Whether you write your own vows, use the same vows as most others within the ‘tradtional’ Western Christian vows, make your declaration of love to one another in the modern partnership form, Islamic, Humanist, Buddhist, Jewish, Taosist or spiritualist form, you are making a declaration to each other, to the universe, to the rest of humanity that you belong to one another, straight or gay, you are a couple for life. But does this mean you promise fidelity with one another? Do it mean you promise to support and encourage one another with all your hopes and dreams?
I am currently reading For Better (for worse) by Tara Parker-Pope, a divorcee who wanted to figure out why her own marriage failed and looked for answers everywhere, and having a scientific mind looked to see if her marriage failed due to scientific reasons. So far this book promises to be a great read. The distinctions she has found through various worldwide researches from some of the world’s prominent scientists, therapists and social anthropologists are turning my head upside down and back to front. Needless to say I love it! J
I picked this book up to see if I could find some answers to some of the issues within my own 15 year marriage to a man who I never wish to be without. A man who inspires me, challenges me, loves me, respects me, frustrates the hell out of me and makes me feel so wonderful, so special, so loved and so wanted. Moving is said to be one of the biggest stresses a person undertakes, so moving overseas to Egypt from the UK following years apart due to work, only experiencing treasured moments every 2-3 weekends has proven to be a test that has seen immense highs and real lows. From my own homesickness and the uncertainty our two little boys have felt, feelings of insecurity of what is going to happen in our future and Egypt’s future, coupled with neither of us working and being ‘stuck’ in an apartment that is not ours, we have been tested in ways neither of us have ever been tested before. Maybe this book will offer us both solutions to cope with the pressures we are facing. Being apart is not an option, running home to the UK is not an option being together until we are old and wrinkly is the only destination either of us have in mind. We value our marriage and before ‘real’ problems show their ugly faces, we confront them head on. Always have, always will. As with most things in life, the more knowledge you have about things, the better you are to deal with situations if and when they arise. So understanding the chemical processes in our brains and bodies, genetics and all things cultural, it is time to take a new lesson in love.
Around us, friends are either about to get married, going through a divorce, happily divorced or being pressured to get married. Some friends are happily married and others are nowhere near the point of committing to one person. Regardless of where we are in our life’s journey, marriage always comes up in conversation somewhere along the line.
I always knew I would get married. I used to pretend I was a bride with my mother’s net curtains by placing them over my head like a veil. I knew the kind of guy I wanted and I knew I had to be married by the age of 21 for the goals in my life to pan out as I wanted them to. Some would say this is too young, others will say this is too much pressure, but by being focused on my goal and knowing what I wanted, I found the man I knew I would spend the rest of my life with at the age of 18. I had a couple of special guys who I will always have a special place in my heart for, but they were not to be the ones I spend the rest of my life with, they were not my soul mate, my partner in crime, the ying for my yang. They were not the ones I wanted children with, they were not the ones who could help me achieve my dreams or support me whilst I fulfilled my potential; and certainly not the ones who would put up with my crap for the rest of their lives! Trust me when I say I have sent my husband grey. I can be a bitch and yet this man loves me regardless (but hey, I love him when he is being a bastard so all’s fair in love and war right?!)
Marriage for me is a sacred promise. No one should take it lightly. No one has the right to interfere with it, and trust me, any woman who tries to interfere with my marriage I will rip her face off so she will never be able to look in the mirror again, and any man who tries anything I will kick him so hard in the crown jewels, he’ll wish he’d been born without them. Marriage is something that will push you to your limits; it teaches you to be co-operative, to negotiate, to put yourself last as well as first. It is one of those special promises that you make to one another based on you both being honest and open with each other, and whilst you should expect everything from one another, you should also accept neither of you will be able to deliver everything.
Making the vows of marriage, of a lifelong partnership is to declare to one another you will enjoy a lifetime of monogamy, but do you promise each other fidelity? I know I could never have married a man who could not promise me fidelity. For some couples they are happy for infidelity to exist within a monogamous marriage; and understanding the difference may save many marriages.
For other marriages, where one partner, mainly the man, works long hours to provide the kind of life the woman demands, this proves too much. Either the man has enough of being seen as a bank account and strays for someone who loves him and not the money he can earn or the wife starts to feel lonely and strays. Surely in the case of the woman straying, she should really understand what is most important, a lifetime of living with the man she promised herself to, or the material things she ‘needs’ to prove herself to others, she is a worthy person to know. Give me cuddles and a husband for life than material objects any day. I have seen far too many women moan about the hours their husband works, and yet they want designer bags, expensive holidays, cars and homes. I even know of a man who worked himself to the ground to give his wife everything she wanted and then she had an affair because he was never around. He lost her, his children, his home and soon afterwards due to his depression and bewilderment of why, when he had given everything she said she wanted, he lost the business he had built up and became homeless. He had no friends left once his money was gone because they too were shallow like his wife.
There are other marriages that suffer from the controlling husband or wife, others where there is no give and take, no willingness to be humble and admit that maybe ‘it is me that is wrong, not you’, there are no apologies, no willingness to learn from past mistakes, no willingness to allow each other to be the person we are destined to be. So many find themselves in a marriage where the person they married no longer wants them, or allows them, to be the person they were when they fell in love. Other marriages are the ones that were arranged for status, wealth, convenience or simply arranged as in some customs. These have their own fair share of problems, as well as successes.
Whatever the agreement was when you promised to be with each other when you got married, think about that promise. Think about the integrity behind it. Did you agree to love and support one another for better or worse? Did you promise to help them to achieve their potential and goals in life? What did they promise you? Are either of you fulfilling your end of the agreement? Are you both growing together, acknowledging that you both change with every new day, with every new challenge and experience, or are you behaving like a spoilt child who wants everything their own way?
Both my husband and I have changed dramatically over the years, as we should have over 15 years, and we believe in each other. We are both passionate about so many of the same things, freedom, justice and equality. We are both activists, driven, focus and argumentative. We love debate, love stepping out of our comfort zones and our marriage is not something we take lightly. Many friends who we had not seen for years were both surprised and yet not surprised to find us still together after so long. These are the ones who have seen or heard us row and when we do, we do it with passion and gusto. As Eminem says “maybe this is what happens when a tornado meets a volcano”.
Our marriage is not one for the faint hearted, but it is our marriage, and one we both treasure.
For all of you out there considering marriage, divorce or wondering how on earth you ended up where you have, just remember what you want in life, what you want from your partner but most importantly what you are willing to give and give up. If you are not willing to give up being right all the time, or give up a part of who you are so the other can flourish, then consider whether you are right for any relationship, not just marriage. If you are someone who is controlling, think about why and get some therapy. If you are willing to make sacrifices to be with someone for the rest of your life, make sure you work together ALWAYS, because once you make that promise, if you break it, you’re a liar and no one likes a liar.
Enjoy the journey together, whatever terms you BOTH agree to. Encourage, support and love each other with all your heart and soul. Give up being right all the time. It is the only way to a successful marriage. Love, honour and respect each other always, share the journey of a lifetime taking time to step back and re-assess where you are and where you are going. Remind yourself and each other why you love each other, and acknowledge who the other is. Apologise if you get things wrong, and for every wrong done to you, remember how many wrongs you have done to them.
Enjoy your lives together so you can look back at an incredible journey mapped through good times and bad, happy and sad, but most importantly look at who you have helped each other become and treasure the moments you are alone caught up in a lasting embrace, because one day it maybe your last.