I come from a recent line of long marriages. I’ve been married for 27 years. One of my two brothers has been married for 25 years, and the other has passed the big 30.
Why are we making it? I think because my parents stressed that marriage is supposed to be forever. They eloped when he was 17 and she was 15, believe it or not, and were still married and crazy about each other when he gasped his last breath at 70-something. (Don’t smoke! I was there when he died; it’s a disgusting, painful, smothering way to go. Don’t smoke!)
I say a “recent line” because both of my parents came from broken homes. They made a committment to each other — both teenagers, for God’s sake — that they wouldn’t go from their parents’ broken homes to their own. They wouldn’t do that to themselves — again — and they wouldn’t do that to their kids. They would both (key word) work hard to make their marriage work and stay together, for themselves as well as their kids.
It wasn’t always easy for them to stay together. They fought like cats and dogs the first five years, and periodically for the next 10, and less and less as they got older. They had to learn where each other’s buttons were, and then decide not to push them. Even if it meant losing an argument. Because winning an argument by cheating isn’t really winning, is it?
They learned how to respect each other’s opinions (or at least shut up when they didn’t). They learned to always stand together, not letting us kids divide and conquer on discipline, and not making each other look stupid in public. In private, I think they had some doozies of fights, but they never aired their dirty laundry in front of other people.
They kept their eyes on the big picture. They learned to be tolerant of each other, understanding, forgiving. They let things go if they weren’t really important. They didn’t expect the other partner to be perfect, which was a relief, because neither of them were perfect. They didn’t fight dirty: No name calling, no insults, no “you’re just like your father” charges. They fought about one issue at a time, not bringing up every fight they’d ever had on any subject for the last 20 years.
Most of the time.
They learned to take care of each other, each making it their mission to make the other one happy, knowing the other one was going to do the same, so neither was feeling screwed on the cherishing front. Mom made Dad his favorite dishes; Dad poured Mom a morning coffee. Mom laughed at Dad’s jokes; Dad raved about Mom’s cooking and housekeeping. Little things. And big things. If one knew the other had a psychic bruise about something, they didn’t press on it, or they did what they could to sooth it.
My feeling is, if marriage is work, maybe you’re in the wrong marriage. I think the perfect partner is your best friend, but a friend you also have this chemistry thing with. My husband and I just love hanging out with each other. He’s like a girl-friend who happens to be a guy.
But that doesn’t mean you should say, “Oh, this marriage isn’t easy, so I’ll leave.” Marriage shouldn’t be nothing but work, but sometimes you have to put in the effort to work through problems. My husband and I got married pretty young — I was 21 — so we both had a lot of growing up to do. The work part was making sure we grew up together and didn’t grow apart. It meant me watching football games with him. And I love football now, so it’s added to my life too. He read my college literature books with me, and then we discussed them and talked about characters and imagery and theme. He ended up really appreciating good writing, so that was a plus for him in the long run.
When I see all the wedding shows on TV now, I can’t understand how people have gotten so … ostentatious. So far removed from what a wedding day should be. It isn’t a day to impress everyone with displays of wealth you don’t have. It’s especially not a day to impress everyone with displays of wealth your parents don’t have. I can’t stand seeing these girls begging their moms to buy them a dress Mom has said she can’t afford. Who does that? Who smiles at herself in the mirror knowing her parents will have to put off retirement a few years to pay for this over-blown wedding no one in the family can afford, and EVERYONE AT THE WEDDING KNOWS IT.
Why do people put so much importance on the dry wedding cake that usually tastes like crap; the fancy dinner that isn’t particularly good, certainly not as good as it should be for the money; the ticky-tacky decorations no one would have in their homes; the stupid “romantic” gestures, like releasing doves, which everyone would laugh at any other day; the limo or whatever is trendy these days, a mode of transportation that is passe if you can afford it every day, and an embarrassing “wannabe” moment if you can’t.
What I hate the most? The “but I’m the bride!” attitude of girls these days. Why do girls think, “I’m the bride, so this is my day”? Isn’t a marriage between TWO people? Why is it the bride’s day? Why not the groom’s day? Why not a day for both of them? These days brides act like they’re doing something momentous, something no one’s ever done before. But millions of people get married every year. You’re really not that special.
Brides shouldn’t feel proud of having a bloated, ridiculous, expensive, cheesy wedding where everyone caters to them like little princesses (how freaking old are these people?). They should feel proud to still be married five years later, or ten, or twenty. They should feel proud that they made a good choice in the first place, not a snap decision, that they and their husbands took the job seriously and did it well and made it work, and raised their kids together in a happy, respectful home. They went to counseling if they needed to. They asked for advice. They visited their pastor. They committed to it. How do you walk away from a marriage, especially with kids, without at least trying counseling?
I hope I make it to 50 years, like my parents did. Right now, it’s looking pretty easy, because I’m insane about my husband, and he seems pretty taken with me as well.
I think sometimes girls push for marriage because they just want that fantasy wedding. They jump into “forever after,” not knowing what’s on the other side, because the hoop they’re jumping through is just so darn pretty. Deep down, they probably sense this guy isn’t the right guy, but look how pretty the dress is!
For my wedding, my dad gave me $1,500. He told me whatever I didn’t spend was my wedding gift.
I walked away with 500 bucks.
I bought a white prom dress after the proms were done for $128. I did my own damn hair and makeup and nails. I made my veil and the bridesmaids’ bouquets out of silk flowers; my bouquet was a cloud of baby’s breath with nine tiny pink roses. It was beautiful and cheap, cheap, cheap. We had the reception in the church basement. The women of the family did the food ourselves. No music, band, dancing. Just laughing and talking and hugging people I knew really well and loved seeing that day. I couldn’t imagine having to be introduced to people at my own wedding.
We used that $500 for our honeymoon. My husband held up five $100 bills — he called them “the centurians” — and said, “When the centurians are gone, we go home.” We had a great time in a resort at the Lake of the Ozarks. Had some nice dinners, rented motor bikes (crashed motor bikes), rented a paddle boat, went for long walks, saw movies. Spent lots of time sleeping. When the centurians were all dead, we went to our tiny little apartment and started our real lives, with me still in college and Rick working for way less than he should have because of the big recession in the early ’80s. Our living room furniture was some of our wedding gifts: Two lawn chairs separated by a cooler. For a year, I vacuumed the apartment with a Dust Buster.
It was just about the right size for our apartment.
It was awesome.
Which all brings me to Kim Kardashian. I don’t want to be mean to Kim Kardashian. She seems sweet, and she’s probably hurting and embarrassed and wondering what went wrong. But I wouldn’t be able to show my face in public if I had spent 10 million dollars on a wedding, stood up before God and my family making a vow, and then ditched after 72 days. That wasn’t a decision that took “careful consideration.” I’ve spent longer trying to decide whether to buy a new couch.
But I also wouldn’t have walked down that aisle in the first place. You don’t get married until you know your partner inside and out. You’ve discussed money and children (and discipline) and religion and your families and friends. You know the other person’s values and dreams and where he wants to end up in life, and how he plans to get there. And that place is where you want to end up too.
Too much time is spent planning weddings. Not enough time is sent planning marriages. And that’s why so many marriages fail. Because they never should have happened in the first place.