Sunday, January 10, 2010

A peek at a possible future

Until one fateful Sunday when I was bored at work and decided to read past editions of the New York Times' Sunday Magazine, I hadn't given much thought to what our marriage would be like. I mean, I assumed it would be more of what we do now, only with an added tax benefit. Then I began reading "Married (Happily) With Issues," the cover story of the Dec. 12 New York Times Magazine.

In it, Elizabeth Weil describes her marriage as "pretty good." Unfortunately for her analytical mind, Weil realizes that she thinks of her marriage as being "like the waves on the ocean, a fact of life, determined by the sandbars below, shaped by fate and the universe, not by me." She thinks that it is just "O.K." because they haven't tried. If her and her husband, Dan, begin to apply themselves, how much better could it be?
While this may be logical, it ends up leading to a storm of issues. As Weil recalls, "You set out to improve your marriage; it implodes."

Gut reactions
Over the course of reading the article, I began thinking about the boy and I.
Weil says this about their decision to marry: "We never discussed, or considered discussing, why we were getting married or what a good marriage would mean. It all seemed obvious. I loved Dan; I loved how I felt with him. Ergo I wanted to be his wife."
I was taken aback by that. That's what I feel. Is that the wrong answer? Suddenly I was asking myself, "Why do I really want to get married?" But I couldn't come up with anything else. Freaked out, I stopped reading for a day.

Monday, again bored at work, I decided to take a second crack at the article. That's when I read that Weil admits that "while working to improve our marriage, I found myself pushing my husband away." Things only got worse for the two as divorce eventually got brought up.
And through it all, I kept getting more scared. I mean, my family's history doesn't offer a vote of confidence for me making it in a marriage. Not only are my parents divorced, but their parents are divorced. Two of my mom's siblings are divorced (my dad doesn't have siblings to add to the pattern). Even my sister is getting divorced. The boy says this just means that I'll be breaking the pattern, but if I've had no good examples of marriage, how can I hope to be in a good marriage?

Weil concludes that the "good-enough marriage" is one in which both partners "keep growing, to afford them the strength and bravery required to face the world."
I do think we do this well. Each of us saves the other from ourselves, while at the same time we allow each other to be ourselves. The boy may do a little more of that right now, but as time goes on, I'm sure it will even out. I think the best lesson Weil has is the one she doesn't actually spell out: Don't try too hard. I think marriage comes a lot more naturally than she thinks. And the reasons for marrying come even more naturally. I think our reasons are just as valid as any other, and the fact that there was no surprise among any of our friends that we were getting engaged helps to drive that point home to me.

Bottom line
This article is worth the read, even if you aren't yet married. And despite not always agreeing with her dim view of marriage, it did get me thinking about my impending nuptials and the future they would bring. And, to me, the best marker of good writing is that it forces you to think about your own life.

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