Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The Realities of Marriage

Occasionally I get an email from a nice Catholic girl who has been dating a nice Catholic boy for some months, and she is trying to decide if she wants to marry him or not. She lays out all the good qualities of the nice Catholic boy and his family and asks me what I think.

What I think is that she should marry him only if she wants to have sex with him, wash his socks and sit beside him on the couch as he watches yet another boring episode of yet another boring TV show. Because this is what the daily, domestic reality of marriage largely is, when you get right down to it. 

I'm not talking about the spiritual stuff, obviously. There are dozens of Catholics happy to tell you all about the spiritual stuff, so go read them if you want to find out about it. I think Christopher West has even developed a kind of Catholic tantra or something, so if you want to mix in some ooh-la-la with your theological reading, off you go to Chris.

Meanwhile, if you are younger than me (it seems) there is also getting pregnant, which involves swollen ankles and having a puffy face and staring down at your huge belly moaning "Come onnnnn, new baby! Hurry uuuuuup!" The new baby will usually look like your husband, so it is important to really like or even love your husband so that you love the fact that his baby looks like him. 

Oh yes. Love. I guess I should also talk about love, although now that I live in Britain it is an even more embarrassing word than sex. The problem with love is that we North Americans throw the word around a lot, and tell everyone that we love them. Even North American boys now indulge, as in "I love you, man!" And what you feel when you get a crush on someone can be called love, I suppose, although I prefer the expression "temporary insanity." The British call it "fancying", as in "Do you fancy him?" which sounds suspiciously akin to that other common expression, "Fancy a fish supper?"

For marriage purposes, however, love is not just a feeling of sexual attraction or affection but, in my experience at least, a feeling that you will absolutely die if you cannot marry this person within six  to eight months which morphs, after marriage, into the knowledge that life will really, really suck if this person escapes or dies. 

Of course,  you could argue, that is just me, Auntie Seraphic, over 35 and brimming with natural affections. What of the indecisive young?  

I would say that the indecisive young should just sit tight until they meet a person--of proven good character and appropriate family background, beliefs and education--who truly rocks their world. And this is because marriage is not something tremendously exciting in itself, on the domestic level (on the social level it is crucial to the health of society), but a man and a woman living in one space, trying to keep the space and themselves clean, earning money and spending it on boring things, having sex, arguing and watching boring TV.  That's what the "marriage lifestyle" looks like, so unless you marry someone who rocks your world, you are going to feel seriously ripped off.   

There is a cynical little term that has arisen from people who marry young and soon feel ripped off. It's called "starter marriage." But this is a little term we want to stamp out because divorce should not be an option, and if you're even thinking of divorce as your handy little escape hatch then most definitely you should not be getting married. 


healthily sanguine said...

Great post, thanks! I was about to ask a wise friend, "How much does a guy need to impress me?" I meet plenty of well-mannered Catholic men of good character, but so far none of them has, in your words, "rocked my world." They are nice, and some of them even very funny, though. I guess the question becomes, if marriage really does consist of all those little things, why does it matter so much if the person you marry is impressive/rocks your world or not? I guess what I'm asking is whether it's crucial to be in love . . . personally, I don't know if I could even work up the energy to get through all the dating, engagement, wedding planning, wedding, etc. unless I was, but nevertheless I ask. :)

Seraphic said...

It is because sane, everyday, productive, married adult life is often very boring unless you think your husband is vastly entertaining and lovable in himself.

Also, a lot of things tend to go wrong. Life does not always measure up to expectations, and the guy you turn to for comfort has to be the kind of guy who rocks your world. For example, today I bonked my head on an 800 year old stone doorway to a dungeon. It hurt. I thought, "Oooh! What if I have a concussion? What if I end up in hospital? What if I die? Waaah! Where is B.A.? I want B.A.!" And when I saw B.A., a few hours later in a museum, it was like seeing the sun after a week of incessant rain.

It's not about "impressing" you as much as you thinking, after getting to know him, "Wow! That guy will make some lucky girl a good husband. Heck, I'd send in my application form, that's for sure! I hope he finds somebody really really me! I wonder if he likes ME??? I mean, in THAT way?"

Seraphic said...

By the way, a guy can't rock your world until you get to know him. When I was first getting to know B.A. in person I thought he talked WAY TOO MUCH especially in the mornings when I was feeling like death warmed over from my cold and was thus intensely annoying.

healthily sanguine said...

Did he talk too much because he was a bit nervous of you? I think that might be a guy tic, at least for some guys. I'd rather that than stoic silence, that's for sure!

healthily sanguine said...

Can I ask you something else? Do you ever feel (or have you ever felt) like it was a bum deal that you got so short of a courtship period and then at the end of it, had to move a continent away from all your family and friends and basically everyone you knew and love? Because for me, I can't see the online dating scenario, with which I am increasingly faced, leading to anything other than that--and I've had several friends who have taken similar paths with the online sites: long-distance courtships, in which they saw the guy once a month, and then short (relatively, anyway) engagements.

Seraphic said...

No. He just talks a lot. And makes a lot of puns. A lot.

No, I do not feel I got a bum deal. I think I got an awesome deal--and an awesome husband. Courtship was nice, but marriage is even better.

Mustard Seed said...

I've been considering the online dating scenario, but I have a question. Is it really wise to date long-distance if one can avoid it? Or if one must date long-distance, it seems like a period of living in the same place would be necessary before getting engaged (obviously it would be pretty serious at that point).

Otherwise, if you've only seen each other once a month and then have a short engagement... what about the "best behavior" effect? Or wanting to have the short visits be pleasant and thus avoiding difficult but necessary conversations that might arise in a relationship? It just seems like shaky ground for making a lifelong commitment.

I don't mean to be critical of those who do the long-distance online thing, as it is clearly working for some people! But it seems like it could be very difficult to truly know someone without seeing their day-to-day lifestyle up close and in person, over a longer period of time.

Jam said...

It seems like everyone my age is in long-distance relationships...

Seraphic said...

I always say that people who meet online should keep things on a merely friendly level until they meet in person. And they should meet as soon as possible. Otherwise they enter into time-wasting fantasy relationships.

healthily sanguine said...

I'm not sure what it says about me that some of my worst "time-wasting fantasy relationships" have been with people I've met in real life . . . but yeah, Mustard Seed's concerns seem pretty valid. Maybe it works more for people who are very verbal/intellectual, and for whom the sharing of ideas through email/phone is of paramount importance?