The dream startled me: After more than three years as a committed couple, the man in my life presented me with a ring. And it wasn’t just any ring – it was an obscenely large rock – all very Real Housewives.
I remember looking at the ring – stunning (or perhaps I should say staggering) – though not “me” in any way. Then I looked at him, wondering what I was going to say or do next, and bewildered and concerned that his selection of ring had little to do with who I am.
Still, in the dream, I set myself to weighing the pros and cons of remarriage.
Would my man leave me if I didn’t say yes?
Would he feel more secure in my love if I said yes?
Would a more conventional living arrangement make his professional life a shade simpler?
Did either of us really need the convention of marriage?
Should I marry because there might be economic advantages? What if there are economic drawbacks – for me?
Why couldn’t I have a different ring – smaller and more to my taste – and wear it as a sign of commitment, rather than a promise of marriage?
Freedom Is Complicated
When I woke, I knew precisely why these elements of remarriage, single freedom, and jewelry were combining in my sleeping mind. Before bed, suffering my usual insomnia, I was scouting for a bit of TV to encourage those zzzzs. I came across a movie in which a recently divorced woman was saying – “Yes, I admit it. I’m finally divorced. I’m happy to be single!” She went on to qualify (as she conversed in a flirtatiously colorful dress) – “All during my marriage I wore grey and black. Look at me. I’m wearing hot pink!”
Dreams aside, I was also struck by my ambivalence at viewing such a scene. I understood the lightness the divorcing woman felt, experiencing the ability to choose as she wished (for herself) without needing to consult or consider what a spouse might say. Yet I do not consider divorce as cause for celebration. Relief, yes. That lightness I mention – that, too.
And while I embraced my own return to singleness years ago, it was with profound sadness, and in the decade following – anger, at the significant financial, familial and professional consequences.
As for the security we presume exists when we formalize our unions, does it prevent a man from leaving?
Does it prevent him from disappointing, deceiving, or denigrating the sanctity that some of us still associate with marriage?
Again, I say no.
Does taking those vows in front of friends and family, as well as entering a legal contract, seem like a step up in commitment from living together?
It does to me, yes.
Then there is my worst remarriage nightmare: that we should begin to take each other for granted, that marriage would kill not only sexual passion but passionate interest in each other, that I would fail to feel free to pursue my own passions – whether donning a color that displeased a husband or editing a passage of prose through the night.
So where does this leave those of us who may wish for the so-called security that was once the promise of marriage, not to mention its sense of family – yet also appreciate our freedom from legal constraints? And what about the sense of freedom that is inherent in our singleness? The lesser pressure to conform to what “our man” might want though we do not?
Social Conventions: Love & Marriage
We remain a society that loves love in all its incarnations – first love, great love, the next love, the idealized love.
We are also a society that favors the married over the unmarried, the widowed or divorced over the never married, the cohabiting or at least “dating” over the true singleton – however subtle the manifestation of this particular sort of bias.
And believe me, the bias is real and pervasive.
This seems a shame, unfair, and at times a source of unnecessary anxiety for those of us who find ourselves in a life after divorce that results in an ambivalent relationship with the notion of marriage.