aka a childcare professional, which means someone who has more experience than you at raising a child) if you want to both spend time out of the house. Add some planning, compromise and not falling prey to idiotic antiquated stereotypes, and you might just have a marriage worth getting married for.
My own husband once thought that life ended with marriage. His entire upbringing, he was inundated with anecdotes and jokes about the many downsides of getting married; how it’s life ending and destroys your freedom. Of course, being trained to think that’s what marriage is would make you pretty against it. If that’s what marriage was, I wouldn’t get married either.
Here’s the trick. Marriage isn’t anything more than what you decide it to be. We no longer have an economic necessity for marriage, so marriage can be based on our own criteria, rather than the ‘old’ definition of what makes a good match. It can be about partnership, emotional growth, security, family …. whatever you want really. If you feel the need to be sexually unencumbered, opt for an open marriage. There will definitely be someone in the world who shares your point of view, and you will find them if you’re honest about what you’re looking for. If children are your main goal, make sure that you’ve got a partner who thinks the same. Financial security – that’s great! Many people still love and desire an old-fashioned marriage.
But if you’re like me, and you’d rather someone who just wants to walk beside you, and share the journey of this amazing life, then it’s time to stop trying to fit into some antiquated box. I did not sign up for marriage to be someone’s maid, nor am I a childcare professional. I enjoy my life, and I would only chose to add someone in if they made it more enjoyable. I’ve never lived my life trying to fit in, so it would be a really dumb idea to stat now. Neither I, nor my husband, owe anything to anyone, except each other. We have the right to decide what defines the marriage we want to be a part of.
If you’re married, talk to your partner about what matters to you, weird as it may be. If you’re not, make a list about what would matter to you in a partner, or partners – and make sure it’s true to you and not to just what you think you ought to be looking for. Then keep that in mind when you’re meeting people. What looks like a happy marriage from the outside isn’t always a happy marriage on the inside – and if its a happy marriage on the inside who gives a fuck what it looks like to other people.
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