Mathilde Vhargon 7m 1,037
The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
I learned that marriage can entrap you in legal, financial and emotional situations which will be much more difficult to disengage from or recover from if and when you do manage to disengage, than you ever could have dreamed.
You may think that your decision is a sane and sound and well thought out one, that your prospective spouse is as devoted and as committed and as trustworthy and dependable and reasonable and hardworking and kind and sharing a person as anyone could be, or at least as much as you are. You may think that there is nothing negative about that person that you don’t already know about and have deemed a flaw you can tolerate or even learn to love. You may think that they have shown you their true character and that you have shown them yours and the two of you are headed down the same path hand in hand through life, and will never let go of each other’s hands or decide to sit down or run away or simply make the journey utterly miserable for some strange reason.
Those are a lot of things to be sure of. I was wrong about many of them. I loved commitment and I loved working hard at the relationship and I loved being intimate and connected and growing together. Unfortunately, many people say these kinds of things. They can talk glowingly even over years during pre-marriage stages of the relationship and yet not fully understand what partnership means. They can say to you at some point after marriage, “I don’t think marriage should be work. I think we should just be able to relax and accept each other as we are and not have to try. I think people shouldn’t have to grow after a certain point in their lives.” Really? So, why did I not hear these ideas before? Why did they say the opposite? Maybe because those are things people say when they are full of romantic feelings and ideas. When it becomes an everyday job and kindness and consideration for one’s partner is not so easy, because the partner is having a rough time at work, or has a serious illness, or a child has been born and that lovely little idea takes a real shape that requires huge shifts of one’s time and behaviour in order to make sure that the child does not die or turn into some kind of a monster, or in order that the partner not be the sole carer for the child, which you agreed would never happen….
That’s when it changes, sometimes. Other times, it was never really their intention to be an equal partner. They hadn’t thought they needed to mean it. No matter what the age of the person, they can be very mature or very immature. You don’t fully have a gauge for this measurement of their character before you have married them and they are tied into a partnership life without other options.
And that person can talk a lot about love and how deeply they feel about you and how much you mean to them and how they can’t imagine ever being without you. But do they understand in their gut that marriage is not about feelings and need and desire, but at a much more important level than that is about actions—repeated actions given and received to demonstrate care, consideration, kindness, humility, willingness to both lead AND follow, give and take, listening as well as talking and self-control without demands to exert control over the other? Love is a verb, and not just a noun of feeling. So many people at some point say, “I don’t love you anymore.” Or “I just think we have changed too much, it doesn’t feel the same as it used to.” That is because you were floating along and coasting gradually further and further apart actually more alone in your own head than connected to each other. You had thought those nice, couple, love feelings were the actual thing itself. They don’t sustain themselves. And they don’t live or grow without nourishment—the nourishment of time, touch, eye contact, discussing hard and challenging things, making more commitments and mutual decisions that must be made as time goes on and things change, adapting to each other’s needs and growth and new ways of looking at the world. It will never, never be static or predictable.
I am not saying I would not recommend marriage to other people who have found a wonderful partner they feel is right for them. What I am saying is that it can be a lifechanging, horrific experience, a heartbreaker, and a deep cause for regret. When I see a couple who have been fortunate enough to find each other and both are genuinely able and committed to be partners over the long years, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, with every bump in the road or quirky change of personality and interest; I am deeply, deeply moved and filled with joy for them having experienced such a marriage, but also deeply and painfully sorrowful for myself, as that is what I had hoped for and never found!
When we can understand and know and trust ourselves, we have a better chance of finding the right person and being the kind of partner that can make a marriage work. But equally important after that is making sure that your partner also has a very healthy and mature sense of themselves and is able to show their true self and their character, and that they are also sure and ready to do this thing with you for real, so that the two of you will love deeply and reciprocally for the duration, speaking truth and that you will make the decisions together because you really ‘know as you are known’.
I do not have any answers. But then this question only asked what have learned that I did not know before. Maybe my answer can be useful.