I learned first-hand that marriage can be one horrific experience. I’ve said it a million times but I’ll say it again: There are worse things than divorce and a bad marriage is one of them. And you never know if that “perfect” couple is happy or even functioning as a couple. I am sure that people thought my ex and I had that perfect marriage and home. They were wrong. And I know several friends who are in horrible marriage and divorce would be a celebration; their “never divorced” status is a tragedy. And in my case, once I earned my “Single” status, it was like I had received a big huge prize. When my divorce was final, I celebrated by taking my boyfriend to a grand dinner. I was ecstatic. And since then, I’ve loved being single. I get to decorate my home how I want, go to bed when I feel like it, raise the girls how I believe they should be, pick my own vacations, develop and adhere to a budget that makes sense, and even decide how clean I want the house.
But… I still believe in marriage, big time. Call me an optimist but I believe that fairytales do exist, than true forever love is possible, and that marriages can be an amazing partnership. And as I’ve embarked in the dating world, I’ve caught glimpses of great men who, it appears, are capable of becoming terrific companions if all other things had lined up.
In a time where simply living together is acceptable, what makes marriage different? The legality of it all. It’s easy to pack up your stuff and move in with a guy. And as committed as you both may be to the relationship, if it doesn’t work out, you move on, hopefully without attorneys needed to unwind the legal contract that makes a marriage different. After all, marriage ultimately boils down to a legal contract between two adults, filed with the government. There are protections and responsibilities of both parties when it comes to marriage, and that’s where lawyers come in when the contract must be dismantled. With a simple “cohabitation” agreement, this isn’t necessary (there are exceptions, of course). And, really, there is something special with saying “this is my husband” as opposed to “this is my boyfriend.”
As a cancer survivor, I know all too well that relationships (and my health) are the most important things in life. Developing and cultivating amazing relationships with those I love matters. And that’s where marriage comes in. It is one of the most important relationships we can have.
As I summarize it, here are the reasons I still believe in marriage:
1. Forever companionship
There is something permanent about marriage. You work on a marriage more than you usually work on a relationship with a boyfriend. At least I do. If a boyfriend isn’t working out, it’s a sign to end it. But with a marriage, I work and work and work some more. Because we have already made that commitment that we are both vested in each other. And as two adults work on a relationship, live together, and share life, there is something incredibly special and bonding. Only marriage, for me, has provided that. Sharing illnesses, dreams, vacations, homes– it all takes on a different level of importance than a simple “boyfriend-girlfriend” status. And, truly, if I’m dating a guy for a very long time and he’s not wanting to marry me (or I him), what are we doing? There’s reasons why people don’t take the plunge and usually they’re called “warning signs.” I still don’t know how long is reasonable to date (or even live together) before a relationship can be determined “dead” or “stagnant”– each is different. But if a few years have passed and you’re not moving forward, that says everything you need to know about the relationship.
2. The public designation
I love saying “my husband.” There is something powerful and unique with that word and what it says to society. You are now a team. And if you’re in a good, functioning marriage, that “team” is amazing. Legally, my husband makes all kinds of decisions for the two of us, and vice versa. That matters.
3. What it says to the kids
When I’ve dated men, they’ve just been boyfriends. And I’ve kept boyfriends at bay when it comes to my kids, unless the guy has become a special one. In that case, it’s been time to introduce the two factions and see how we all mesh together. But when it comes to having children, I think it’s important that if you’re with a guy for a long time, the permanency of marriage helps them to figure out how and where they belong in the relationship. And here’s the kicker– if your children and new guy aren’t getting along really well, you shouldn’t consider marrying the guy– not for a second. Sorry, this one may hurt but it’s true. Kids must come first and if you’re putting your love interests ahead of your children’s there is something very, very wrong.
4. I love sharing a home
Personally, especially with children in the picture, I’m not living with a guy without marriage. Because marriage cements a relationship and provides a different level of stability for everyone. It tells society and my children that we are “officially” a couple, a partnership. And sharing a home and life with a guy I love is really terrific. I love to entertain, have a beautiful, clean and peaceful home, and building a fun and rewarding home life. While I’ve maintained this as a single mom, sharing it with a husband is different. I’m no longer bearing all of the responsibility, I am now sharing it. That’s nice.
5. We can’t go it alone
I know all too well that going it alone in life isn’t feasible. When I was sick, I relied on my parents to care for me through some really tough cancer treatments. I was envious of the other cancer warriors I met who had a husband or wife holding their hand, comforting them, and chatting up with doctors and nurses on treatment plans. I wish that were me. With a functioning marriage, knowing that the two of us have each other’s backs no matter what is something I aspire to.
Even though I’ve been far happier single than I was in my prior marriage, I still aspire to that amazing relationship called marriage. Partnership. Forever love and companionship. It is possible.