On weddings… and marriage

So, seeing as how Sea and I are having a wedding bash, and are both a little conflicted about it, I feel I should weigh in a little about my trepidations. But it doesn’t seem right to start off a wedding post by listing insecurities, so I’ll say why I DO want to have this bash.

I love weddings. I’ve had a lot of fun at every one I’ve been to. I’m pretty sure I’ve cried at every one I’ve been to also, and that’s not something I usually do. There’s something about the whole concept that spreads joy. You gather a group of people from everywhere around your life. Some of them are great close friends that haven’t seen each other in too long. Some are family. Some of them are complete strangers to each other, but might become great friends because, serendipitously, they knew the same people. Weddings gather a bunch of people together, and the thing that connects them is their love for one or both of two people. Everyone at the event has something in common.

I guess what I love about weddings has nothing to do with the actual two people getting hitched. It has to do with getting two families and groups of friends together, and spreading happiness and love around for everyone.

Which brings me to my skepticism about marriage. I don’t feel like the institution of marriage really exists for the benefit of the two people who partake in it. It exists for the benefit of everyone else. I’ve long said that I’d never get married; now I find myself doing it, but not for myself. I’m doing it for my family, and my friends, and Sea’s family, and Sea’s friends. I want a wedding; I just don’t want a marriage.

First, I think that a marriage is like a wedding in that it’s about meeting other people’s expectations – not necessarily your partner’s. I think part of the reason people are  happy to see someone get married is because it shaves off the eccentricities and unpredictableness of a person that can be alienating. Picture a relationship as a Venn diagram. Everything about each person is in their own circle: what you want to do tonight, what kind of music you like, where you go on weekends, your hobbies, etc. Getting married is a bit like committing to only nurture those aspects of yourself that you can share with someone else. It brings you into the mainstream.

“Congratulations on getting married! Now I know you’ve committed to spending more time listening to top 40 hits that everyone can agree on, more time accumulating material things, and be more likely to work hard and put your money away to pay for Junior’s tuition. You’ve committed to spending less time watching horror movies, less time pursuing that impractical music career, less likely to quit your job and do something spontaneous that I can’t do.”

Further, I don’t want our relationship to change. I don’t understand the thought process of people who want to get married. If you love your relationship, why try to change it? If there is something lacking in your relationship, you should seriously question whether committing to it for the rest of your life will improve it… or just lock you into it.

Which brings me to how we carry on through good times and hard. I want to be with Sea, and I always want her to want to be with me. I never want to say I’m in a relationship because it’s too much trouble to get divorced. The sweetest, most romantic thing in the world has to be old couples who are still “dating,” but not married. You know they are together because both want to be. There’s nothing standing between either person and the door. They carry on because of love… not money, or legality, or societal approval. Just love.

But, does marriage help keep people who really love each other together? I think the evidence is mixed. Among the older couples that I know, I’d say that most have at least one divorce in their history. Either way, I’d like to know that I can leave any time I want, and Sea can leave anytime she wants, if we aren’t making each other happy. Relationships take work, and I know I’ll always have to put in the work to make her happy (and vice versa).  I don’t want or need a certificate to do that work for us.

I suppose this just reflects my personality; I’m stubbornly individualistic, and skeptical of anything society expects of me. I insist on finding my own way through life and calling it mine, even if there’s a well-beaten path in front of me that will get me by easier. As long as this is who I am, marriage doesn’t make much sense for someone like me. But a wedding? Well, I’m always into a good party…

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