Tuesday, April 15, 2014

On the Redefinition of marriage

This is one of them ones where I am going to have an opinion on things that hit pretty close to home for people. Read with caution, or skip.  If you decide to comment…as they say, ‘keep it classy!’

Last week Aaron and I got in a pretty gross fight. Truth be told, it's been a tough couple months. The cold and the snow have trapped me indoors, making me less than the happy spouse Aaron signed on to marry. I've been feeling like I could use a little more hand holding and nice words. He has been feeling like he could use a little more respect and honor. We've been missing each other a bit. But last week, after a pretty big fight, Aaron said it. Something I didn’t think he’d ever say.

"I don't know how much more I can take of this"

That was big, it cut deep. "What's that supposed to mean?" I yelled. We didn't speak the rest of the night. He left the next day in silence. In midmorning I called him and asked if he could come home at lunch, so we could talk. While the boys played on the floor we had a healing conversation. "You can never say things like that Aaron", I told him, and “you can never threaten to be done.” He reminded me I say things like that all the time! "It's different, you are my husband, we have three kids, being done can't even be an option!” I cried, a bit hysterical. Even though Aaron was sweet and understanding- there was a smile behind his eyes. "I wasn't talking about leaving you; I was done with you in the moment". I calmed down and remembered Aaron and I are in it for the long haul. It's going to take more than some hard times and a couple fights to break up our promise. We both fully understood on the day we were married what our covenant meant. Unlike most couples, we knew we weren't marrying each other's personality or physical characteristics.  On the day we were married, we committed to choosing the whole of each other for the good of each other with the possibility of children. Our marriage has not been redefined. Difficult? Yes. More challenging than we ever imaged? Yes. Re-definded? No.

I was watching "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" a few months back (because clearly, I only view quality television). The main couple, Bruce and Kris Jenner, announced their separation to their children.  One of the kids, Kim (of the infamous sex tape, with two, maybe three marriages already under her belt) stated her support, “We want you to be happy, and if you are not happy in your marriage, we support you leaving it”- The Kardashians, they have bought the redefinition of marriage.

A couple weeks ago, many of you read when Gwyneth Paltrow announced her separation from Chris Martin after more than a decade of marriage.  She didn’t call it separation though, or even divorce.  As I am sure you have heard by now, she called it a, ‘conscienceuncoupling’.  But wait, it gets better.  She went on to explain that marriage is kind of a stale institution.  SURE, it might have worked when people died at earlier ages, but now that we live so long, HECK!  It’s unnatural to spend 50-60 years with the same person.  My friend ERIN wrote a good piece on this.  Gwen and Chris, they've bought the redefinition of marriage.

A blog I read, but I don’t really love (do you ever do that? Don’t say mine!) had a piece on the process of ending relationships in a good way, with as little damage as possible.   The piece was fascinating, you can judge for yourself, but what shocked me was her assertion that successful couples are rare.  Those who choose to stay together, even when things aren’t awesome, do so out of denial of their best self, their truth, etc… They do  so because they are scared, or weak.  They do so when they shouldn’t.  Her piece was so matter of fact.  She bought the redefinition of marriage. 

Lots of my peers are reaching that 7-10 year itch point. I was talking with a good friend who told me that most of the couples, MOST of the couples she knew who married around the same time as her/her spouse are now divorced.  There’s lots of reasons, but most often I hear,  ‘not happy’, ‘my spouse is not who I thought they were’, ‘we weren't in love'.  You see, we are buying the redefinition of marriage. Regularly.

So much so, that I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say marriage was redefined radically and profoundly a very long time ago.  When happiness became the end goal, artificial birth control the norm, and no-fault divorce an easy out…THAT is when marriage was redefined.

And, it was a huge departure from historical norms. 

You know who I respect?  I respect couples who have stayed together.  Together when it sucked. Even for years and years of awful.  I respect the couples who have found their way back to each other through the battlefield they created in years of bad communication. I respect couples who have forgiven the unforgivable, held on, even if sometimes just barely, one finger on the ledge as the world tries to suck them down.  Those are the couples I need to make my example, not the ones who parade around in a cloud of emotional gush (And you know I love me some emotional gush)…because those are the couples who have not allowed marriage to be redefined.
And to those of us invested in the wider, ‘marriage fight’.  Who work to ensure the institution is protected from the so called evils that are after it.  I can’t be mad at you, I really can’t.  But, I must caution, we are talking to a generation, even generations, who have know idea what marriage is- so our words, they fall on deaf ears.  They do.not.make.sense.   

I guess I just think, most of the time, we are going about this all wrong. Instead of pointing out what authentic love is/is not….we let the misunderstanding guide the conversation.

I’m gonna try not do that anymore.
Oh, and to love my husband better.


  1. Amen. I think we lost the definition of marriage a long time ago with the acceptance of divorce and contraception as the norm. And you know what? I've even learned to have a crud ton of respect and admiration for people who stay together "for the sake of the kids". Obviously it's not ideal but I am so sick of people saying that that's not a good reason to stay together, especially through hard times that very often DO get better even if it doesn't look like it at the moment. What better reason could there be to stick it out and fight for your marriage than the fact that these little innocent people are counting on you???? And people who are willing to forgive the unforgivable. THOSE are my heroes.

  2. I was having a conversation with my oldest (20, almost 21 - gasp!) and she mentioned that a lot of her friends' parents are getting divorced lately; "like they are done with each other now that the kids are grown up".

    We are heading for the big 25 this year and there were many years that we were 'done' but kept going because we signed up for the 'death do us part' (and can I be honest and say we have both been to the point that 'death' was preferable to the 'right now'.) But we do know the 'right now' never lasts forever and we can soldier through and get to the other side. And the other side is always better, BECAUSE we discuss how we got into and out of the right now. So glad you got to the other side of 'right now'

    I loved this post! thank you

    many blessings for you and Aaron

  3. Mary, have you thought of collated your blogs into a book? You have such a gift of honest writing.

  4. should have said collating, put together, jammed in between to covers, etc

  5. Let's start with what marriage is -- a legal contract that was created to preserve property and forge alliances. In other words, a business deal. The brides and grooms often had no say. We attach emotional meanings to it, and that is why marriage has been tweaked and turned throughout history. "Traditional marriage" included coverture, men "owning" their wives. Do you want to go back to that? Because of no-fault divorce, there are fewer female suicides now, but there are also fewer men and women living with domestic violence, and fewer women being murdered by their partners. I would say that's a good thing! Marriage needs to accommodate who we are today, and we no longer marry for property reasons; we marry for love and companionship, and the old marital model does not work for those reasons. I have coauthored a book, The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels, that comes out this fall (http://thenewidobook.com/) that offers new ways to marry. I hope you read it and reconsider your lament over "traditional" marriage.

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    2. Hi Vicki! I aim not sure how familiar you are with my blog- Those who regularly read it, will know that I am referring to marriage in a traditional sense regarding Christianity and specifically Catholicism. Although I am sure the socio-cultural reflections found in the book you referenced 'The New I Do, Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels' would be a fun to read, it certainly wouldn't be a book where I would be seeking any truths on the institution. In the Church's worldview marriage serves two purposes, 1) a unity of spouses (heaven bound) and 2) an openness to creating life with God. I'm gonna take a gamble and guess you don't see the goods of marriage being those two things ;) So, we are probably quite far apart from reaching any common ground. Although companionship and love are awesome- those are not the reasons I married my husband...we don't define our marriage by 'who we are today' because, frankly, 'who we are today' is something we are not striving for as our ideal. I think maybe your statements regarding suicide, marital violence and people being murdered were for shock value? Because, obviously, that would not be the ideal. Hope you have a fantastic weekend!

  6. Thank you for your honesty. Too often I only see and read the happy blogs in which everything is perfect. Its really hard to write about when things get tough. My marriage has been a struggle for probably the whole 17 years...lol. I once tried to write about struggling through the bad times a few years ago and I got a response that said, well, my husband wasn't quality material, or a decent man, and hers was. Actually--no one is perfect no matter how much we want to pretend they are to the world. You marry an imperfect person with faults--everyone does. Its a package deal. Our wedding homily--I loved it. It was a stern lecture by an old priest who had seen a lot in his years. He basically told us that we were in for the worst...not the best, not happily ever after, but the worst. And this was forever. his words really impacted us. We always think of them. I am glad he gave us that advice and didn't tell us that everything was going be peaches and pie and wonderful rainbow unicorns. Not many people get stern words at their wedding they get the fantasy instead.

    Divorce is not an option for us. Even if I wanted to, I just don't see how divorce would improve my life. Divorce is the fantasy answer...that solution that people will think will make everything better.

    When you entered into marriage. You entered into a war with the devil. He wants nothing better than to destroy families and bring ruin, misery, unhappiness, despair. the devil wants to harm children and let them grow up without 2 parents, security, a home, happiness. Its a tough battle. Just keep fighting and don't give up.

  7. I love this post and I love Kim's response above too! We will have been married for 7 years this May and we fight, we fight ugly sometimes but the important thing is is we make up. We both know that we're in it till we die. Fights may seem ugly but I can't imagine how unhappy I would be in a divorce and how my children would suffer. I come from a broken home as does my husband and we know the damage divorce can bring. Hollywood wants to have us believ that divorce can make us happy but we are not celebrities, we are real people who believe in the traditional institution of marriage. It is sad that the drama of Hollywood marriages is what influences our culture. Mary your post is a blessing as is your honesty.

  8. Great post. And one that I needed to read today. Thank you!