March 1, 2012
Is Marriage Like Prison?
I had an interesting discussion about marriage today. I was talking to a man in his 50’s who is divorced and dating. He is Jewish, educated, successful, funny, handsome, and a failure at marriage. We’ll call him Moshe. Moshe can clearly remember the moment that his wife, his soul mate, became his cellmate.
I don’t remember that about my marriage or my husband, but I do remember being very unhappy. There was no infidelity in my marriage, or in Moshe’s. I was married for 5 years, Moshe for much longer, and it’s interesting that sex was not an issue for either of us, and actually continued even though the marriage was ending.
I certainly contributed to the end of my marriage, and no blame needs to be assigned, but it was my marriage, it ended, and so some of the blame must be mine. When my marriage became unbearable I left. I refused to have it be a sentence, and so I paroled myself because I was not willing to fix it.
It was an easy decision at the time. While I have regretted it over the years, it was never regret for me, but rather for my son. Being a child of divorce is difficult and I didn’t want that for him. I often wonder if I could have suffered in silence to give my child the family he wanted. Me? Suffering in silence? Never going to happen.
Moshe hung on for much longer. There was a breakdown in his marriage, they both made mistakes, but rather than get out when he knew it was not working, he chose to stay. He has children, and it was an entwined life so even though it was not the life he wanted, it was a good life, until it became a prison. That said, he stayed long after it felt like prison.
Moshe said that by the end of his marriage, prison would have been better because at least his wife would not be there. It made me laugh at first, and then got me to thinking about marriage. At what point does marriage change from a loving place to an institution? Can you even have a marriage without that transition? Is marriage just bad?
I loved being married and when the marriage was good, it was great. I am forward thinking in a lot of ways, but the older I get the more I view marriage with very traditional eyes. I like keeping a nice home, cooking for my family, taking care of the children, and providing a great sex life for my spouse. If I were living in Poland in the 1800’s I’d be a real catch.
If it were the 1950’s, I’d have men banging down my door. That said, if I were in prison, I’d have them lining up to braid my hair, and I’d be trading cigarettes for a sex free life. While an interesting analogy, I would take a bad marriage over prison and I would take no marriage, over being in one that felt like a sentence.
I asked my Twitter followers if they would stay in a bad marriage, even if the sex continued to be good, and responses were mixed. Women could not embrace the idea of a marriage falling apart but the sex still being good, and men where happy to be having sex in the marriage, but were also looking for new sex.
Single mothers were concerned with showing their children a healthy marriage, and they also wanted to know what the financial situation was. Women were more willing to stay in a bad marriage if it meant their kids were taken are of, and men were ready to abandon the marriage and look for a new partner.
Men related to the prison analogy, but women did not. Women felt that providing a home with two parents to their kids mattered, and men over 40 were quick to say that prison was not an option for them at this stage of their lives. Sadly and surprisingly, not many people spoke highly of their own marriages. Is there anyone with a happy and healthy marriage?
People wrote to tell me that no marriage was perfect, and sometimes you needed to give up some happy for your kids, and that is unfortunate. I’m not an expert on marriage, and it’s been 15 years since I was married, but I know that the stories of marriage were of a marriage that I do not want for myself. Do people with good marriages just not talk about it?
My goals for marriage are simple. I want to share my life with a man. I want us to raise our children in a home where they see love and respect. I want to have intimate and fulfilling sex, and I want to have it often. I want to support him and his passions, and I want him to ease my sorrow. I want love and I want a witness to my life.
I don’t want someone to stay with me because it is easy, or because there is a sense of obligation. They would also know that I would not stay in the relationship to make things easier for myself, and my obligation is to my child and myself. I would be doing a disservice to us all by staying if it’s not working.
I think an advantage to being divorced, if there is an advantage, is that I have no fear in terms of my love life. I have experienced the type of love where you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, and survived the heartache of losing that love. I can love freely and openly because I am not afraid. I can survive a broken heart which is liberating.
I want to talk late into the night about my day. I want to wake up early and have quite time with my partner. I want to spend Shabbat with our kids, reading, laughing, and taking time to enjoy life. I am not expecting it to be easy, but I am unwilling to do it, if it’s going to be hard. Marriage should be fun. Work, but still fun.
I am not dying to get married again, but if my partner wanted to have a life with me without marriage, then I would be okay with that. By okay with that of course I mean he is going to have to marry me, but he will get there on his own, without my having to pressure him. That is how marriage works. If I have to force him to marry me, he is not the one.
Marriage is a beautiful thing when it works, and while I do enjoy a convicted felon on occasion, prison is not an option in my marriage or otherwise. Moshe is a lot like me, and though we ended our marriages differently, the good news is that we got out of a dark place and went into the light, which is a blessing. Better to be alone than unhappy.
Moshe may actually be the only person on the planet who dates more than I do. The difference is that I am clear on what I am looking for, and he is waiting for it to become clear. He might figure it out one day, or he’ll just enjoy his life how it is now, which is good. If he ever gets some clarity though, I’d like to go out with him. By go out with him of course I mean I have a crush on Moshe.
He is a lovely man and I enjoy being with him. He makes me laugh and think. Sadly he has a lot of wild oats to sow and I’m not a wild oat kind of girl, so I wish him well and continue the search for my beshert. I have learned my beshert is equal parts Clooney and Moshe, so now the search will be easier, if I just keep the faith.