Friday, March 14, 2008

On getting married

"It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages."
- Friedrich Nietzsche

I really like marriage. Wait – let me clarify that. I really like being married to Brian. Each new day brings another reminder of how amazing this guy is and furthers my understanding of how lucky I am.

I joined a LJ community that provides a forum for married folks (primarily women) to share stories, ideas and problem solve together. For the most part, it’s a safe place, an encouraging place. There area few drama-queens and just plain mean girls in the community – but they are the exception, not the rule.

As much as I enjoy the fellowship with other married / nearly married women, I have to point out one big difference between the two. A difference that is almost ALWAYS overlooked so as not to step on anyone’s perfectly manicured toes.

Being married and being engaged are two completely different animals. Living with someone for years and years and actually making a lifelong commitment to them is NOT the same thing. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to have a legal document binding you together. Your marriage doesn’t have to be recognized by the federal government. My definition of marriage is this: a public commitment to one and other, witnessed by your closest friends and family. It’s an event that you fully researched, planned, saved for and (if you did it right) gained a few gray hairs for!

The only people who claim living together is ‘just like being married’ are the people who have never been married. You never hear a married person say marriage is ‘just like living together.’ Marriage is about more than living in the same space, eating meals together and sharing a bank account. There is a world of difference between saying “I want to marry you, someday” and “I proudly stood up in front of our families and declared my love for you.”

Yes, the difference is subtle, but it’s there. Anyone who has stood up on that altar, under that arch, in front of that beautiful lake or overlooking that magnificent valley knows what I’m saying is true. ‘Someday’ and ‘Right now and for the rest of my life’ are not synonymous.

Anyone can give someone a ring or a necklace or amulet and pledge to someday take that step. To move from ‘dating’ to ‘engaged’ and eventually ‘married’. Heck, I can sit here and tell you I’m going to lose 40 lbs before next summer and finally learn how to do the splits. But if I don’t put down the tortilla chips and sour cream and get my butt to the gym, what is all that talk worth? Nothing. It’s worth nothing.

Active engagement is one thing. The date is set, venue booked, who’s who of the wedding party has been selected. You know where you’re going, who is going to be there and all of the other major details have been lined up. You have a road map and a full tank of gas. You’re loaded up and ready to go! Of course, I’m supportive of that! That’s how you end up MARRIED! They don’t call it The Big Day for nothing. Hundreds of hours of planning, making decisions, changing your mind go into transforming that dream into a reality*.

I have a problem with people, (women, primarily) who claim the status of ‘married-like’ or ‘as good as married’ when they haven’t made any of the sacrifices. It’s a lot like taking your paycheck before you’ve put your time in. And frankly, it’s a bit disrespectful to those of us who have done the leg work, made the emotional and financial commitments. Those of us who let our actions speak louder than our words. Those of us who made that final step from engaged to married.

*Full credit is given to couples who decide to elope. I’m not reducing the importance of your marriage! Couples who eloped still made a public declaration in the presence of a judge or other official and at least two witnesses. And nobody arrives at the decision to elope lightly (at least, nobody who stays married for any length of time.)