Saturday, November 15, 2008

Advice on Love and Marriage

This is taken from my 2004 Journal

As far as relationships go, I may not have lived with a bunch of guys to gain experience from, but I have so far managed to stay married and living with the same guy for six years in May, which does give me some knowledge. (that and reading a lot of self-help books and romance novels. )

The fact is, marriage bliss is a lie. Marriage and the words "happiness, contentment, satisfaction, perfect and true love" don't belong in the same paragraph, let alone the same sentence. It's one of those things that is basically a secret everyone knows but no one talks about. I sometimes wonder if marriage is just one of those really bad ideas that look good on paper but don't work in real life. Like Communism. Or Non antiperspirant deodorant. Anyone who is truly honest will tell you that their relationship is generally rocky at best and only really worth it a fraction of the time.

A constantly knee-slapping, gleeful rolling in the hay relationship only exists in books and movies. Where the characters are made up, and their every line and motion is written and choreographed by someone else. And then practiced over and over again until they get it right! That's why actors are paid so much. They're great liars. We pay them to convince us it's real, since it's not happening in our own lives or the lives of anyone we've ever met or even heard of, but we really, really, really want to believe it anyway.

So everyone goes around with a fake smile plastered on their face and a dozen ready-made lies on the tip of their tongue to perpetuate the idea that everything is marvelous when in reality they're all walking around glumly believing everyone elses smiles and lies, thinking they're the only one faking it.

The movie "The Mirror Has Two Faces" says it best, but even after their thoughtful and reality-check musing, they give their own philosophizing a swift kick in the pants by ending the movie with the whole "happily ever after" perpetuation of the lie.

People get into relationship and get married because living creatures crave companionship and are programmed with "gotta fuck" instincts. They stay in relationships and in marriages because they a) can't stand the idea of being alone, without that companionship b) want fucking insurance c) have kids d) can't afford to live alone or e) all or several of the above.

And it's no help to acknowledge that all of these are good reasons and bad reasons, extremely normal reasons and highly illogical reasons to stay in a relationship or marriage.

And even with these reasons, more than 50% of all marriages are doomed to fail before 1-5 years has elapsed. People who have been divorced once are more than twice as likely to get divorced again. People who stay married after that, do it for one of two reasons. Either they're too old or poor to divorce again OR they finally understand the truth about "true" love.

And that is…(drum roll please)… Love is a choice.

All things considered, at the end of the day, what determines whether you wake up in bed with that same ol' ball and chain or alone, has nothing to do with romance and everything to do with choosing to love someone even when they've started to look and act about as appealing as the dry limp lettuce left too long in the bottom drawer and all but pounded to dis-recogniton by a dozen sprouting potatoes in the fridge. Or something roughly like that.

Beauty, talent, dynamite figures and genius IQ's don't get people into happier relationships and they certainly don't keep people married longer. You only have to watch one episode of Entertainment Tonight to see that the most gorgeous, successful and gifted people in the world can't stay married long enough to even find out if their $2,000 coffee maker wedding gift comes with a warranty.

And is it any wonder? Lets go back to the list of reasons people stay married.

Their pool of perspective companions is pretty broad, providing they don't mind dipping below the millionaire ranks from time to time. Nix the first one.

They certainly don't have to worry about not finding someone willing to do the funky nasty with them. There goes the second one.

If they have kids, they are being raised by nannies anyway with each parent seeing them only occasionally, so that doesn't really apply.

They certainly CAN afford to live alone and can afford to get divorced.

So… well, why should they stay married?

They don't HAVE any reason to. Which is why 99% of them don't. The rare 1% (if it's even THAT many) have decided to stick it out come hell or high water. They choose to stay married. They choose to love their companion even when they've driven them crazy and can't stand the thought of being in the same room as them for at least a while.

Maybe that's why rich people construct these huge mansions. So they can get the hell away from their partner for weeks on end, but without the inconvenience of ever leaving their own house. And certainly that is why they have more than one house. Kind of a "his" and "hers" thing that average people do with their bath towels.

That's not to say that there are some people out there who you are more compatible with, or better suited for. But note the "more" and "better"… no matter who you find, no matter how much you have in common, regardless of how thoughtful and considerate and affectionate they try to be- you're still gonna hate them part of the time. Curse the day you ever met them and maybe stamp your foot or slam a door for good measure, because you can't do what you REALLY want to do and that's rip their liver out through their ears. That's when you have to decide you're going to love them anyway. Or at least fake it until you finally convince yourself, or you're too grey, blind and deaf to consider leaving them as a viable option.

The sad and ironic fact is- everyone settles. You settled for them and they settled for you. Neither one of you is, in the other's mind, exactly what you were looking and hoping for. Because the dream is not dead- it never existed! And the sooner one realizes this, the sooner they can stop looking around for someone new and start really looking at themselves and at their partner. REALLY looking.

When I used to get mad at Andrew, I'd sit at the computer or with a pad of paper and write down all the things I couldn't stand about him. All the stuff he did and said that drove me crazy. All of his faults and everything undesirable about him. When I was done, I was just more angry at him and disgusted with the fact that I'd gotten stuck being married to such a loser. It made me think about leaving him.

At some point I decided that wasn't working. I can't afford to live alone, I don't want our kids to have step-parents, or go through a divorce and I don't really want to have to get out in the dating world again, with everyone passing themselves off as something better than they really are.

So as much as the idea revolted me, I started writing down all the things I like, love and respect about him. Some of them were the qualities I saw that made me want to marry him, some were things I learned about him over the years. When I was done, I wasn't so angry. I realized he did have a lot of great things about him that made him stand out, made him a keeper. Suddenly divorcing him to get potentially saddled with someone else who I didn't have this history with, seemed like an incredibly foolish idea.

This year that list got to 200 items, none of them the same. So I printed it out on rose printer stationary and gave it to him for Valentine's Day. After we made up from our fight. And he only glanced at it, put all four pages back in the envelope and gave me a hug. He still hasn't read it. And yes, that's irritating, but oh well. That particular quality about him wasn't on my list! But I still had 200 other great qualities that were.

Another thing I do, whether it's running errands and shopping with the hungry and tired girls after a long day of changing diapers, cleaning up spills and disciplining other people's brats; or moving a 200 pound metal filing cabinet across the house by myself while nine months pregnant- for the second time- I just ask myself. "Well, how would I do this if I wasn't married, if I were single?" So I find myself wheeling out the garbage every week, installing closet shelving, organizing the garage and a multitude of other tasks with the kids in tow, and just remind myself of those things he DOES do, that because he's doing them, I don't have to. Few though it may seem at times.

Ultimately though, if I wait long enough, something is said or done that makes me realize, "yeah, this is worth it after all."

I guess it's like with pets. People put up with a whole lot of shit (literally and figuratively) from their pets that they'd never put up with from their partners. Most of the time animals are just a damn nuisance. Yet people all over the world find some mangy creature, invite them into their homes and lives, clean up after them, put up with their needs and messes and irritating habits- for years and years until the damn thing dies and doesn't leave you any life insurance money or anything. And why? Because we found something endearing about them. That's it. We decided that despite all the trouble they caused, they were worth our time, love, money and attention.

If only people could figure out how to do that with their partners, probably the majority wouldn't be in Splitsville before their pet is even full grown.

Ya know, when anyone I know gets married, I don't check their gift registry to find out what plate setting or blender they want. I buy them a book on how to STAY married so they won't be deciding which one of them gets to keep the plate setting or blender in the next couple years.

You can be married without plate settings and blenders. Andrew and I proved that. But all the plates and blenders and towels and pot covers in the world won't help you stay married. Or even in a long term relationship.

Only somehow getting yourself to see some good, when everything glaring back at you seems dumb, ugly and bad, bad, bad- is going to keep things together. Only deciding to choose to love someone when you're convinced you have every good reason to hate them- will allow things to stand the test of time.

So when all is said and done, a nice ass, good teeth and a decent hair cut are only fringe benefits.

[Posted on MySpace Wednesday, May 30, 2007]

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