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Thursday, November 13, 2014

The New "I Do": Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists, and Rebels

I have always gone back and forth on wanting to get married, and that's one of the reasons I choose singledom. This is repeated in the book, but my thing has always been that I wouldn't mind getting married, I just don't want to be anyone's wife. So I was quick to grab up Susan Pease Gadoua and Vicki Larson's The New "I Do": Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists, and Rebels.

Does traditional marriage make sense today? The part where two people fall in love and commit their lives to each other and sign a license to be wed and promise 'til death do us part in front of family and friends. What if we took marriage and turned it into what we want it to look like? This means that if we view parenting as the most important part of our lives, why don't we find marriages that support co-parenting? If we want a long-term companion, why wouldn't we seek that out instead of searching for passion? If we want to marry someone whom we love but aren't attracted to, why wouldn't we have an open marriage? These and other questions lay the foundation for closely examining what marriage is, and what it should look like as the 21st century barrels forward.

It took me a bit to buy into the argument, but as soon as the authors made it clear that marriage is a contract that is submitted to the government, they had me. This is always how I have seen marriage--it's a long-term contract that can be broken at any time. Friends have gotten on me about having divorce in mind when I marry, and my counter arguments have always run along the lines of: I'm not sure long-term monogamy is a thing for every person (or even most people); like it or not, divorce is a reality for half of the people who enter into it; and I wouldn't want to marry anyone I couldn't be divorced from. What I mean by that last statement is, I wouldn't want to be with someone whom I believed would go through the process being overwhelmingly douchey. Hence, when I pick a mate, I will pick someone who can fight fair.

(As you can guess, this will be a bit more of a reflective post than most.)

I have been very lucky, being in my early 30's, to have watched my friends get married and make their marriages work--or not. I have been able to sit back with my glass(es) of wine and indulge in a fantasy of what I want and what I don't. Now, this being said, I prefer to remain single, hence why I have effectively stopped dating and am getting a PhD. I still saw myself stuck prominently in the middle of this book--after everything I have seen, I realize how little I believe in love as we know it--the tingly butterflies, knots in the stomach, crazy passion that comes with the first couple of years in a relationship. As you can see, that clearly hasn't worked me. Hell, the last "relationship" I had (and I use that term loosely) ended because I was sure he was cheating on me--which he was, but he was also cheating with me, on his fiance. [You read that right the first time. It appears that even smart, savvy women can have the wool pulled over their eyes and, admittedly, ignore the glaring red, glowing signs.]

So it was really wonderful to read a book that gave me options, but most of all, that I found a chapter (and a marriage) I can relate to--the Companionship Marriage. I have always said that I am pragmatic about marriage, and that all in all, it is a contract you sign and submit to the government for advantages in return. That being said, I view marriage as much more about long-term commitment and an agreement that we are going to swim forward together--which may mean one may move ahead of the other at times, but ultimately, we will arrive at the same destination. I have said many times, jokingly of course (but maybe not), that I am looking for the person I hate the least. Because if I can find someone I like hanging out with as much as I like being alone, it might be worth it.

I also would absolutely, positively consider the Living Alone Together marriage. The most successful relationships I have had have been long-distance for a significant period of time. This kind of relationship works best for super busy, incredibly independent people. (I don't know anyone like that who writes for this blog.) I agree with several people interviewed for that chapter that if you aren't dealing with the day-to-day of taking the trash out, making the bed, ordering light bulbs, etc., then you can focus on the enjoyment of being together. I have found that has been very true for my life. Perhaps I can find me a nice Californian tech-magnate who can afford to fly back and forth on a weekly basis? Any takers?

All of this to say that I found the book to be more insightful than I was expecting, and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone, married or not. I appreciate that it gives the reader permission to have exactly the kind of relationship they want, whether or not that be actual marriage or some variation on a theme. Why shouldn't we be allowed to make our lives what we want?

For purchase below.

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