I don’t think I’ve mentioned this recently, but I’ve been reading Committed, by Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote Eat Pray Love. (I never read that, or saw the movie. It came out in the midst of college and I already had hundreds of other books that needed to be read for credit.) I picked it up not only because A Practical Wedding used it in their book club, but also because the topic of marriage has been floating around our one-bedroom apartment for quite some time now, and really, I don’t know what to make of it most of the time. I’m not finished with this book but I do have a few comments. As always, input from you, the reader, is encouraged.
First, I am getting mixed signals within myself toward this book. The narrator, Ms. Gilbert herself, has been married and divorced and is now staring down the barrel of a matrimonial gun again. She and her intended both swore they’d never be in this situation after their divorces, but things happen. (I’m not going to give away the plot. Go read it, it’s awesome.) So, while she loves her boyfriend, she also points out how women generally suffer after getting married—pay cuts, younger age of death, less happy, etc. So, while this is very confusing to the narrator (or maybe not so, but still), this is also crazy confusing to me. I love my boyfriend and we want to have a family one day—so should we remain unmarried? Does that one piece of paper really make a difference when it comes to long life versus short life? I mean, if we live together, have babies together, eat together, vacation together, everything that married people do together without actually being married, would there be a huge difference in statistics? Those are the numbers I’d like to see.
Also, it’s making me remember why I was so against marriage in the first place, and why I’ve come around to it. I wasn’t raised in a divorced family and the “marriage-negative” relatives, excluding my grandmother, weren’t really introduced to me until I had graduated high school, so why I fought against marriage and children for so long is unknown. But I do know that, until we moved in together and lived together for about a month, generally unscathed, I had told Nick repeatedly that he would never make me a wife or a mother. I told this to everyone—my parents, my brother, my friends, my coworkers, pretty much anyone who would listen. So I can identify with the women she talks about who have no interest in a more domesticated life, and I wonder if I’m missing out on something because I want to settle down and become a wife and mom in the next three-to-five years. Will that make me a different person? Will I be a bad person because of it? I know these are all personal problems, but they’re arising because of this book and they need to come out.
Finally, she describes the perfect situation, the situation that nearly guarantees the couple won’t get divorced, which is pretty much unattainable: devout, lives close to family, educated, older, no kids, on and on. There’s a huge list. But I started thinking about my own family during this. Even my immediate family defies these statistics. When my mom was 20 and my dad was 25, my parents moved from Ohio to Florida by themselves to start a new life. They got married within a few months in a small ceremony on the beach (a handful of guests, which I think is where I get my need to elope, because we aren’t big ceremony people) and it’s been happily ever after since. Now, I’m not sensationalizing my parents marriage—there have certainly been hard times, and I’ve been both aware and unaware of them, but they celebrated their 27th anniversary last week and it’s still going strong. They didn’t avoid having kids—I was born three years after, and my brother, five—neither one has a college education, and they aren’t religious. So I think what I learned was that statistics are crap. My mom has always said if they had stayed in Ohio, they wouldn’t be married. It was moving far away, only relying on each other for support and love, that kept them together. When you have too many people around—family or friends—you tend to get too many opinions. And what some people hear as complaining may only be venting (Nick gets on my nerves and I get on his, but I never tell my parents because I don’t want to sway them against him. Unless there was abuse. There isn’t.) This is why I wasn’t afraid to move in with Nick in a far away place. Either we’d make it or we wouldn’t, but we wouldn’t find out by living in our parents’ houses and just basically hanging out in Florida together. And so far, things have been great. We’ve had a couple tiny fights, mostly about Words With Friends, but nothing that has made us weepy or distant. We communicate really well, we’re very open with each other, and we’re both flexible. If I want to be alone, I tell him. And usually, within twenty minutes, I’m ready to spend time with him again.
That all being said, marriage is a scary topic. How are you all dealing with it? Is it not even in your realm of thought, or is it becoming more real everyday? I don’t have very many girlfriends, and the couple I do have are either very young or completely against settling down, so I’m never able to talk about this with anyone. I also haven’t talked to my mother at all about it, because, if something doesn’t work out, I don’t want to hear “I told you so.”
Sorry for the long-windedness! Definitely read the book, though, if you’re at all interested in getting married. It’s great insight into different cultures and their views of holy matrimony, which, really, isn’t so holy at all.