Saturday, February 18, 2012

Put All Trash Here

I've an acquaintance online I've known for years and she is quite the business person and blogger. I don't know how she does it, but between Washington D.C. business, traveling all over the world for work and fun, and maintaining a home in D.C. and one in Florida, she is a success -- in everything but her relationship. That is a mixed bag.

I wonder what drew them together in the first place. They have their fun moments, and their fights and differences, but it seems most of it is good -- at least as far as is reported. Nothing is ever what it seems.

We look to the past and say that there were fewer divorces. That's true. There was the Catholic church to consider and ex-communication was not something too many people were willing to face if they divorced, providing the church allowed it, and there were lots of hoops to jump through (and money to be paid) to grease the wheels of ecclesiastical favor. There were also financial issues to be considered, as well as the destabilization of countries if marriages were annulled or the parties divorced. King Henry VIII comes to mind; he had to create his own religion as a result, despite being a devout Catholic, and Harry took it to the limit, marrying 6 times before he died, and producing 2 females that lived to rule. His only sons died young.

Marriages were more about benefits for financial reasons, lands, property, and power, and less about love and fidelity. That was relegated to the lower classes. They could afford to marry for love since they were unlikely to be able to marry for property and power. No wonder the divorce rate as so low. No one wants to give up land or money, and power even less.

Things today are simpler. Fall in love over Cosmopolitans, have the big fairy tale wedding that cost a few years' salary, and divorce before all the thank you cards have been written and sent. Disposable. The real reason was the fancy fairy tale wedding after all. An entire industry was created to service that particular excess of eccentricity and narcissism, which is strange to someone who put together a wedding in 2 weeks and paid for most of it from my savings.

I managed a nice ceremony with 5 attendants, 2 flower girls, a ring bearer, and 5 groomsmen (maids of honor need escorts), and a lovely and almost rowdy reception afterwards, followed by a honeymoon at the local fancy hotel in the honeymoon suite, which turned into a rush for clothes when Mom and a cop came knocking on the door. The cop was my cousin and Mom was carrying my overnight bag, which I had forgotten in the rush to get away from the people trying to overturn the car we were in because it wasn't the one they had decorated (and mined with exploding and embarrassing devices). That marriage ended, but not until after 3 boys, 7 years, and a load of grief from the typical mother-in-law and various and sundry infidelities from the male side of the relationship.

Not that I have a great track record, having been divorced twice, the 2nd time from an abusive spouse, but I do know what counts and what I want. One is not to go down the aisle again unless there are some pretty powerful benefits, none of which I've seen yet.

Every relationship is different. Some people marry young for love and stay together happily (mostly) for the rest of their long lives. They're the ones 75th anniversaries were created for. There are also those who get into marriage at the drop of a hat, usually worse for drink or other substances, and some actually stay together. There are still liaisons that come out of board rooms and social registers where the main focus is money, property, and/or power (usually all three), and there are the regular people who marry in haste and repent as soon as the divorce decree is signed a hot New York second after the ink is dry on the marriage license. Disposable and not recyclable, although sometimes the excuses and the people are as disposable as they are interchangeable.

Disposable is defined as a product designed for cheapness and short-term convenience rather than medium to long-term durability, with most products only intended for single use. The term is also sometimes used for products that may last several months (ex. disposable air filters) to distinguish from similar products that last indefinitely (ex. washable air filters).

Disposable is also defined as the amount of money that households have available for spending and saving after income taxes have been accounted for. Disposable personal income is often monitored as one of the many key economic indicators used to gauge the overall state of the economy.

I think the last definition is the most apt here, disposable meaning what is left over after all the bills and income taxes have been taken out of the net income. In other words, what is available for saving after obligations have been met.

I don't think that children should be part of the equation, unless martyrdom is the main point, because children do not thrive or end up whole and undamaged being brought up in an abusive relationship that is little more than a war zone, but the needs of the children should be weighed in and out of the relationship against what is gained or possible to gain.

All these fancy words come down to one thing. Is the relationship/marriage worth saving? How many people stop to ask that question when they sober up or come down of the high of a fairy tale wedding and honeymoon while the 5+ carat rock is still shining on their finger and the glow of nonstop sex and excitement still glimmering in their eyes?

Marriages come from all sorts of reasons, but the usual reason for divorce is boredom. Marriage wasn't quite what they thought it would be. It's drudgery, staying up all night with newborns and sick children, emptying the dishwasher and arguing over who takes out the trash, cooks dinner, or does the laundry, paying the bills, repairs on house and vehicles, and the cost of living together. It's not always cheaper with two people, especially not in the current economic climate when 2 incomes are often not enough. Spouses/partners with no children have to deal with potential crashes between personal and business issues and which house to live in, whose friends are more important, and a thousand other details that end up being a tug-of-war over whose life and needs take precedence, and then there's the sex issue. I don't know why it is, but partners always seem to come from opposite ends of the spectrum, one likes sex and the other doesn't, which is really code for I like sex but not so much with you. Soon, the relationship is on the rocks, which is where it began and remained beneath the haze of wedding festivities, alcohol, and vacation bliss before the real work began. 

Marriage and relationships are work because the people in them keep growing and change, or not growing or changing at all. The old saw about a woman seeing possibilities and what she can do with the raw material in front of her and the man believing the woman will stay exactly as she is, frozen in amber. The same goes for gay and transgender couples, too. One person wants stasis and the other sees potential.

Until marriages and relationships are seen as living things that grow and change and evolve, for better or worse, and until people realize that, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, the commitment is real, people will come together willy-nilly and separate just as haphazardly without realizing that the most important part of their life is finding a way to fit with another human being and work together.

I don't have all the answers. Life is too complex to boil down into a simple blog post that offers enlightenment. All I can do is shine a light into the murk and hope that someone gets it. The "it" is that people are not disposable. We are complex entities with flaws and potential and we need other people, not to make us whole, but to make things interesting -- and lasting. Future generations depend on us and, if all you ever do is bring children into the world or help raise children and teach them that people matter, you've done a good thing.

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