Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The M-Word

As one of my friends pointed out to me a few weeks ago, I've been spending rather a lot of time talking about marriage. And I guess he's right. I mean, I talk about it a lot with my partner, because four and a half years into a relationship its bound to start coming up. But I've been casually throwing the topic into conversations with other people, and this apparently constitutes a cause for concern.

I never used to have any strong opinions either way on marriage, but I guess given the vehement anti marriage stance I've had the last few years, it's hardly surprising. I have somewhere in the region of eight engaged couples on Facebook, the majority of whom got engaged in the last few years. One set of friends my age who are already married, and another set getting married this month. And I went to the wedding reception of someone I used to work with at the weekend. To top it all off, I've been reading the hell out of xojane.com recently, where the m-word is a regular feature. Engagement and marriage are subjects that are never far away.

Those are just some obvious examples of the societal pressure I'm feeling to get married. I mean, I'm approaching my mid twenties and in a committed long term relationship. Getting married is this thing I should be thinking about doing soon, right? And it's not so much that I don't want to, it's just that the idea completely terrifies me, and I'm not 100% sure where this level of fear came from. Although I can promising you, people actually turning around and telling me I need to get married next really doesn't help. I've been waiting for that moment since I finished university last year and I finally got it on Saturday.

I mean, I've been an adult for a while now, and I've done plenty of adult things (oh hush you!). I left home to go to university, and got a shiny degree. I've sorted out renting a house, and all the boring utilities that go along with it. I got myself a job (two in fact) last summer. I'm in a proper adult relationship where I live with him and everything. And I think that might be one of the big issues. While it is a proper adult relationship in that we live together and share bills and worry about money and stuff, it still doesn't feel like one, not really. I mean, I put used tea bags in the sink just to wind Sam up, and he uses his creepy voice way too much because he knows how much I hate it. Our default method of communication is winding each other up. I really feel you're not mature enough to be getting married if you're still giggling at each others' farts.

All the other adult things I've done felt relatively easy, like they were just the next small step on this journey through the big bad world. And while I occasionally look back and think "holy shit I've grown up a lot", each individual step was almost insignificant at the time and as such didn't feel that scary at all. Engagement and marriage on the other hand, feels like a ginormous step up, and consequently it terrifies the fuck out of me. Especially as my mum has vetoed my plan to elope and not tell anybody we got married until I'm thirty. I'd have stipulated not telling anyone until Sam turned thirty, but that's a hell of a lot closer than my big 3-0.

It feels weird to have strong feelings on this subject one way or another; I spent most of my life not really caring much about it. I was never one of those girls who were adamant they were going to grow up and get married and have kids. Nor was I one of those teens who had their ideal wedding planned in ridiculous detail. I had friends who did though. If I was ever asked about the subject I would tell them "I'd work it out if I find someone crazy enough to want to spend the rest of their life with me". (Teenage me wasn't very aware of ableist words. Twenty something me apologises). Turns out, I found someone who does seem willing to to spend the rest of their life with me. Who'd have thunk it?

And so I find myself battling this societal pressure to get hitched, my opinions on marriage changing every six months. I can go from suggesting Sam and I elope one week to telling him I never want to get married the next. And if I bring up the subject unusually often, it's because I'm trying to navigate my own thoughts and emotions. Weighing up the pros and cons, all to aware that the pressure to actually get married is nowhere near as crushing as the pressure to do it a particular way, the "right" way.

My experience of the process in media (TV, film etc.) is that the wedding is the focus point for engagement and getting married. That it has to be this utterly perfect (expensive) day where you have to keep every single person you've ever met happy. I'm not a conventional woman. All that fussing about with the dress, the hair, the make up, the bridesmaids, the flowers, the photography, the reception, none of that appeals to me. If I got married it would be for the marriage itself, not the wedding. And it seems there are too few roles models for me in that regard. At least, too few depictions of a happy marriage that doesn't involve a house, a car, and a few kids. Possibly 2.5, I don't know what the average is any more. Marriage is more or less a complete unknown to me, and that makes it scary. How the hell can I decide to make this massive, important and mostly permanent decision about my life without knowing anything about how it might be for me?

Which brings me to another thing that scares me about getting married; the prospect of getting divorced. The idea that this might happen to me is horribly distressing for me, and one possible solution is to just never get married. I'm not sure why this prospect terrifies me so much. I know the statistics, I know that it can be as big or small a deal as you choose to make it, more or less. But I honestly don't think I could cope. I've had a few boyfriends, only a few of whom I'd actually say I had a relationship with, and every time I've gotten dumped it's been devastating, no matter how long they were my boyfriend for. And I was the dumpee in all but one cases, go figure. The devastation I would feel if Sam and I broke up would be horrific, and yes, I've had a taste of what it feels like. But as much as I know it would hurt if my relationship with Sam ended, the idea of getting divorced from him feels like it would have an extra layer of horrible to it.

Having a fails marriage is in a completely different league to having a failed relationship. You made these vows, and one way or another, you've broken them. You failed to live up to your promise. Plus, there's paperwork.

When I think about it carefully, there's a bunch of reasons this subject terrifies me. And my research into the pros and cons haven't helped alleviate that. Many of the reasons to get married that I've found are tied up in religion. Many of the advantages over cohabiting seem to assume babymaking will happen at some point. I've never seen a convincing argument either way. Never seen anything to stop the idea of this big grownup thing being to damn scary.

There was more I wanted to say, but I couldn't find the words and this post has languished in drafts long enough. If I can collate my thoughts I might do another post. You have that to look forward to.


  1. Hooray, wedding! (Sorry, I'm a little biased, I think marriage is awesome)

    *Hopefully* unbiased part

    They're your lives, you get all the decisions. Please do what you think will make you both happiest ^_^

    I don't think you've talked about it that much in this post, but it's worth considering some of the legal aspects of marriage. A spouse is a default beneficiary of a person's will, for example, (and there are some sort of tax benefits too... )

    Good luck in making a decision, don't stress too much.


    1. Like I said, there's a bunch missing from this that I couldn't quite get out, but you raise valid points.

      From the research I've done, the tax benefits don't seem to be as extensive as they used to be, and seem to mostly hinge on the popping out of sprogs, which is another post entirely. Maybe there's more, but the yougov website is shit.

      As it stands, we have pretty much fuck all to inherit from one another, plus it seems pretty morbid to just get married in case one of us dies. Maybe if we buy a house together it'll be worth considering.

      Anyway, you should comment more. I like comments! xx