Tag Archives: Wedding

Should We Get Married? (Part 1)

how-the-hell-should-i-know-that

(Image/MemeGenerator.net)

In Wonder Woman lore—including the 2017 Gal Gadot film—there exists an island of Amazonian women unknown and invisible to the rest of the world.

Everyone on the fictional island of Themyscira is female. There are no ‘traditional’ families. There is no such thing as marriage.

Everyone there seems fine with that arrangement. The only child on that island that I can remember from the film is the protagonist heroine Diana—born of a Greek mythology-esque encounter between her mother and Zeus.

She knew little of marriage or family or male-female relationships.

I think we can safely assume that when Diana imagined her future, and established her personal hopes and dreams as a child and young woman, getting married and/or becoming a mother was likely not part of them.

It’s different for most of us.

A lot different. Especially in the United States, where I live, and other Western cultures.

Regardless of our gender, regardless of our religious (or non-religious) affiliations, regardless of our politics, regardless of which state we live in, and regardless of whether our parents themselves are married, we are mathematically likely to get married, or enter into a long-term relationship with dynamics that approximate marriage.

In the U.S., 95 percent of people 18 and older are either married, divorced, or planning to marry someday. In other words, marriage DIRECTLY affects and influences 9.5 out of every 10 U.S. adults.

Why?

Well, we can do the whole history-lesson thing even though it’s probably mind-numbingly boring to most people. We can talk about how Western civilization spread and evolved, incorporating beliefs and traditions rooted in Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, Ancient Israel, and the early Catholic Church, all of which continue to influence a ton of our beliefs, religious and political practices, and cultural traditions today.

OR.

We can simply agree that—just as pre-Wonder Woman Diana grew up surrounded only by women and thusly never conceived of marriage and family as a concept—everyone living in Western, English-speaking societies grows up seeing the VAST majority of people around them dating, getting engaged, getting married, and having children (even if they’re only seeing it depicted on TV and in the movies), resulting in most of us believing: Getting married is just what you do when you’re an adult! It’s what you’re supposed to do, and you’re probably weird if you don’t!

Unless you have same-sex romantic leanings or grew up in a single-parent family while hiding out in the woods, I assume—like me—you grew up never for a second questioning the idea that pairing up with someone and probably having children with them was basically ingrained into your belief system. You never even stopped to consider other alternative futures.

Other than our own births—which none of us actually remember—our wedding day and the birth of our first child are frequently cited as the biggest, most significant, happiest days of our lives.

Marriage: Survivor Island

Because that’s what marriage essentially is, right? Survivor Island minus the television crews?

No matter how wonderful our parents and extended families are, and no matter the quality of our education and academic experiences, MARRIAGE is essentially the equivalent of everyone we invite to our wedding being on the same jumbo plane with us and bidding us farewell as we parachute onto some island we know next to nothing about.

We know how to eat. But do we know where to find food, and what’s safe to eat?

Maybe we know how to build shelter. But do we know what location makes sense, and what the greatest threats to our safety—weather, disease, animals, other people—are?

We kind-of, sort-of know how to not die, but in this case, we don’t even know what may or may not be fatal.

“Good luck!!! We love you guys!!! Never go to bed angry!!!” they all smile and wave to us with the best of intentions and fortune-cookie marriage advice, as they’re sending us off on the ultimate Darwinian experience.

No one tells us the truth about marriage, and even if they try it doesn’t take, because most of us don’t take anything seriously that isn’t an immediate threat. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s a REALLY important concept: We CANNOT know what we don’t know.

Old or long-married couples bicker at each other and seem as if they haven’t had sex in two decades. That’s just what happens when you’re married that long!

I didn’t like hearing people I loved speak crossly to one another, but I also never doubted the substance and stability of their marriages.

Even if their marriage was garbage, where I came from, if people got married, it was likely to be forever.

Nowhere was that more evident than my grandfather’s funeral less than two weeks ago where I saw dozens of people I hadn’t seen in a decade or two, many of whom were there with their spouses just as I remembered them from childhood.

The adults did us a disservice as we were growing up, though.

They didn’t give us the real story. They didn’t give us the dirt. They didn’t tell us the truth.

They didn’t tell us all of the things that destroy love and marriage disguise themselves as things that don’t seem important. They didn’t tell us that the most dangerous things don’t APPEAR or FEEL dangerous as they’re happening, but that the slow and steady buildup of these little things is what will ultimately cause the collapse of a marriage and family.

Some of it was because they wanted to preserve our innocence. They wanted us to believe in Santa Claus because it was fun and made us feel happy. They told us not to talk to strangers, but they didn’t tell us WHY.

They don’t tell us what some people are capable of.

We read about slavery, about Hitler, about war. But it all seemed so old and faraway and non-threatening.

Sometimes, if we manage to avoid serious trauma as a child, we don’t get to experience actual fear until we watch terrorist hijackers fly airplanes full of people into buildings full of people because they disagree with the religious and political opinions of some unknown percentage of the people they killed.

Ironically, it’s this level of super-belief certainty—this idea that YOU are right, therefore your spouse must be wrong—over a subject of disagreement that will inevitably damage and potentially end your marriage.

But, before we worry about what we should or shouldn’t do within our marriages or romantic relationships, there’s a worthwhile question to explore first.

Should We Get Married?

It’s not obvious to me how best to answer that. I’m confident that I could evaluate couples on a case-by-case basis and form an opinion about whether a particular couple ‘should’ (in my opinion) get married.

But I’m just some asshole writing on the internet, and EVEN IF I was totally ‘right’ about their prospects of having a healthy marriage and satisfying family life, precisely ZERO people should ever do something specifically because of my opinion.

Especially as it pertains to marriage. Because I’m 0-1.

That doesn’t make me good at knowing what awesome marriage looks like. It just makes me kind-of good at knowing what a well-intentioned, but ultimately bad, marriage looks like.

But since I’m divorced—and admittedly much older than your typical bachelor (and a father as well)—I am faced with the very real decision of whether to actively pursue marriage again.

To be clear, I am MOSTLY thinking about younger, never-married people when I write this stuff because that is the group I perceive to be most guilty of unwittingly marrying with good intentions, but without the tool kits and skillsets necessary to execute the day-to-day of healthy monogamous, cohabitating relationships—particularly with children.

Divorce is a plague. It might be a little hyperbolic to say so, but divorce ruins lives. It certainly damages the people affected in profound ways, and every divorce tends to damage SEVERAL people. And there are thousands of divorces every day in the U.S. alone.

So.

SHOULD we get married?

I don’t think I know what I believe. But in Part 2, we’re going to talk through all of the reasons people commonly marry, and just maybe, that will spark something.

To be continued.

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The 95 Percent

95 percent

“Hey, Matt! Why are you always talking about divorce!?!?”

Because next to things like air and food and water, I can’t think of anything else affecting so many people. (And because I got divorced less than a year ago, and it’s totally shitty.)

According to a 2013 Gallup poll, 54 percent of adults (18 and over) in the United States are married, 20 percent used to be married, and 21 percent desire marriage.

That’s 95 percent.

That’s 95 out of 100 people.

That’s damn near everybody.

It’s hands across America for childhood obesity, and anti-bullying measures, and animal adoption, and blood donation, and prostate exams, and hundreds of other causes you already know about. To be sure, those are important causes. I’m not dismissing them as inconsequential.

But marriage affects 95 PERCENT of all people. It affects where we live, how much money we have, our mental and emotional health, our relationships with friends and family. The stats related to children are even scarier. Crime, poverty, education, and sex-related issues like disease and unwanted teenage pregnancy all increase dramatically in children raised in single-parent households.

My point? Marriage deserves more of our problem-solving attention than it gets. I don’t think this is a conversation enough people are having.

I guess you could say I really care.

The Moment You Realize Everyone’s Kind of the Same

My wife and I were sitting across from the marriage counselor who I didn’t think was very good at her job.

She was dispassionate. And I’m sorry, if you’re trying to save marriages, you better also be in the give-a-fuck business.

Because you can’t help people when you don’t care about the outcome.

But she did have one shining moment I will never forget. My wife was answering some of her questions. Then the counselor directed a few questions my way. The entire time we were answering questions, she was drawing something on the back of a sheet of paper.

When I was finished speaking, she held up the piece of paper.

It was a drawing of two stick figures. She’d drawn a comic strip of sorts, minus all the funny.

The two figures were happy and connected. Then conflict was introduced. The male figure withdraws. The female figure chases. And it happens repeatedly. Until one day, the female figure stops chasing. She withdraws. Then the male figure gets confused. And becomes the chaser.

It was a reasonably accurate depiction of what my wife and I had experienced in our relationship. And it was so generic that I knew this counselor had drawn that very thing dozens, if not hundreds, of times.

Holy shit! EVERYBODY does this, I thought.

Months later, I read my favorite book on the subject of male-female relationships—How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It—and so many things I’d been confused about for years suddenly started making sense to me.

I finally get it!

Like a real-life epiphany. A genuine ah-ha! moment.

I finally understand why she responds the way she does! I finally understand why she gets so upset! I can fix this!

It made me feel better knowing so many other couples were experiencing the same problems. It wasn’t just us. It was everyone. We weren’t cursed. Or doomed. Or singled out. We were just another typical couple. And I saw that as a very hopeful thing.

I felt empowered.

If this happens to everybody, then we can make it work.

Well, it didn’t work.

But that doesn’t make it less true, and it doesn’t mean I didn’t learn something. I’m right about this.

And I legitimately think it’s the key to solving the marriage-and-divorce crisis we’re having:

We need men to have the same “ah-ha” moment that I did.

The reason my marriage failed even after I figured so many things out is because I’d already caused so much damage. Sometimes years of smoking simply causes too much lung damage to overcome by quitting later. You get cancer and die.

I wasn’t a bad guy. I was a bad husband. And I broke us.

It was all too little, too late. Our marriage died.

But what if we got to guys earlier? You can’t save everyone. People still smoke even though they know it’s bad for them. But every little bit helps. Right?

I want to believe it.

This Blog Cemented It

After she left, I started writing. I had to get the pain and anger out, and writing was the only way I knew how.

Because I make bad decisions, I decided to publish it. Like an emotional train wreck for anyone willing to watch.

It became clear right away: People everywhere—men and women—feel just like me.

First, I saw the marriage counselor’s diagram. The one I was certain she drew for most married couples.

Second, I read an amazing book which introduced me to chemical, emotional, and instinctive gender differences between men and women, and how those differences (which our ancestors needed to survive the tribal hunter-gatherer days) drive wedges in our modern-day relationships, and ability to communicate in healthy ways.

Third, I started writing honest stories about what my life was like and how I felt about it. Just one guy whining on the internet. The comments came flooding in:

“Thank you! That’s exactly what happened to me! I’m glad I’m not the only one!,” hundreds of people—both male and female—said.

And now I know it. In every fiber of my being. WE ARE THE SAME. Sure, we’re different. Individuals. Unique. We are.

But we have some universal humanity coursing through our hearts and minds that unites us all. And we really can learn from one another. And we really can make this whole human experience better than it is.

Just a few minutes ago, I heard a co-worker say she was never getting married, and a travelling sales guy (who’s married) say: “Good for you.”

And that’s fine! I don’t begrudge anyone making the choice to not marry. But the reason they don’t want to marry is because of all of the negative stigmas now attached to it—the general belief that half of all marriages are doomed to fail, so what’s the point?

And I’m not here to advocate for the institution of marriage. People will do what they want.

But I am here to deal in reality.

And in reality, 95 percent of people are going to get married.

Pretty much everyone.

And we have two choices: Keep doing the same crap that has gotten us to our 50-plus percent failure rate. Or we can commit, as rational adults with functioning brains, to care enough to start getting this HUGE part of our lives right.

Because it affects all of us.

Because it matters.

Because it will change everything.

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The Bruno Mars Wedding

As far as I know, Bruno Mars is not getting married. Sorry for the misleading headline. He's only singing. Don't you do it, Bruno. Don't you sing "When I Was Your Man."

As far as I know, Bruno Mars is not getting married. Sorry for the misleading headline. He’s only singing at a wedding. Don’t you do it, Bruno. Don’t you sing “When I Was Your Man.” You’ll just make it weird.

A girl I haven’t seen in 12 years has invited me to a wedding where Bruno Mars will be singing.

That’s the second-most-interesting part of this story.

In June 2001, I was interning at the daily newspaper where my father lives and preparing for my final year of college—my fifth year.

I like to tell people it took me five years to graduate college because I switched majors my sophomore year AND because I worked so hard at the college newspaper of which I was editor in chief during the 2000-2001 school year.

But the truth is I smoked a ridiculous amount of pot and went to keg parties all the time.

I also spent that summer taking a Spanish class at a local community college in Illinois to help fulfill my foreign language requirement.

That’s where I met Stephanie.

She and I hit it off right away because we’re both kind of awesome and hilarious. No sparks or anything. Just a lot of laughs. We made the class fun. She was dating a rugby player. I was weeks away from heading back to Ohio for my final year of school.

The Phone Call That Changed My Life

It was just a typical summer night at dad’s. I was standing behind the basement bar doing something on the computer when the house phone rang—back when hardly anyone had a mobile phone.

My dad answered.

“It’s for you,” he said, handing me the phone.

They say father knows best, but he never told me to hang it up. He never told me to be careful. That these next 20 minutes on the phone would change my life forever.

It was my wife calling.

Only I hadn’t spoken to her in six months. I had never met her parents. We didn’t even really know each other very well.

Why is she calling?

I only knew I liked her. That we’d made out once or twice after parties. And that she was one of the most-beautiful things I had ever seen.

She told me she was getting ready to move to Orlando with three of her girlfriends.

But she had reservations. Thoughts of me had been gnawing at her. She and I had unfinished business, she said.

“I need to see you,” she said.

Whoa.

I ended the conversation and had a talk with dad. He had concerns about inviting a girl he’d never met into his home for an entire week, but ultimately I talked him into it. I sold one of the best salesmen I know on one of the worst ideas I’ve ever had. I have never considered that until this very moment.

A couple weeks later, she flew out to see me.

Stephanie remembers me talking about her before and after that week. She remembers feeling jealous.

The first night my future ex wife was in town, she accompanied me to Stephanie’s parents’ house for our Spanish study group. She sat patiently on a couch in the basement watching something on TV while me, Stephanie and another girl I don’t remember worked through our Spanish lesson.

Stephanie didn’t know if this visiting girl was right for me, she said. She also secretly had a crush on me, but waited 12 years to tell me that part.

It didn’t matter. I was absolutely smitten with my future ex wife. By the end of her week-long stay with me at my dad’s, she had cancelled her plans to move to Florida. She was going to stay in Ohio, be my girlfriend, and wait for me to graduate.

I meant that much to her.

Two years later, we were engaged.

Three years later, we were married.

Seven years later, we were parents.

Twelve years later, we were a memory.

Same bed. But it feels just a little bit bigger now.

The Facebook Status Update

I had to attend a mandatory parenting class last weekend.

Something funny on the whiteboard prompted me to make a Facebook post. When I did that, a handful of people who didn’t know I was getting divorced finally found out.

One of those people was Stephanie. She lives in Tampa now. She has a five-year-old son just like me. She’s recovering from the end of a marriage just like me.

And she still likes me. Maybe too much. Maybe just the right amount. I don’t know yet.

We have plans to reunite in a few weeks. I’ll know more after that.

Stephanie has always said I remind her of an old celebrity crush—Jon Favreau’s character in one of her all-time favorite movies, Love & Sex.

Stephanie has been invited to a September wedding in Illinois where Bruno Mars will be singing.

She invited me to come with her.

It seems like a good opportunity to go see my family in Illinois and experience once-in-a-lifetime nuptials with a super-cool chick.

Bruno won’t sing “When I Was Your Man,” right?

Surely not at a wedding, right? Would God allow such a thing?

Because I don’t want to be at an amazing wedding with an amazing person and think about—her.

Stephanie doesn’t deserve that.

I might deserve it. I don’t know.

But my future ex wife? I’m quite certain she doesn’t deserve it.

And let’s just be honest: “Gorilla” is a much better song anyway.

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