The Premarital Contract, HGM style, has been percolating – really just shy of boiling over – as of late. Time and again I found myself returning to this comment from D in response to the last post:
I can’t believe I’m about to say this but… I totally disagree. As much as prenups can and have been used as a safety net they are also used as a weapon. Do I think that the divorce rate would lower due to prenups absolutely! Do I think that the happiness factor will rise? Hell no. The mindset of “if I stick with it for another 6 years I get _____” I want to be loved and needed and wanted for years to come but not because my partner is contractually obligated. And while I see how in your situation it would of been beyond beneficial to have one I have a feeling “The Genius” would have found some sort of loophole, some snag something to get around anything that would of been in place. Call me crazy, or call me maybe but I would rather take the plunge with my rose coloured glasses.
I’ll call you thoughtful, D. And honest. Your ideas are similar to those I had when I married. I speak of only my situation when I say I was naive, left way too much to chance, and assumed that whatever cropped up we would handle it together. Because we married each other. And I firmly believed that he would never betray me.
While I didn’t like playing with dolls as a child and preferred the Wizard of Oz to Cinderella, I clearly drank the fairy tale brew with my rose-colored glasses pushed high on the bridge of my nose.
There was arrogance involved, as well. How could I make a poor choice? I didn’t even want to get married. I certainly wasn’t on the hunt. So, I assumed, it must be true love. The kind you don’t let slip away. It must be the kind of love that only comes around once in many lifetimes. I’d be foolish to not embrace the opportunity to realize true soulmate love.
During my energy session with Melissa, she commented that I must have known about the affair on some level. Then she asked,
What did you gain? You must have gained something. It must have served you on some level.
It’s easy to admit that I knew on a soul level that I was being betrayed, though my conscious mind chose not to pay attention. But I feel she was suggesting that my conscious mind knew something illicit was going on and I chose to ignore it. That’s a really hard idea to embrace. To think that I would allow myself to be treated poorly for some unknown gain on my end.
Did I not feel I was worthy of having a healthy relationship?
(Give me a B! Give me an O! Give me a U!…you get the idea.)
As I reflect back on those days of courtship and engagement three facts stand out: I knew nothing about boundaries, I allowed his attraction to me to be a reason why I should feel safe marrying him, and I never recognized that we live in a dual world and attract what we need. Sometimes we need a beach vacation in a hut perched above the aquamarine sea in Bora Bora, and sometimes we need a wake-up call that splits our head open with each unanswered ring as we lay on a too soft bed full of biting bugs. What I need is unique to me, and what my partner needs is unique to him. What he’s attracted to serves his need and what I am attracted to serves mine. Had I been accepting of the idea that this is a dual world, I would have been more realistic about the marriage I was about to enter into instead of idealistic.
It’s not two people moving forward in harmony, but two people with different quests to fulfill, and they are brave enough to attempt to do it in the company of another.
Boundaries then, even if there were just a few porous ones but an understanding that they were essential for healthy relationships, would have led me to take my time and really explore the morals, values, and maturity of the person to which I was about to commit my heart and all of my days. Having boundaries would have insured that I felt confident speaking up about my needs and the behaviors that were acceptable, supportive and healthy. Having boundaries and communicating them would have demonstrated to me that I love myself, and the message to him would have been, This is not a move I take lightly. I’m prepared to walk away if I don’t feel absolutely certain that we share the same values and have similar goals for personal development.
Because I knew so little about myself, had not the awareness that to be in a healthy relationship I had to have one with myself first, I allowed his expressed love for me to be a defining reason as to why I should feel comfortable marrying him after such a short courtship.
He must know what he’s doing!
Cuz I sure don’t. Although I acted as if I had a crystal ball and knew just how to use it.
He loves me!
He’ll never betray me.
When we hit a rough patch he’ll grab my hand and be motivated to work through it!
Not run into the outstretched arms of a married woman with stars in her eyes.
The concept of a premarital agreement is less about how to undo the marriage, although that ought to be taken into consideration, and more about creating a healthy environment in which the marriage can grow, morph, stumble and right itself again without fear. It acknowledges that there will be, by the design of a dual world, really rough patches that provide an opportunity to appreciate the really smooth ones. These challenges can take many forms – personal failures, world crises, mid-life crises, or just lifelong growing pains. They’re not reasons to flee but catalysts for strengthening the union. Reasons for being married in the first place.
Marriage is not the happily ever after but the crash course in life that, once aced, makes one realize just how happy we are capable of being.
Beyond imagination happy.
When I picture a woman having a premarital strategy session with her betrothed, I see a smartly dressed (the most perfect accessories – something I fail at miserably) woman with a blow out and painted nails (my prejudice on full display), calmly moving from point to point, expressing her needs, her desires, her total togetherness. She is fully engaged, centered and not at all on the defensive. She’s not trying to make herself liked. She’s not trying to be accepted. She already fully accepts herself exactly as she is. And seeks someone who will love and accept her exactly as she is.
She is without fear.
She does not fear her betrothed will walk away when she expresses the standards she expects in the relationship, for if he does she will have accomplished her goal.
She doesn’t fear the unknown because she’s talking about it. She’s demystifying it. She’s not giving it power by working up a sweat bobbing and weaving, making concessions, chipping away at her self. She somehow knows that this conversation will either break a union that would break anyway or create intimacy that will help it weather the certain storms.
I am in awe of her.
My dear D, a premarital contract, one that honors the boundaries of both parties (or highlights a lack of boundaries) and demystifies the challenges that lay ahead (challenges that are the gifts of being willing to embark on a commitment that has a history of failure) may not lead to a lifelong marriage. But it will, at the very least, lead to mutual respect, a deeper understanding of self, and a feeling of accomplishment before the I do’s are exchanged.
To me it’s the I AM before the I DO.
This past Sunday was a low, low tide. One that bares the rocks that live in waves, exposing naked star fish and mollusks and sea anemones. The dudes and I tide pool hopped from Agate Beach in Bolinas to the southern end of Stinson Beach, sticking our fingers in the mouths of star fish (those that weren’t lunching on mollusks) and anemones and collecting shells and pebbles that spoke to us.
As we walked down to the rocks at Stinson, we passed a couple who were creating what I assumed was a playing field of some sort. They used rakes and a line marker to draw a symmetrical outline with boundaries and circles that were perfect for face offs or jump balls.
Lines drawn in the sand.
Was it a rugby field? A complex soccer field? A hockey rink on sand?
When we emerged from the rocks, shells and pebbles in hand, discussing the joy of finding a star fish that was slowly conquering a mollusk for Sunday brunch, we again came upon the ‘playing field’.
It had grown even more complex. Measuring what seemed like a football field in length. The man had a five-pronged garden rake in his hand, spinning sand into elaborate swirls with such speed it was as if he was standing in front of an easel with a paint brush and a palette. He added flourishes to the structure he first put down.
High up on the rocks just below Highway 1 a group of people gathered, witnessing his creation. I was envious of their vantage point.
I didn’t approach him to get the story because I could see exactly what would happen. One dude would dare the other and his hard work would become a sand storm not suitable for the game that was surely about to be played.
The next day, in the afternoon, I pulled into the parking lot at the end of Mesa for a hike to Alamere Falls. I was feeling neither happy nor sad, even though I had braved a ridiculous amount of anger over the past days. I wasn’t venturing off on some epic hike, but a sane 8-miler. I wasn’t thinking about magic, but hoping for a reprieve from heady pondering. I was feeling lonely and wanted to be alone. The trails would be quiet. No magical encounters for me – of the human variety. But I felt that nature would delight as is her habit.
In the parking lot was a pickup truck that had seen it all. The back gate was down. A woman walked around from the front and handed to a man a garden rake. He slid it into the truck, next to several other harvesting tools, each with its proper place in the highly organized and dusty interior. I approached them straight away.
Were you at Stinson Beach yesterday? On the south end?
Yes, we were.
What were you doing? Creating a field of some sort? It was gorgeous!
Two sets of soft eyes gazed at me, smiles spreading.
They create sand art, commissioned and at other times because they are moved to do so. Which was why they were at Alamere Falls. They knew the tide was low and had not been to the falls before. They hiked there, rakes in hand and left a gift for all who came after them. And then it would feed the waves. We spoke for several minutes as he showed me pictures of past masterpieces he had created.
Each one crafted with the knowledge that it was temporary.
So what was that design at Stinson? It looked like some massive basketball court meets soccer field!
It would have been hard for you to figure it out standing on the sand and at the water’s edge. It was meant to be viewed from above…
It was a marriage proposal.
***See that little blue bird up there on the right? It’s my twitter feed. Go ahead, take the plunge. Follow me. I’m heading east for a family visit and want to take you along for the ride. Please also subscribe to the blog. I’ll keep your email between you and me. It just makes it so much easier to know when there’s a fresh post waiting for you.
I’ll be writing in the clouds on Virgin America. How freaking fitting. LY
Claire Callahan says
“I speak of only my situation when I say I was naive, left way too much to chance, and assumed that whatever cropped up we would handle it together. Because we married each other. And I firmly believed that he would never betray me.”
Excellent. What I thought. What IS TRUE in some marriages, where both people have boundaries, are stable adults, and are able to truly love another person.
Thank you for taking the time to comment and for being here, C.
I feel it can take nearly a lifetime to develop the right boundaries, center and stabilize and love oneself, all necessary to love another. Some highly evolved souls get there sooner. So, perhaps if we can get there sooner with awareness and guidance we can chip away at the failure rate of marriages.
I am not following the journey in sequential order. I started late and to me, it is not about your story but about the thoughts you bring to me. I saw boundaries at the top…it is not one of my strong points. Click, read, yeah I learned that the hard way! I stayed w my husband after the first affair (or several, who knows the truth). I set the boundary that if you ever did it again, I would leave. We moved back to my home town, started a business where we worked together, and for 5 years it was successful and perfect. One day, I brought our son into the office to move furniture so the floor people could clean. He bumped my husbands computer. An email popped up-meet you at 4 at the usual place. I printed it out…held it for a week, before I asked him about it. Denied of course. It took me 9 months of being sarcastic, sanding a big deck by hand, and drinking large bottles of grey goose before I left. I bought an old house 1882, smack in the middle of town, that was an eye sore. Cheap just withdrew the cash bought it, after a therapy session with the husband. I have two dudes. The older was at college. The younger in 11th grade. When I brought him to the old decrepit house and told him I was moving out, he said “I love it here, but what are we going to do for furniture?” I told him he could stay at the nice house, because we had no beds. We slept on air mattresses for 2 months…then I hired the Magic Movers and in 2 hours got our beds, a couple of my favorite paintings. I was fired from my company that day. I owned 49.5 % of the stock. Hired back a few months later….and it goes on and on. The clear point is…set boundaries and stick to them. I should have cut and run. I could go on and on…
If infidelity were to be eradicated, vodka and wine producers around the world would take a hit.
But if you had cut and run you wouldn’t be exactly where you are – and from here it looks pretty awesome. Woman strikes out on her own, buys an old house on what feels like a whim – but there aren’t whims – 2 months later, 2 beds, 2 paintings, 2 people, freed from the muck of betrayal, infidelity, lies, happily creating their journey. I don’t think you could have done any better if you planned it yourself.
Oh, wait. You did.
Grateful to have you here and delighted to know that you read my words to spark thoughts of your own. Stay close…
More and more, art is temporary. The art of Burning Man is but one example.
In the 21st century, we don’t need paintings collecting dust in the Louvre, we need spontaneous outbursts of love, even if it’s only for a few people who are privileged enough to catch the hot steam.
Performance, dance, art, love. Ephemeral. Let the tears flow for having been at the right place at the right time, then move to the next. Hands dipping into time’s slipstream, sampling beauty as fast or as slow as one can take it.
Oh, my! You wordsmith! And so very true. While I love (adore, worship) paintings, I am of the heartset that what is captured by my minds eye – a shooting star, the fog spilling over a hill, love drawn in the sand, is priceless, especially if it’s temporary and I was blessed enough to experience it.
You will get this ginger to Burning Man one day… Thank you for being here.
This is the most perfect explanation of a break up and why it may not have worked out I have ever read and I will read and re-read as a way of making sure I don’t make the same mistake again. Bravo! I shall share this with my psychologist. This explains all the bad relationships I’ve had in the past. Thanks Cleo. Have a lovely holiday.
Thank you for the kind words and for taking the time to comment. Sometimes I write a post and can’t remember what I wrote. This was one of those times. It came from the heart. I feel passionately that we must do something about our approach to marriage. Too many lives are derailed, hearts broken. The lies and deceit and betrayal. It’s all so soul crushing.
There must be a better way. I’m grateful this resonated with you, A.
Kay H says
Your statement about knowing on a soul level that you were being betrayed really strikes me. I read somewhere that we judge our loved ones on our own moral filter and if we couldn’t ever possibly fathom betraying them, then we think the same thing of them. I know I would sometimes lay in bed and start to cry and think it was for no reason because I never in my wildest dreams could imagine that my husband would do such a heinous thing. But somewhere deep in my subconscious, an alarm was going off and I couldn’t hear it because my own moral filter blocked it out. http://dowehavetotellthekids.blogspot.com/
I must still be in my snarky and bitter phase because the marriage proposal thing made me think, “they’ll be divorced soon enough”. Jeez, I’m a jaded person now.
Thank you for taking the time to comment, K. I have heard that as well. It makes sense, no?
I can’t go back to those four years before the Pocket Call right now. It would shred me. (The tears start right up, as if on cue.) But the feelings of being unloved, emotionally fragile, and disconnected from The Genius sit just below the surface. Two facts stand out that were clues but I chose to ignore them: He was not at all curious about me – my feelings, thoughts, desires, and he was never in the wrong.
Tears were shed. As they still are today. But today they cleanse me and release those sorrows that got shoved down deep so I didn’t have to face the fact that the man I loved kicked me to the curb.
I firmly believe that much of what trips us up on this planet can be righted with ease. At all times we’re one veil away from figuring it all out. I don’t believe you are being snarky or bitter but accurate in your wager. My hope is that I can do something to help reverse the odds.
A few things to talk about here… first, did you really think “he would never betray me” before you got married? I ask only because that thought never even popped into my head before I got married. Maybe it was because I was 25 and drinking a different kind of fairy tale Koolaid. Maybe it was because both sides of parents were still married and I didn’t know anyone who had been cheated on or hell, even divorced. Seriously, the thought never entered my mind. I think your prenup should include a chapter on infidelity.
Second, I just read a blog on Huffington Post this morning about proposed state legislation in Georgia and North Carolina to change the way we get divorced, including extending the separation time to two years before filing and offering classes on communication and parenting. These things are expected to help people reconcile instead of divorcing. However, the majority of the comments cited the lack of information and classes offered BEFORE people married as being the real problem in today’s society. So I’m thinking your prenup idea has some traction as a business idea. You’re still looking for a new career, right?
Anyway, have a wonderful vacation back east. It would be an honor and a privilege to meet you someday during your travels here
Cock robin says
Sadly I think rules were made to be broken as contracts are – we would only be giving lawyers more work. Those who think only about themselves will continue to do so, if they won’t have a simple conversation of fixing the unhappiness they are going to change because of a contract written years ago. They simply will continue to serve their needs only. My opinion only but it’s more of us being older & are eyes are wider. It’s like the age old question ” knowing what you know now, what would you advise your younger self”? Boy would I have a novel to pass to the young “Robin”. Love you and miss you and your infamous giggle !!
Thank you for taking the time to comment, C and for your patience as I get through a queue of comments that slipped to the next page. It’s true that just by having a contract doesn’t mean it can’t and won’t be broken, but I wonder if we have in-depth conversations about morals and values and expectations, we will come to learn more about our potential partners and either scare them off by our willingness to put the hard topics on the table and stand up for ourselves or stir up doubts that we’ve suppressed but need to pay attention to before marriage.
At the very, very least, we will have discovered what’s important to us. And knowing ourselves better brings us closer to loving ourselves.
My giggle loves you and so do I!
First of all, you are scared of spiders but dare to touch “naked star fish and mollusks and sea anemones”? Ewwww! I guess we all have our own hang ups.
This post is so thought provoking. I am not sure in my 20s I knew enough to ask my Genius all of the right questions. And if I had, I am not sure I would have been disappointed by his responses. I think we both started out with the right mind set but somewhere along the way he either changed or stopped growing along side me and that’s when things went awry. Perhaps instead of a pre-nup it could be a 3 or 5 year post-nup where you have an intense check in about your marriage and make sure you are still on track. But could this whole concept be a potential book for you? I promise to buy a copy for my 3 kiddos and insist that they read it before they say “I do.”
Love from sunny and HOT San Francisco…
Oh, the irrational nature of phobias! I love sea creatures, snakes (don’t want them in my home!) and all sorts of critters. But the spider…the keeper of the primordial alphabet…phobias are unexplainable. I’m so grateful to have been given the opportunity to transform my phobia, but I am realizing that there are still messages these arachnids are sending me that need my attention.
It’s a rare person who has enough self-awareness in their 20s to ask the right questions about something as complicated as attempting to love and honor till death in our world. Instead of treating marriage as something we all ought to aspire to, we should consider it a rare opportunity. Companionship is always there to be had, but marriage is for those who are truly up for the challenge. Mt. Whitney is there for the climbing, but those who choose to climb Mt. Everest must really be ready to sacrifice and meet the challenge of the mountain.
You point out something that my dear friend, Dr. E told me: We partner up with those who are at the same stage in emotional growth, but then we continue to grow (or not) at a different pace. Once the divide is to large to bridge anymore, the union crumbles.
Both partners ought to recognize this. It raises the idea that waiting to marry until near death may be the only way to insure till death do us part.
M, I’m going to write that book. And it won’t be long. I’ve got a few creations that need my time right now, but then I’m tackling this one. Thank you for your pre-order!
On the weather – when I left Bolinas at 4:30AM on Thursday it was BALMY!
Thank you for taking the time to comment and for being here, M. You rock.