Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I Don't

It’s ironic.  Beni and I have been married for 32.5 years, and both of us are, to some extent, anti–marriage.  We come to this opinion from very different starting points, believe me.  I can’t and won’t speak for Beni (she might find out!!!), but I think it’s okay to say that her opposition to marriage is based on her appreciation of the historical oppression of women.  I share that appreciation, but my feelings against marriage are inspired by other beliefs and observations.

Sarah is married to Matt, and I am glad that they are together.  They probably won’t agree, but I see their “coupleness” as a mutually complimentary and efficient union.  As a couple, they are clearly (to me, anyway) more than the sum of their parts.  How important a marriage certificate is to their synergy, I don’t know.

Annie is engaged to Jared, and they are planning a June wedding.  Here, too, I believe the two of them compliment and strengthen one another.  But again I wonder whether the legalities of marriage will add anything to the efficacy of their union.

Our daughters Rebecca and Beni Marie are not married and, as far as I know, have no immediate plans to marry.

My distaste for the institution of marriage comes from several sources.  First, it is a heterosexist concept that historically has favored the male.  I believe it is a product of male insecurity and the male need to control events and other people.  How horrible it would be for some insecure hunter–gatherer to come back to the cave and find his wife pregnant by the hunter–gatherer from next door.  What a shock to his fragile self–esteem!  How unfair to have to love and care for a rival’s offspring and leave to that bastard his hard–won estate.

Faithfulness, or sexual exclusivity, is a constitutional part of marriage.  I don’t understand this.  Sex and love/affection certainly are connected in some sexual encounters, but by no means in all.  If marriage is to last, in my opinion there has to be a strong underlying friendship.  And friends don’t demand exclusivity, or much of anything else, from one another.  In our time, pregnancy isn’t necessarily a possible outcome in every instance of heterosexual intercourse.  Men and women have the means and the freedom to control if and when pregnancy might occur.  If the risk of pregnancy is absent, then why all the fuss about sex with someone other than the spouse?  Is intercourse the heart of heterosexual marriage?  If so, no wonder we have a 50% divorce rate.  Sex over time is just not that compelling.  What should be at the core of any long–term relationship, I believe, is a commitment to friendship.  Friends enjoy one another.  Friends have things in common.  Friends listen to one another in times of crisis and sorrow.  Friends have one another’s backs.  And friendship doesn’t need legislation to exist or to endure.

Many married people, I believe, expect too much from their spouses.  A spouse to these people has to be a great lover, inventive in his/her sexual technique over the long haul so as to keep the marriage “fresh.”  The spouse has to be a good, if not best, friend, able to understand, like, enjoy, and live with the other.  The spouse has to be a good and mature co–parent.  The spouse has to agree on how money is earned and spent.  The spouse has to like, or at least be tolerant of, the other’s friends, and the other’s friends spouses.  And the spouse has to accept and get along with the other’s family, no matter how odd, dysfunctional, or different that family may be.  How many people can be all these things for someone else?  There is so much expectation heaped on the institution of marriage that no one can fill all the roles.

Beni and I are friends.  Beni is my best friend, no doubt about it, and I believe I am hers, but I don’t know whether she thinks that.  Beni has been my best friend for more than half my lifetime.  We know one another and, more or less accept one another.  We are married, that’s true, but we use the terms “husband” and “wife” sparingly and only when necessary.  We live in the same house, but we try to stay out of one another’s way.  We both have become stronger people over the course of our time together, and we each have our own interests and habits.  There are days when Beni is getting up just when I am getting ready to go to bed.  We both love and enjoy our daughters, but in very different ways.  We share strong core beliefs, but we argue over insignificant details.  We enjoy seeing one another happy.  We have stayed together, I believe, mainly because we gave up on the idea of, and all the expectations associated with, marriage, and instead have embraced our friendship.

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