Monday, 20 June 2011

Not Without a Ring

Getting a marriage proposal within two weeks of meeting Mr McRight is fantastic, but it does carry a small burden of social embarrassment. Since I have a foreign accent, dinner party guests at home and abroad ask how B.A. and I met. We tell them the story, and then guffaw nostalgically over the marriage-proposal-after-ten-days bit. The married people and the partner-free Singles laugh too, and the not-yet-married-but-living-with-their-boyfriends-since-heaven-knows-when women go ashen.

I hate that part.

The last time that happened I didn't notice until the boyfriend got up from his place at the table, ambled behind his girlfriend and began to give her a shoulder massage, as if to say, "I'm sorry you are stressed out that we're not even engaged when this strange and churchy couple got engaged after 10 days."

Listen, I'm forty years old, and I live in a cosmopolitan city, and I run around with different of sets of people, so I'm not naive about folks who live in sin. Some folks who live together without marriage actually stay do together. Sometimes they even get married, have kids, and dodge the statistical bullet that says people who live together before marriage are more likely to divorce. I know one woman who hung in there for ten long years and then got the rings, the dress and the baby. God bless her. I would have died a thousand deaths--at least two a week, so that's 1040.

This is something that I think a lot of men don't get. If a woman loves a man, really loves a man, she wants him for the rest of her life. And she wants him to want her for the rest of her life, more than she wants her own liver. Since I was sixteen years old (EEEK!) part of me wanted some man somewhere some day to say "YOU are the woman for me forever." Of course, when that actually happened, I revised this to wanting the RIGHT man to say it. And thus when I fell in love with B.A., I wanted him to say it, and thank goodness he did.

Therefore, it blows my mind that so many women, even Catholic women, will consent to "let's live together for awhile and see how it goes." No. I just don't believe in that. I believe in "I love you, and I want you so bad, I'd lose half my toes to frostbite to keep you, since you love me, too."

The problem is that women are afraid to say No to men they love--that or they think they are "strong", "sophisticated," "modern" women who can "do the sensible thing" and "move slowly to a commitment" when deep down they are interdependent, passionate, timeless women who want rings on their fingers, babies in the pram, and the same men in their beds for the next forty-five years. I mean, hello! We are not all totally screwed up/ rendered tough as nails by the divorce revolution.

Many women cry when their boyfriends propose. I think there's sometimes as much relief in those tears as there is joy. Thank God, thank God, he hasn't been lying all this time about loving me! Thank God, he isn't going to just pack up and leave one day after all! Me, I giggled. There were tourists everywhere, pretending nothing was going on. I had met the man in person, like, ten days before. It was hilarious.

Not so hilarious are women who wait month after month, year after year, for their live-in lovers to propose. "What's wrong?" they wonder. "What's wrong with 'Us'? What's wrong with him? What's wrong with me?" It is particularly terrible when the women come from traditional religious backgrounds and they are with men with traditional religious backgrounds. If you're a fourth-generation Communist and your parents never bothered to marry but are still together, than I guess it might not be such a big deal. But Jewish girls? Catholic girls? Brrr-rrr-rrrr!

"But how do I make him propose?" demands the live-in lover--oh, sorry, partner*--secretly and in agony for fear someone might discover that she is not "strong", "sophisticated" and "modern" but a human female like most human females.

One advice book I know says to kick him out and not let him back in without a ring. If he comes back with a ring, take him back. If he doesn't come back, he was never yours in the first place, which sucks, but at least now you're eligible to meet someone serious. This is not something to say to a woman whose heart has been shattered into a thousand pieces, but it is true--or will be true once she can laugh again.

It makes me supremely angry when I hear a man dither over whether or not he should marry his devoted long-term girlfriend. I wonder where the man's mother and sisters are, and why they are not giving him hell. If one of my brothers announced he was moving in with a woman and there was no ring in sight, I would go mediaeval on his you-know-what. MEDIAEVAL. Why? Because I love my brothers, and I want them to be good men, and I want them to be happy, and to make other women who love them happy. That's what sisterhood really means.

But where other men are concerned, I bite my tongue and scram when I can because unless they're family or my very best friends, it's not my business. I long for this girlfriend or that to consult me, though. I sit at home willing her to call me up, which of course she would never do. But if she did, I would tell her to kick him out of their space, and not let him back in without a ring.

Unless they had kids. Once you have kids, your happiness doesn't come first anymore. Theirs does. And once you've made their bed as well as yours, poppets, you have to lie in it. And I'm really sorry. Be as happy as you can. Royal mistresses often lived happy, dignified lives, and now society doesn't treat ordinary bidie-in women and their kids like pariahs. It's almost like being married, I guess. Almost.

Have I mentioned there are situations way worse then being entirely Single? There are. There's being neither Single nor Married with your heart beating to the silent sound of its wailing.

*Scene: Edinburgh Airport, Friday, June 12, 1:30 PM

UK Border Agent: And is your partner in the UK right now?

Seraphic: My husband is, yes.


Anna said...

Oh Seraphic, this really hits home for me. I'm a college student, and I met a boy in high school who I quite seriously thought I would marry. We talked about it often enough that I expected a proposal any day. Fast-forward to present day: after almost 3.5 years of dating, I finally had to end it. He never proposed, and quite frankly I could tell he was not in love with me in the way you describe (frostbite on all my toes!).

I learned my lesson, let me tell you.

Seraphic Spouse said...

Dear Anna, I'm sorry that happened.

I'm guessing you are from a place where early marriages are the usual sort of thing? I think my European readers will be scratching their heads, because here almost no-one get engaged before they are 25, let alone in high school. But when I was in the USA, I met people who had gotten married before age 25.

Meanwhile, 3.5 years is long enough to date anybody. For me, a dating relationship felt rather boring after 2 years: I can't imagine 3.5.

Kate P said...

"But how do I make him propose?"

Sadly, many women DO think that getting pregnant is the way. And all that does is make things worse for everyone involved. And drags a poor baby into it.

Seraphic said...

Oh dear. I wish women wouldn't do these passive-aggressive, sneaky, indirect things in the hopes that they will be the hints that do the trick.

On the other hand, surely sexually active women must sometimes just get pregnant as a matter of course? There are no 100% accurate birth control methods. If you're a healthy woman under 35 sharing a bed, babies are likely to happen.

Lara said...

My sister told me the other day that her boyfriend had asked her to live with him before they got married. I was ready to pick my battle axe and neuter the little dear, when she said that she had told him thanks, but no. When my father heard about it he went grey for a week but has since decided that the young man may live.
Now the boyfriend is talking wedding dates, but I'm keeping the axe close by. This would be a good time to have a big, scary brother.

Seraphic said...

The boyfriend doesn't sound as much like axe-meat as he sounds like a prisoner of his times.

I'm glad that the response to 'No' was not 'See ya' but wedding dates.

Ah, 'No'. Such a powerful word! It demasks the scoundrels, and it helps the serious to step up to the plate.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

the first time I ever heard the euphemism "partner" was from a woman I worked with in a bakery in Vancouver when I was about 29. She had referred to "my partner" and I, being all naive, said totally innocently, "Oh, are you in business?" She scowled at me and said something terse about it being the man she lived with.

Many years later, after "partner" had become unbiquitous in England, my aunt referred out of habit to her son's live-in partner (whom he has since married, thank God) and I said that she was using the wrong term. There is a word in English for what my cousin had, which was "concubine". Auntie, who isn't very pleased about the sexual revolution, politically correct speech or her son's relationship status at the time, looked relieved and said, "I've told him to get married..."

Naive said...

All that women who endlessly live with their partner(s) don't make me wonder. Because I have my own statistics: all (100%) the girls I know who slept around got married and had at least one child. Those who decided to live according to Faith have much lower score - about 40% of them are still single, in their late 30-s/early 40-s. Not an example to follow, ha?

The Crescat said...

"There's being neither Single nor Married with your heart beating to the silent sound of its wailing."

I know this all too well. 2+ years of waiting and expecting a proposal any day. It is a painful feeling. Being single is far more bearable in comparison.

I have a handful of friends comprised of married couples, of those married the longest are the ones with the quickest courtships. I suppose when you just know all that dithering around becomes a pointless waste of time.

Seraphic said...

Naive, I allowed your comment in the hope despair is not contagious. Sleeping around is not a good way to get married, and even if it were, it would still be a mortal sin.

Justina said...

I have a brother (who is not religious) who has lived with his girlfriend for over 2 years now. They are engaged and planning on getting married next summer. She accidentally found the ring last autumn. She was thrilled. He was blase. She went around telling everyone they were engaged. He told no one, not even his family (I happened to be there when she found the ring).

She realized that he didn't seem very enthusiastic so she became depressed for a few months. They are still together today and planning on getting married, because, I think, there was some groveling done on the part of my brother.

For him, getting married is about having kids. There's no other reason to get married. Did I mention that he's an atheist?

They have a good relationship and she is lovely girl and I hope he isn't stupid enough to let her go, but if I were her I'd be all, "see ya". She rationalizes what happened by saying that she's OK with enjoying the day-to-day happiness that they have. I suppose that's true, but surely she is ignoring some small voice in her which is saying, what about the long term security that you crave?

Anna said...

In response to your question, I am from the U.S., a small town in the Midwest to be more specific. I have several friends who married/got engaged right out of high school (think age 18/19). Some of them are still together, some are not.

Part of what made me hang on so long was that he wanted to get married after college. I told him I wanted to be married during college if I was going to be married to him. He was too afraid he couldn't provide. Plus, he was a child of divorce and had baggage that I only found out about later on in the relationship.

The lesson I learned was simple enough: Don't let a male string me along. The learning of this lesson, however, was anything but simple.

Thank you for your wisdom and advice- it really helps me in being Single. I am actually enjoying being Single, mostly. I have more social freedom to go wherever I like and talk to whoever I like. :)

Seraphic said...

Justina, I hope everything works out for your brother and his fiancee. If your brother really did think it worthwhile to grovel, I think we can hope for the best!

Anna, I don't think many guys in college COULD provide! They're in college presumably so that one day they will indeed be able to provide. I'm glad you are enjoying being Single because Single is what most college kids should be. You have your whole life ahead of you, and your whole adult self to figure out. I'm glad you like my blog!

Naive said...

To be clear - I totally agree that sleeping around is a a mortal sin, pretty lousy way to get married and very reliable way to feel used and insecure.
One cannot know what may happen, but life in sin, life without Eucharist would be something unbearable for me. As you said, I would have died a thousand deaths, at least two a week :-((.
My grandma kept saying "be good, and God will give you good". So somehow I, as a "good girl" expected that God, after all these trials and difficulties, would grant all my wishes. How stupid and immature.
And maybe the statistics I've told you about is a good reminder that His ways are completely different than ours.

Ginger said...

Now that I think about it, I am having a very difficult time naming more than a couple girls who ended up as happily married as quickly as the ones who slept with/lived with their boyfriends. I know very few married girls who remained chaste until the wedding night. It's a sad but true observation.

Of course, that's not an excuse to give up chastity, but it does fly in the face of everything we WANT to believe, especially that being good will be rewarded in this life. Very often, being good in this life has a direct relationship with how much you will suffer here.