Marriage?

Mon 6/4/2007

My parents are celebrating their thirty-sixth wedding anniversary next week, which I think is pretty crazy. (Especially when you consider that I have not been able to even DATE someone for more than a year or two!) We were talking about this on the phone and my Mom reminded me that my Grandparents are having their SIXTY-FIFTH wedding anniversary this year. (!!!?!) I pointed out that with my current life expectancy, I will never celebrate a 65th wedding anniversary.

Then today, I got a wedding invitation from two of my college friends who are tying the knot. They started dating early during their first year of college and have been together ever since. This got me thinking...

It seems like ALL of the married people I know who are my age(ish) follow this same pattern. They meet at a young age, or early in their dating "careers" (or both), are together for a few years and then get married.

And then there's the rest of us.

It just seems like every time I've had my heart broken, I become a more complicated person (in a BAD way). Like there is all this baggage left over, that I have to carry with me to the next relationship. And I have more specific things I'm looking for, or hoping to avoid, based on previous experience, which makes it that much harder to find someone.

Seriously, I couldn't think of any married person I know who has previously been in three or more SERIOUS relationships that have ended in heartbreak. Does anyone DO that? Is it even possible to get married after that much confusion? Or are those the 50% of people who get divorced?

I just think it's strange. In the last few years I've had like five different people tell me that they have given up (or are giving up) on the idea of being with someone permanently and instead are focusing on things like friendship and community (or WORK). I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with that, and I do think our society creepily places too much emphasis on marriage and breeding. But it just seems like a trend I'm noticing that is so much different than my parents' or gradparents' generation.

I spent most of my life thus far thinking I would like to get married (mostly because I think I would be an awesome Dad!) but as I get older that seems less and less likely... It's getting harder to imagine anyone who would be crazy enough to put up with all of my B.S., or that I would be altruistic enough to give up my private creative pursuits to participate in family life. Also, it seems like with the path I'm heading down, it's going to be difficult enough to keep MYSELF afloat, without having to worry about supporting KIDS!

So anyways, yeah. Married People! What do you think of this?

14 comments on this entry

Well here's my experience as one of these "married people" you speak of. I've been in 2 or 3 serious relationships before I started dating my husband (like 2 and 3-year long relationships) and in one case, I was the heartbreaker, but in the other case, I had my heart broken to the tenth power. Oh and in a few other cases as well. And I mean I was REAAALLY fucked with in one case, but I won't divulge the details online. But if I was ever to tell you the story you would find it pretty horrifying.

It was actually just as I was giving up on being with any one person forever that I started dating Zane (my husband). In fact we were so extremely careful about not getting "serious" for such a long time that by the time we did decide to be "steadies" it was after about 8 months of hemming and hawing about it and even seeing other people. After 3 years "officially" together, and only AFTER having made long-term plans to build a life together, we thought it would be fun to get married and have a big party to celebrate.

As far as kids are concerned, what I've heard from other people with kids is that you never think you'll be able to afford it, but once you have them, you find a way. But yeah, I feel that way too a lot of the time - I can barely support MYSELF!

But listen, seriously. Growing up, I was always "the weird kid" and I never thought I'd meet anyone who would really "get" me and put up with all my horrible bad habits. I really NEVER thought I'd get married. Ever. But then I met somebody who was just as weird as me, in all the same ways... and that was that.

Just remember that no one meets the love of their life when they are TRYING to meet someone. Love comes when you least expect it. Just try and keep your heart open to possibilities, even though it's hard. Getting married and having kids, or not doing that, isn't everything.

I could go on and on about this, but I'll stop now. I've seriously had a LOT of heartbreak and a lot of screwed up relationships in my life, haha... But yeah, I have a lot to say on this topic!

Oh and don't forget - there isn't an age limit for falling in love. It could happen at any age, there isn't a cutoff at age 30 or 40 or even 50!

Liz Jun04

Whoa! Don't forget, Alec, that life comes in stages! My step-mom didn't get married until she was 35 or so and has had two kids since then . . . she's super happy . . . don't compare yourself to those crazy folks who get married early . . . they're up to no good.

PS. which college friends are getting married now???!!!???

Tom Jun04

Liz! Thanks for responding. I was thinking of you as I wrote this. We should chat about this next time I see you in person. I think it's so interesting hearing how people arrive at the decision to spend the rest of their life with someone else. (It'd make a good Comics project, right? Interview a bunch of people about how they decided to get married? Or would that be too much like the beginning of "When Harry Met Sally"? :)

It's good to hear you still found someone after all that heartbreak. And don't worry, I'm NOT looking to fall in love right now! I was just thinking about this all day while I was painting (physically and digitally)

Tom - Paul and Alison!

Alec Jun04

I gave up too. I was ready to start adopting cats when I met Sean. And I was terrified that my past experiences would ruin it for me, but in fact they proved to be a sort of preparation for the future. I wouldn't worry about how other people live their lives. What's good for them may not be good for you.

Congratulations to your parents and grandparents, by the way.

Arlene Jun04

I dated a lot prior to meeting Liz (my wife), but only had one "long-term" relationship (2 years). She broke up with me, but I have a ridiculously happy-go-lucky personality, and it didn't bother me at all.

My initial thought process was that if she didn't want to be with me (she broke up with me for one of our mutual friends, who she recently married), then I was obviously better off with someone else/by myself.

Even with incredibly bad dating-period-endings (I had a weird thing where I wouldn't "go out" with anyone unless I was 100% satisfied with the relationship, which is why there have only been two "real" girlfriends, so I can't really call them "break-ups") I never really had much of the baggage, because I tend to remember everything, even horrible experiences, positively. I'm an incredibly nostalgic person, so even bad teachers, manipulative lovers, and bullies are remembered fondly.

Liz and I started dating shortly after I had sworn off dating (a really screwed up and manipulative situation made me misogynistic for about a week and a half). I wasn't looking for any sort of romance, and was actually anti-romance, and because of this we built a friendship instead of dating the week and a half (you know college, a week and a half is a month and a half in real-world time) we probably would have before I'd have called it quits for some stupid reason or another.

Wife-hunters never find good ones, the same with husband-hunters. It's when you start to realize that it isn't the most important thing in the world that relationships open themselves up to you. I've had quite a few friends for whom marriage NEVER seemed a possibility that, low and behold, have just tied the knot.

Don't count yourself out; just forget about it, but don't close yourself off from the possibility of romance should it manifest itself with someone. It usually will.

Like I said, I can't say much for the baggage part, but remember that the best relationships are often ones where people play off each other's strengths and weaknesses. Liz and I are different in almost every way: few common interests, no common hobbies, different taste in music, movies, books - she's probably read three comics her whole life, not counting mine. But we have similar ideas as to what a relationship means, what family is, what life should be like, and we make each other laugh. That's more than enough.

Without her, I would not be able to make comics. She is incredibly supportive and inspiring. You don't have to be another cartoonist couple to be in a great relationship.

You've got years and years, to start a family, Alec. Do what makes you happy and productive, and be open to meeting new people. Things like this happen when you least expect it.

Also, I think that most divorce could be averted if people simply thought about what they said to their loved ones, and if it's a statement designed to hurt, don't say it. It's hard when you're angry or defensive to avoid doing this (I find myself guilty of it sometimes, usually a little more passive-aggressively than outright attacky), but it makes all the difference in the world. Those little hurts lead to big ones, and that leads to the end. Yet so many people attack the vulnerable points when fighting.
Liz and I don't fight. We argue, a lot, but rarely if ever in anger. When no one's attacking, it's easy to work things out, even if you start on opposite sides.

Sorry to ramble on for so long!

Chris S. Jun04

No worries Chris! Thanks for sharing your story. All this sounds good to me. :)

Alec Jun04

If they don't comment, you should talk to both Matt Hawkins and MK. They're both great examples of folks who had long tunnels before any lght appeared.

Me? Sorry buddy, but I've managed to have my heart broken real good twice, and neither time was I in what could be called a relationship, even. But I'm pullin for ya.

Matt Jun04

I definitely have had my heart broken multiple times and had literally given up on the idea of finding someone that I would want to marry... I had literally decided that I was just gonna concentrate on music and enjoy friends and that was the summer I met Sara (my wife obviously).

I never believed that I would be married... we are celebrating 9 years this month. Yesterday was the 12 year anniversary of meeting one another actually.

Marriage is not the answer that so many people want it to be though... i am very happily married but so many people seem to rush into it without thinking just how serious a commitment it is... being single is not a failure. You are a great cat and you shouldn't feel pressure to settle for less then your ideal... no one is perfect, but if it is really "till death do you part" that is not something that should be taken lightly.

end novel.

Jewett Jun05

Well, speaking as someone who isn't married but is probably (hopefully) on the way there a bit down the line, I think the best thing that ever happened for my current relationship is that both myself and my boyfriend had previously been in serious relationships that fell apart.

I'm very skeptical of people who meet young and either never date anyone else or only date one or two other people. The only way that I know how to not fuck up a relationship now is the fact that I've fucked up many other relationships before. It's made me much more accepting of Adam's faults and much more appreciative of his many, many great qualities. We both understand what's at stake and we both understand the ebbs and flows of long term relationships. Having gone through several relationships doesn't make you ineligible for marriage - I think it makes you a much stronger candidate :)

Of course, I'm just an unmarried 26-year-old living in sin, with a few relationships behind me that have crashed and burned. So what do I know?

Laura Jun05

Oh Geez, I'm like the only one here who fits your stereotyping of married people. I will agree with everyone else though that it wn't help to look. I met my wife in college when I'd sworn off dating (hadn't had a date for 2 years). She was my friend's roommate, and I hung out with her all the time but never thought anything of it. Then, one day, BAM, I realized I liked her and the rest is history.

The point is, be as emo as possible and swear off all dating. It's the key to success!

Matthew Jun05

omg. this is so pertinent to me right now, and obviously many other people as i too have been having the exact same thoughts! and having deep conversations into the night with many like-minded and like-experienced. like especially since i've moved to new york and i spent a few years in china where all the crazy people go, like there is a huge population of us who have been f'ed by relationships and are now alone and thinking it's over. and i for one am following suit with many who are focusing on their goals and careers and personal self now in lieu of "marriage" (which i quote b/c i think it's a fictitious concept now. no offense all you marrieds). i just blogged about it too but mine was definatly more bitter and angry...

but i also previously blogged a more optimistic entry about how i've really only been dating for 7 years and in the grand scheme of my life that's not that long. and i'm sure for you too although i don't really know anyone who waited as long as i did to go ahead and start exploring the opposite sex. and since it's forever, i don't mind holding off until at least i feel more together and satisified with myself. and whoever i'm with will certainly be the same, as it seems there are way more people than we thought staying single for longer and longer. i was more nervous when i was younger, but ironically as i get older it seems there's all the time in the world to find that "special someone." especially when i (as i'm positive you) have so many special (albeit non-sexual) someones in my life.

my new recipe for success? my good friends, cats, adopted children and a vibrator. =bliss.

erica lee Jun05

Alec,

what a wonderful question to pose to your viewing community, and you're getting back such amazing responses. As a relatively newly-wed who also never expected to get married, I thought I'd chime in.

I haven't had the long-term relationships you speak of, but nearly every relationship I've had before now has ended because the guy disappeared (and only sometimes with warning). So I have my own special set of abandonment fears, and skepticism of marriage in general.
I met Ed through online dating, which I was doing for amusement and to meet people (in general, not husbands). I was completely surprised to find him. But it took three years before it occurred to me that we were planning our future together, and we might as well do it married.

The greatest thing about life is LIVING it. I love everyone's comments about how they met the person they chose to commit to when they were most focused on living their lives without those long-term goals in mind.

Those people are so rare in life who see one another and say, "I'm going to marry you!" It's more likely to grow and change and be hard work and be a surprise in many small ways.

I think I have to stop rambling now, I got a little sidetracked. I was thinking about the joke that the trick with having baggage is to find someone with a matched set. So I tried to google it, and I found this David Sedaris story.

http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2004/11/29/041129fa_fact1

and by then I was a little distracted.

The point is that it sounds like the people who plan for love the least
experience it the most, no matter what their luggage looks like.

enjoy.

charlotte Jun05

in my experience, the baggage becomes greatly lightened if you meet the right person; [the way i was raised taught me not to trust ---i didn't have a lot of long relationships, but tons of short ones i could never seem to maintain because of this]

there's a book you should read [or read again if you've already read it]: the very quiet cricket by eric carle; i'll bring out my tattered copy for you tomorrow when you come to work on the basewood mural :-))

stephanie Jun05

Hi Alec,
I just returned from a week of travel and am reading this a little late, but I definitely want to contribute my two bits. I got married to my wife Jennifer the summer I turned 37. Previous to meeting her I was convinced that I would probably never get married and that I was most likely not the marrying type. Years of failed relationships and prolonged periods of "not dating" forced me to think that it wasn't in the cards. I do remember actually having a conversation with my Mother (who really wanted a grandchild) telling her that I would never marry "just to get married", and I was preparing myself for the prospect that I never would. She thought I might be gay, and hiding out with my male lover in NY. All kinds of crazy stuff. I actually said to her, "if it is meant to be then it will happen, and if not then I will accept that too." One month later I met Jennifer. I was in a really down moment in my life as my younger sister had died a few months earlier. Neither of us was that serious about having a relationship with the other when we first met. She has just divorced after a very short bitter marriage. So we just enjoyed each other. The more time we spent together, the more our compatibility became plainly clear. And we really sunk into each other hardcore. We travelled together. We spent quiet time together. Socialized. Coincidentally we had been withing the same circle of friends for many years and had never met each other. We're married two years now and its still going great, (not without the occasional skuffle) and we have an awesome little boy too. Its a little harder I think to be a spouse/parent in your late 30s than in your 20s. You get a little more set in your personal ways/habits, but you also have the insight and experience to realise what you want and what you are willing to accept and compromise on. My advise to you is to not worry about finding someone. Don't cut yourself off from having a social life either. Enjoy being single, do your work, and get out and enjoy living too. Keep open to people/things that come your way. If you are okay with being by yourself, and find someone that you really are into, and they into you... That is a great place to start off from. Whether you are in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s.. we all have our own baggage. The best thing you can do is spend time with what you yourself bring to the table.

Cam Jun08

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