Sunday, October 18, 2009

Watching a Multi-Car Pile-up

Over the last several months or year, I feel like I’ve been standing on the edge of a freeway. Cars are zooming into view, some are spinning out of control, and no matter how much I scream, “Slow down! Go a different direction! Steer IN to the skid!” no one can hear me. There’s nothing I can do to stop any of it. Nothing I can do to help. Nothing I can do but watch the cars collide and stack on top of one another.

Since I can’t prevent the accidents, I try to set up a triage station. I try to help the injured and guide them back to places where maybe they’ll feel better. But I think most of them just nod and walk away with wounds gaping. They will get back into their cars bruised and broken and maybe they will go out and get into a dozen more accidents.

It’s hard to watch. It makes me wonder if crashing is inevitable.

It makes me wonder if marriage is really just an out-of-control vehicle that’s destined to hit walls and hurt people. It makes me wonder if we’re keeping an institution on life support that should be allowed to pass away quietly. It makes me wonder if it is at all possible to stay on a safe, sturdy path and not flip upside-down if you choose to say “I do.”

Even the marriages that look healthy and happy on the outside raise questions. Maybe there are things we don’t see. Maybe someone is hiding something. I don’t know. I don’t know if people stay together because they’re afraid to be alone—or if being together really is gratifying.

My parents have a marriage I’d like to model fairly closely. I have no memories of big, terrible fights. Nobody ever called each other names or walked out on one another. Nobody questioned their feelings. Or maybe they did, and I just never knew.

It seems like there are steps you can take to avoid going off course and smacking into a line of trees. It seems like the accidents should be preventable. That if you truly, honestly, 100% respect each other, and you’re truly 100% passionate about each other, and you’re truly 100% certain of who you are as an individual, maybe just maybe you can forge a life together that works. But I just don’t know.

I don’t want to lose my faith in the idea of marriage. But typing that makes me think, is it really I who doesn’t want to lose faith, or has society conditioned me to think I should keep the faith. How much of what we all think and feel is based on antiquated notions of the way things should be?

As much as friends and family tell me how they can’t wait to see me engaged, I hear them make sarcastic remarks like, “this is what you have to look forward to,” and even, “you should just be smart and become a lesbian.”

Is it possible anymore to have a good marriage? Was it ever possible? Or does the majority of the population just not know what they’re missing? Do they stay in situations because they think they’re supposed to—or that what they have is as good as it gets, when really there might be something out there a million times better.

I don’t know. I don’t know anything. I just know that it’s incredibly hard to watch the people around me keep crashing. It’s hard not to wonder if one day I’ll skid into the pile-up, too.


Wow, that was awkward said...

Listen to me. Although I must seem like the most unlikely source to say this; it is cerainly possible to have what you want in a marriage. It takes two to tango and there are a million variables, so it isn't easy. And even if marriage isn't the answer, it doesn't mean you can't find that perfect person to spend your life with, in some fashion.

I'm going to find mine. It is just taking longer than I thought.

surrogate big sis said...

Keep the faith! Many of us have GREAT marriages!!!

justrun said...

Statistics aside, it's the squeaky wheels that we're all hearing about when people say "do yourself a favor and never get married" or things of the like. The fantastic marriages, the respectful partnerships, they just... are. They have tough times, disagreements, struggles, but the commitment keeps them moving forward, together. The best marriages I know are quietly successful.

I think, as humans, most of us are born to commit. I think we're made to have a life with some other person. Period. What I think so many people miss, or devalue is that commitment doesn't equal perfection. I don't think the idea of marriage is archaic, but I do think the idea it being effort is a bit lost.

Keep the faith!

Mandy's Kidding said...

Of course it's possible. It just takes two willing adults with the ability to self-reflect and an openness to change. And couples counseling.

I find cynicism pedestrian. Don't listen to the naysayers. They just have Issues with a capital-I.

laura said...

of course it's possible to have a happy marriage -- you just have to choose the right person!!

brookem said...

i can totally feel you on how society can get us a bit jaded on all this stuff.
i think wonderful marriages do indeed exist. i also firmly believe that marriages take work, and wonderful does not necessarily mean perfection.

SoMi's Nilsa said...

From someone who waited until her mid-30s to get married and just celebrated her first anniversary, I think good marriages (and good relationships in general) do exist. But, they don't come without a lot of hard work. A lot of communicating, difficult at times. And without a deep desire on both sides to want to make things work, no matter how challenging the road lies ahead. Don't become disenchanted, but don't fool yourself to think it's a fantasy life either!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I sorta chuckled re-reading the first paragraph. I kept thinking "damn, and I'm stuck in the brokedown lane waiting for triple-A!" LOL

I don't think that marriage is a broken down institution, but in some ways it has grown too important. I mean, think about all the pressure you're under to get married. It's a huge thing now: you start dating someone, and the marriage questions start coming immediately. How many people have succumb to that pressure? Gotten married too fast to the wrong person, before they were sure it was right? And, even if it is right, how many bail too quickly when times get rocky?

The problem, I think, is that we as a culture have raised the idea of marriage to an impossible standard. The idea that it's perfect for all time, the idea that people don't change and need to make adjustments, the idea that there aren't problems that arise and have to be worked through.

Is it possible to have a good marriage? Yes. Is it possible to have a perfect marriage? No. Too many people, I think, mix up those words.

Mel Heth said...

Wow TWA - I was interested to hear what you would have to say about this. I'm glad that you believe people can find what they want AND be married. That's very reassuring.

Surrogate sis - For those on the outside, though, it's hard to tell whether the relationship REALLY IS great or just appears that way.

JustRun - You're right about the squeaky wheels. It's just scary when there are so many around you all at once.

And by no means do I think marriage is supposed to be perfection. I don't think any of my friends who are going through separations or divorces do either...that's what makes this so confusing.

Mandy - I love the couple's counseling part. Ain't that the truth. I'll try to drown out the naysayers from now on.

Brookem - I don't think perfection even exists. In fact, I know it doesn't. I just want to make sure that stable, healthy and happy actually exists. Which means I should probably spend some more time with my parents...

Nilsa - You actually bring up another interesting topic: the relationship between age and marriage. I think the later you get married, the better your chance of working things out. I could be wrong - but it seems like you know much more about who you are and what you want the older you are.

I definitely don't think it's a fantasy. But I want to know that happiness can be a reality!

Geekhiker - You're absolutely right. I actually think the pressure to get married is probably the biggest culprit to marriage not working. I think people ignore warning signs when they're dating because they either think marriage will "fix" everything OR that they're supposed to get married, so they might as well take the plunge. I seriously want to go on a crusade to help girls (and maybe boys) realize that they should NOT get married just to get married. They should make sure they've absolutely found the person they want and deserve to be with.

Semicharmed (Brandi) said...

Agree with Brookem one hundred percent. Don't give up on the idea of marriage, just know that it's not always going to be rainbows and butterflies, it takes a lot of work. Work that both parties have to be willing to put in. While no one has a perfect marriage - (we all have problems), you can have a great, wonderful, fulfilling relationship don't give up on that.

Anonymous said...

So, no aka this time; and after almost 45 yrs. of marriage - yes, it is a job, just like parenting, with lots of hard work; but with many rewards. One of the biggest rewards is knowing you have set an example for your children. Another very important factor is; you have to be best friends as well as husband and wife. Just ask your dad!

someones mom said...

I am almost 39 years into marriage, your Mother is right. You have to be best friends, you are there for each other with the little bumps in the road and struggle along side by side with the huge bumps in the road. Enjoy smooth sailing into the sunsets when the path is smooth.
I feel in this day and age sometimes couples just give up way too quick, its great to grow old with your best friend.

Amy Turpin said...

Marriage is HARD, and parenting is HARD, and when you combine the two, it is even HARDER...but, they are also wonderful and fulfilling and strengthening and worth it!!! I know what you mean, though, marriages I thought were strong are crumbling all around me, but there are still a lot of them that are still strong, and are getting stronger by learning from other's mistakes. Good luck. :)

Anonymous said...

I think Elizabeth Barrett Browning got it right in her poem "How do I love thee?" At the end she says, "I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears of all my life." That's why I had it engraved on my husband's wedding ring. Marriage is NOT a fairy tale. It's a commitment to go through life together and be there through good times and bad, sickness and health, blah blah blah. If you have the right partner, marriage is awesome, even through tough times.

If you want to do away with something, I think we should do away with the fairy tale fantasy. Prince Charming and the Princess do not ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. I think that's the problem, not the institution of marriage.

hugs, K