I believe marriage should come with a break clause.
"I take thee to be my lawful wedded person, to have and to hold, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. Should I not work hard enough to uphold my end of the bargain, thou art free to dump me."
I mean, that is what we do in practice. So why do we create this fairytale utopia at the height of our optimism, if we know it’s not going to necessarily be like that?
Full disclosure — I have no intention of getting married — yet. I’m not against the idea per se, but it’s not a life goal, either.
I could just as happily rest on my deathbed thinking, "I never married," as I would thinking, "I did marry." Ambivalence.
That said, I have been studying the concept more rigorously of late.
Last year, two close friends announced their respective engagements.
Soon after, I got swept away in the most intimate relationship of my adult life. He came to a gyno check with me and said he’d never seen someone’s uterus on a screen before. Our agreed definition for being happy together was, "Do we see ourselves with the other person in 20 years?" Marriage was a hypothetical scenario.
I began to observe the subtext in films like Marriage Story with more interest.
I suppose that, with the concept floating around more frequently, I began to consider it.
Still, my relationship ended, I haven’t received any official wedding invites, and, spoiler alert, Marriage Story is a divorce story.
I get why people do it, want it, fight for it. I also get why people end it.
And it accumulates a few extra layers of complexity if we talk about non-heteronormative coupling.
With all of these conflicting messages and scenarios, I want to ask:
What does marriage want from us?
“You don’t live your life, but life lives you.” - Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth
I believe that, spiritually speaking, we are leaves that grow on the tree of life. When we get crackly enough, the wind carries us and we have no control over what bush we feed with our decaying atoms.
At least that’s what I got from Eckhart’s quote.
No matter how hard we try to control them, relationships have a life of their own.
When they’re infused with sacred vows, I think relationships are more likely to guide us than vice-versa.
Let’s assume for a minute that marriage is not a contract, but a co-created spiritual entity. A thing that exists between, and outside, two loving partners.
If you have a thing for anthropomorphism, you could even imagine this entity as a child — just without a physical body.
Let’s assume that all this entity wants is to survive and to reach its fullest potential of love. But it doesn’t have a say in it. It can’t control whether it achieves its goal or not. It can only observe its own evolution.
So it’s up to the co-creators of this entity to nourish it and listen to it.
It is important to treat marriage as a separate, living thing.
Conversations about you, me, and we are useful. There’s a lot of them around.
There’s also talk about children and what they do to a marriage. That is valid too. But while kids can make a shared life more interesting, I don’t think they can or should be the main nourishment for a marriage.
Let’s get a few more things out of the way. Love languages, attachment styles, sacrifices, compromises, humour, privacy, shared experience — and many other things that are done, learned and worked on. These are also informative.
All these tools are useful for conceptualising and formalising a common language for relationships.
I want to envision marriage as a spiritual entity in and of itself, because this is the only way I can comprehend why, despite true love and strong intentions, it can still fail.
I may not have been married, but I have been in love. Two very different people, at two very different times in my life. Both times, I could easily imagine waking up to that person for the rest of my days.
Neither worked out. But they did leave me wondering: if love, desire and shared circumstances are not enough, how do so many people end up spending their lives together?
If I choose to see it as "I do this, they do that," someone will always be at fault. Someone will be the offender, and someone will be the offended. Someone will try more, and someone will let go.
But if the spotlight shines on a third party, a thing both people care about and promise to protect, then the story looks a whole lot different.
Nobody wants their metaphysical baby to die.
I imagine myself on the ocean shore (because that’s where I want my hypothetical wedding to be).
By my side, the guy I said yes to (interesting enough to make me fall for him, and smart enough to want me forever).
What does marriage want from us?
It wants to know we want it.
It wants to know when it’s not wanted.
It wants us to feed it joy, pain, heartache, hope, peace, illness, laughter.
It wants our whole selves.
It wants our truth.
It wants to be the third person on a long-distance phone call in the middle of the night.
It wants eternal youth.
It wants to run when it’s done something bad, but doesn’t.
It wants time with us.
It wants reassurance.
It wants to feel powerful.
It wants us to be comfortable with contradiction.
It wants us to overcome hardship.
It wants to transcend into pure love.
Spiritual entities made of love are powerful when they are fed, and fragile when they are malnourished.
So, I personally find it romantic to envision our vows informing the ocean…
"I promise to spoil our spiritual baby rotten and keep all metaphysical social workers away from our doorstep, so long as we both shall live. Should I not work hard enough to uphold my end of the bargain, thou art free to dump me."