Marriage is a controversial subject, not just for the country or the world, but for me, personally. There's a lot I could say about marriage equality (like hell yes!), and the dire state of our dumpster fire of a political climate (hard pass), or how I wish I'd have grown up surrounded by lush, informative, and inclusive conversations about love, marriage, and commitment that wasn't suffocated by overbearing conservatism. Oddly, though, some of the reasons why a traditional marriage works for me have nothing to do with the history of marriage in this country, what is "expected" of couples, or what certain conservatives consider to be acceptable. Over the years, I've formed my own opinions based on my life, feelings, and experiences. I mean no harm or disrespect to anyone who believes or chooses otherwise, because to each his, hers, or their, own. I just know what works best for me, my romantic relationship, and my children.
When I think of a traditional marriage, I can't help but touch on sexism, patriarchy, and misogyny, because a lot of the institution is rooted in some ancient and offensive practices. Honestly, though, and while I truly believe highlighting those practices and beliefs is important, I know they have nothing to do with what I have with my amazing husband of nearly 10 years.
My husband and I started dating about 13 years ago, just after I'd left my first marriage — what was the ill-advised commitment to my high school sweetheart. For context, I think we knew deep down the marriage wouldn't work, but at 18, I was defiant and determined to do anything against my parents. Marrying young doesn't mean we took our vows lightly. We tried to make the relationship work for four long years. Ultimately, though, we were a terrible fit for one another; two wildly different people, traveling in two different directions.
I knew I wanted to marry again at some point. It had nothing to do with feeling like "it was the right thing," or that my now-husband and I had to in order to somehow solidify our relationship. It was just a mutual decision to commit to spending our lives together. Even typing that, I realize there's a lot of happy couples who commit without nuptials, and end up lasting far longer than most traditional marriages. I get it, and again, I respect that. For me, however, I wanted something else; something more than an understanding comparable to what Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell have (though, that's truly the dream).
All these years later, we're still mostly conventional with an untraditional flair. We mutually decide who handles the money, kids, and everything else in life, because we're a team. My husband doesn't control or rule me, nor do I want to do that to him. We're equals. I've been a stay-at-home mom of our two children, but I also work my ass off with "untraditional jobs" to pay the bills. We're traditional where it works for us, but I still cling to feminist ideals. With that, here's some of the ways the traditional institution of marriage works for me:
Because I Need Stability & Accountability
At the very core of why marriage works for me, lies my intense fear of instability. I deal with anxiety, obsessions, and compulsions, due to a turbulent, often unsettling childhood. Aside from the days I'd spend with my grandmother, there wasn't much to hold onto in terms of accountability or security. All of this contributed to an ongoing fear of abandonment, and why I still have difficulty attaching to other people.
While I know my husband could potentially leave, as could I, it's less likely than if we weren't married. We have an understanding through our vows (and legal paperwork) to fight for our relationship through the hard times. There's no easy way out. We can't just break up or walk out. We can't leave things unfinished or stop talking. We have to communicate and work through the pain, and fight like hell so that we come out stronger than before. It doesn't mean unmarried couples don't fight to stay together (I know they do), but there's less of a safety net — the safety net I need to be vulnerable in my relationship with my husband. Besides, I've been through divorce already, and I don't want to go through it ever again.
Because My Marriage Is Nothing Like My Parents'
Like a lot of people I know, I didn't have the best example of marriage via my parents. They were explosive, abusive, and dangerous together. I felt relief when they divorced and, honestly, it was because of their turbulent marriage that I never wanted to have a wedding of my own. As I aged and fell in love again and again (and again), only to have my heart broken just as frequently, it was clear a lifetime of instability had affected the way I loved. Why would I want to marry, knowing I'd end up miserable like them?
Then, when I spent all that time living with my grandmother — long after the death of my grandfather — it was clear: the woman who'd hadn't taken off her wedding band in over 40 years (a symbol of their love and unity), had never been more devoted or in love with any other human on the planet. When she spoke of him there was a breathless, hopeful air about her. She glowed, even when speaking of the tough times. She showed me I could be a strong, independent woman while still letting myself give and receive love. I learned what commitment, trust, and faith really is in a relationship because of my grandmother, not my parents.
Because I Like Having A Husband
It's outdated to admit how much I like having a husband, or how much I like being a wife. Honestly, it makes me feel like we're connected to one another in a way we couldn't possibly be connected to anyone else.
Of course, this doesn't mean I'm inferior to my husband, or that he's my superior. It's not a patriarchal or sexist thing, however traditional or conventional we consider our relationship to be. We're married because it's a state of being we both wanted. In having a partner to co-parent with, we'd probably have a similar life, and it's be OK. But for me, the whole process of deciding to commit the rest of our lives together, then working to stay that way, is exhilarating and rewarding in ways I can't explain.
Because, Legally, Everything Is Easier
Before my husband and I decided to get married we'd already had our daughter and lived together. We had separate insurances, separate bank accounts, separate everything. It honestly wasn't much of a problem, until it was.
When my daughter busted her head open on the dresser and had to go to the emergency room, she was covered on his insurance but I was the one listed on everything. With my own appointments, there was always discussion about the difference of last names, circumstances, and the responsible party (financially). It's one of the reasons I'm all for marriage equality. If your partner has no legal ties to you in times of need, who the hell does?
Plus, it got real damn tiring having to explain our situation all the time. Why is marriage the expected next step for a loving couple? Even though I wanted it, it isn't for everyone.
Because We Create Our Own Definition Of "Traditional"
When I think of "traditional" marriage, I don't define what my husband and I have by "traditional" definitions. I don't think of him as "the man of the house" or someone I'm supposed to be subservient to. Nope. It doesn't mean he won't cheat or lie or do something that could wreck us (or me), either. That can happen in even the best marriages with the best intentions, because we're human and we're flawed.
There's no one way to be married, or even committed to someone you love. Basically, you do you, and I'll do me, respectfully. As long as everyone's happy with their choices, the labels shouldn't matter anyway. Right?