so about marriage…

I noticed today that I feel so much different now about marriage since I swore off of it a couple of years ago.

Out of some odd curiosity I looked at all the WordPress blogs under the category and noticed that a lot of them had some sort of religious reference, for one thing.  Otherwise they fell into categories of celebrating how long they had endured in that condition, or went on to list ways to mend the marriage or make it better.

I have an odd sense of humor perhaps, but it made me think of someone talking about their Cadillac and how it was the best car in the world and how it had changed their lives, but you really needed to psyche yourself up to drive it and be careful you don’t do certain things or it will break down and the repairs would be expensive.

In short, it reinforced the idea that marriage isn’t for everyone, and those that it is for now seem a bit off to me.

But I say that in a nice way, and don’t intend any disparagement to anyone that is married or wants to be married.  A couple of my kids are married, most of my adult relatives are married, and I wish them all the best.  And I was married – 3 times for 38 years married.  So perhaps I should consider that I’m just as much “a bit off” as they are in that respect.

I haven’t been able to define it to myself precisely, but living in a committed relationship without marriage, as I am now, is distinguishably different.  And I wish there were as many blogs about being unmarried together as there are for the married.  Maybe it’s just that there are fewer issues for the unmarried?  Maybe it’s more like owning a Toyota Prius that never has problems and gets great gas mileage, which helps you overlook the fact that the navigation system sends you to a completely wrong place once in awhile?

So I guess my point is, if you’re living unmarried to someone, write a blog.  It might give married people something else to blog about.


The Last Dollar

In a few days I’ll probably appreciate it a bit more, but for now I’m simply quietly celebrating inside.  Today my bank is remitting the last payment under the divorce settlement to my ex.  No further obligation exists under the agreement.  After 30 years of work, I can now hurry up and pay off the mortgage so I can afford to retire and manage living expenses with a Social Security income.

I don’t seriously regret much of the past 3 decades and the 3 marriages over that time span, although I have to say it’s been expensive.  I have 4 great kids and 2 grandkids, and I helped raise 4 stepkids and a bunch of foster kids.  The rhythm of life seemed to dance between wonderful, horrible, and then resting in OK for awhile before it started all over again.  I’m guessing it just might continue that way, but maybe not.

Maybe I can start to let my foot off the gas now and not be so anxious about the future.  I have a lazy dog for a companion, and a wonderful girlfriend to spend pleasant moments together with.  I’m teaching myself how to cook, and joined a fitness center.  I can keep warm in the sauna in the winter, garden and cut grass in the summer.

With any luck, the next 30 years can be even better than the last 30.  Less expensive at least.


Increasing Honesty in a Relationship

So how do you increase the honesty in marriage?

1. Speak up.

By speaking up I’m not saying that you remove the filter between your brain and mouth, but speak up more. How often do you avoid replying or bringing something up out of fear of your partner’s reaction? There are times when you need to speak up in order to help your marriage and each other grow.

Many couples fall victim to thinking “if my spouse really cared about me, they’d be able to figure out what I’m feeling or thinking.” What part of your vows stated you’d read each other’s minds for as long as you both shall live? I’m guessing that wasn’t part of the ceremony.

Stop sitting back waiting for your spouse to pick up on the fact that you’re frustrated, ticked off, hurt, or lonely and speak up. Two things will happen. One, you will grow up a bit more because you’ve taken charge of your thoughts and emotions and two, your partner will grow up because you’re treating them like an adult who’s capable of handling your thoughts and emotions.

2. Make the obvious, obvious.

If you’ve had a stressful day at work, when you come home you know it’s likely to be stressful there as well, right? So rather than letting the elephant in the room (the stress level in your life) walk around freely, point it out before you and your spouse get in to it.

A simple, “Hey honey, good to see you, (kiss), I’d like about 5 minutes to decompress from my day before I hear about your day, alright?”

Another way to make the obvious obvious is when the discussion starts to get heated, point it out. When you raise your voice in a conversation, it’s no longer about what’s best for all the people involved, it’s about your power and your pride.

3. Grow up.

Many people go kicking and screaming into adulthood. I was one of them. I wanted things my way! Still do at times.

I used to think that life was all about me. And problems occurred when other people didn’t know this.

Marriage grows you up. Living with another person forces you to grow up. And just when it seems your spouse is done growing you up, your kids take over. That’s a simple fact of marriage.

Recognize this and harness the energy it creates.

Rather than seeing your spouse as someone who doesn’t get you, see them as someone who may want more from you. They may be looking for an erotic lover, a passionate friend, a warrior, a true supporter, or simply a partner in life’s adventure.

via We have trouble communicating.

The fear of being alone

In news that will be completely unsurprising to those who have dated people who spend more time playing Grand Theft Auto than speaking in full sentences, science has confirmed that our fear of being single keeps us in bad relationships.

A study from the University of Toronto recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has found that people often stay in relationships because they are afraid of ending up alone. The more fearful they are, the more likely they are to majorly lower the bar for what they expect in a romantic partner.

“Those with stronger fears about being single are willing to settle for less in their relationships,” said the lead author Dr. Stephanie Spielmann in a statement. “Sometimes they stay in relationships they aren’t happy in, and sometimes they want to date people who aren’t very good for them.”

Apparently as annoyed as we are when our mothers remind us that “Better is the enemy of good,” we agree with them when it comes to our relationships, at least to a degree. Anyone who has been the only one dancing to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” at their college roommate’s wedding knows the uncomfortable truth: There is, albeit temporary, comfort in having another person by your side.

What is actually surprising about the study, though, is that the data showed men are as concerned as women about becoming becoming lonely cat ladies. “In our results we see men and women having similar concerns about being single which leads to similar coping behaviors, contradicting the idea that only women struggle with the fear of being single,” co-author Dr. Geoff MacDonald said in a statement.

That’s right. Contrary to the myth that men seek an eternity of bachelorhood fun and games, it turns out they, too, worry that they will face a lonely bitter end in which potted ferns are their only form of loving companionship.

This is particularly fascinating, since women have generally been considered the gender with a romantic expiration date, while men have the option of taking the sexy lone-wolf route with women coming and going in their lives. Women were long stigmatized for being single and taught that there was a narrow window of attractiveness and desirability before they were considered off the market for good.

But everybody hurts, regardless of whether they pee standing up or sitting down. “Loneliness is a painful experience for both men and women,” said MacDonald, “So it’s not surprising that the fear of being single seems not to discriminate on the basis of gender.”

There’s also the fact that men today have more of a reason to worry about remaining single than they did fifty year ago. Since women are no longer as (or at all) dependent on men for their financial and social security, men aren’t guaranteed a lifetime of female companionships. There may be fear of dying alone, but there is no actual need for women to marry for their economic wellbeing or societal standing. Thus, they aren’t a guarantee for men, which is why they may be as likely as women to worry now about their chances of finding someone better…or just someone.

So when you are wondering about whether you should stay with someone who can’t remember your birthday, take comfort in knowing that Mr. or Mrs. Right may be right out there, trying to find the courage to leave his or her dead-end relationship, too.

via Fear of dying alone drives women AND men into bad relationships

6 Reasons Never To Get Married

By Leah Hager Cohen

1. Because not-married doesn’t mean all alone.

If you’re married, it’s generally assumed you’ll always have somebody — for better or worse. But I’d just like to say that when you’re not married, you’ll also always have somebody for better or worse, somebody to count on, love, laugh with, fight with, miss, confide in and rely on. Because being not-married doesn’t mean you’re alone. It means you’re living your life with friends, lovers, sisters, brothers, neighbors and co-workers. You’re just not living with a spouse. Maybe you’re dating. Maybe you’re in a relationship for two years, then in another for five years. Maybe you’re like me: in a relationship for a decade and aiming for life. Maybe you opt for no romantic partner at all. Instead you connect with friends over big pots of soup and crusty bread, go on road trips and encounter strangers, work for social causes, swim in the ocean, play the violin in an amateur string quartet. You don’t need to be married to have all the things marriage is supposed to give you — a life rich with experience and intimacy.

2. Because love is a mystery…

And marriage, by definition, is a contract, plain and simple. I neither want nor need my love defined in business or legal terms. The beauty of love is that it’s undefined to begin with — and always changing.

3. Because real security comes from being known for who you are and cared for no matter what.

Upsetting stuff in life happens, and marriage doesn’t stop it. Security, on the other hand, makes those rough times endurable. I get mine from my children, every time they crack me up by serenading our mutt with their improvised blues songs. I get it from my partner, every time he reads my mind and knows I’m craving a late-night snack of kettle-cooked potato chips — and then whips out a package he just happened to buy on his way home from work. I get it from my best friend, every time she senses I’m burnt out and takes me kayaking or mails me a poem. Feeling known and adored by the people around you — be they lovers or co-workers or chums — provides the greatest security of all. And you don’t need a spouse to rely on it.

4. Because you can still have the ring.

When one of my friends turned 40, she registered for a bunch of household items and threw herself an unbridal shower. At first, I thought this seemed weird and kind of selfish, but then it hit me: I’d never begrudged my betrothed friends their waffle irons, blenders and cute, little sugar spoons. Why should I want any less for my unmarried friends? For that matter, why not want these things for myself? Not housewares, exactly, but those aspects of marriage rituals–be they weddings or anniversaries–that do resonate with me. Because it turned out, after my boyfriend and I had been together five years, I found myself yearning for something surprisingly traditional: a tangible symbol of our connection, something I could have with me at all times, something I could touch. I shyly announced I’d like a ring, and he went out and found me a beauty. It looks like fairies made it from twigs and moonlight: tiny and bumpy with little specks that wink in the sun.

5. Because you can break up.

My boyfriend and I have been together 10 years now, and whenever we’ve hit an especially rocky patch (as all couples do) it’s been a relief to know there’s nothing holding us together except our desire to make it work. We’re at liberty to break up in an instant if things become unbearable. What sweet, paradoxically empowering knowledge this is! During our saddest, ugliest, most hopeless moments, I have taken comfort in this fact, which has given me the willingness to re-dedicate myself to us.

6. Because you can always get married next year. Or the next. Or the year after that.

I’m no anti-marriage crusader. And this isn’t an injunction; it’s just a list. I was married once, and the truth is, my boyfriend and I haven’t ruled out getting married someday. We’re not sure what might prompt us to desire legal accreditation, but we remain open to the possibility. In a way, that’s the whole point: remaining open. Both in our attitude toward marriage and in our relationship itself; we hope to stay open, to be continually receptive to ideas, to thoughts, to feelings, to experiences, to others and to ourselves. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a long-term relationship, grieving the end of one, just starting a new romance or contentedly flying solo: None of us knows what the future will hold. And so we let ourselves move forward into it, clear-eyed about the limits of our certainty and invigorated by the adventure.

via 6 Reasons Never To Get Married.

Do you have a “complex marital biography”?

I’ve been married and divorced three times, which makes me one of those people the Wall Street Journal describes, delicately, as having “a complex marital biography.” For most of my life, this has been a source of shame. But lately I’ve begun wondering if I’m really the one with the problem.

I’m certainly not alone. Among people ages 50 and older, the divorce rate has doubled over the past 20 years, according to sociologists Susan Brown and I-Fen Lin of Bowling Green State University. Further, having been married previously doubles the risk of divorce for those ages 50 to 64, while for those ages 65 and up, the risk factor quadruples.

The most obvious reason is that people are living longer. My three marriages took place over a 30-year period and produced three children — not exactly a night in Vegas. My mother, also on marriage number three, followed an early divorce with a successful 30-year marriage to husband number two. Several years after his death, she tied the knot with a fellow retiree — again, not what I would call party-girl behavior.

So here’s a revolutionary thought: What if marrying more than once was actually okay? What if we (and by “we” I mean people of any gender, or as I like to call them, “people”) could enter into legally sanctioned relationships with individuals we loved — and then, if the unions no longer served us or our families, end them?

I have this fantasy of sitting on the couch with my kids, leafing through the family album. “Here’s Bob,” I might say fondly, patting a photograph of a hippie-haired young man in ripped jeans. “We spent 12 great years together, writing music and traveling all over the world.”

On another page, a smiling man on roller blades, flowers peeking from his leather backpack. “This is your father the year I met him,” I would tell my daughter. “He taught me to skate, and brought roses every week for no reason.” And here, my sons’ father, sturdy and tall just like they are. “Remember our summers in Montauk?” I would ask. “We’d sing for hours on the drive out.”

Do I regret any of these relationships? Not for a second. If I met these men now, I would probably make different choices (as would they). But I can’t imagine my life without the experiences we shared or the children we created.

After all, what makes a life well lived? Taking chances. Making mistakes. Loving others. And maybe even marrying the wrong person.

So let’s try looking at marriage as an exit off life’s highway, rather than an irrevocable dead end. Maybe it will lead to a road we want to follow forever; that would be a great blessing. But if not, we should be free to head in a new direction without feeling like we failed.

via Deborah Gaines: Multiple Marriages: Badge of Shame or Life Well Lived?.

10 Relationship Rules You Should Break

Although these are phrased in terms of marriage, the same would apply to any long term relationship:

The two of you should do everything together; work out every disagreement (without actually fighting); spend every night in the same bed; and never, ever be bored.

Say what?! These and other so-called “rules” for [relationships] need some serious debunking. And it’s not just because rules your mother may have passed on are outdated; some may be downright damaging. In fact, “breaking some [relationship] ‘rules’ may be the best thing you can do for your relationship,” says Barbara Bartlein, RN, MSW, psychotherapist and author of Why Did I Marry You Anyway? Here are 10 rules you can break with confidence.

[read them at Marriage Rules – Best Marriage Rules and Advice to Break – Woman’s Day.]