On the Comprehension of Marriage

Two friends of mine married each other this weekend. It was a lovely ceremony, seamlessly integrating traditional wedding rites and rituals with the couples’ own unique twists and interpretations. Nerf guns were of course included. This couple has been together for ages. In my mind they had already been married for years, and had simply forgotten to mention it to anyone. (It probably helps that when I’d met them, they had already been together for several years.)

After the ceremony and group photo, I found myself stepping away from the garden in which they were married. I’m agoraphobic, and needed to get away from the crowds. I’d also wanted to reflect upon the wedding. You see, for many years, I have been incapable of understanding how two people can come together, become a “couple”, and (inevitably) marry. Perhaps due to my one ill-fated experience of being engaged to another, I’d become too cynical towards this mysterious thing that is a relationship. The honeymoon period of a relationship, the desire to share one’s inner-most thoughts, feelings, worries, concerns – all that relationship “stuff”  – it elicits nightmarish sensations and imagined narratives with unhappy endings. And as everyone was busy getting photographed under a sun that was determined to melt absolutely every single last person present, it seemed an ideal moment to “get some air”, as the saying goes.

 As I stepped away, one of my friends decided to join me. We found ourselves alongside a sun-spattered duck-pond surrounded by pudgy Morton Bay figs. As she is a married woman, I asked her why she would wish to come home to the same person each day, and what pleasure there was in doing so, as I struggle to understand how others can be willing to surrender themselves, their freedom, and individualism to the will of another. Oh, and personal space. Big on that one, I am. As I value her insight and opinions, I was interested in understanding how good relationships (such as hers) work.  She stated that she and her husband are a team, and everything is better with him around. And each helps keep the other sane. And to date, both parties have been very good at doing just that. Especially when kilts are involved.

 Her comments echoed the observations I’d made over the duration of the last few years, in that the healthiest relationships I’ve encountered were the ones in which both parties expressed an innate, selfless desire to take care of each other and communicated as openly and trustingly as only best friends can. They were willing to less go of their ego and a portion of their independence for some unquantifiable greater good. Or, restated in a more comical – and slightly crude – manner:  “Love is when you can go full retard with each other”.

 I thought back to the wedding ceremony. The bride and groom both admitted that the other person was the only person on the planet who could possibly tolerate them. Their words spoke about the promises and obligations of marriage with sense and reason. And then the pair tied the knot. Literally! There was string! And knots! It was clear, however, that this couple understands how a good marriage works.

 Yet it seems to me that the vast majority of contemporary society doesn’t comprehend marriage correctly at all. I have written of two couples who clearly comprehend it correctly. But for all the couples that do, far too many do not. Some equate an inability to marry with personal failure. Others treat it as a necessary stepping-stone in life, akin to some sort of promotion at work. And there is of course the scary contingent whose entire world-view is framed and coloured in Disneyfied shades of black and white, full of pre-packed rules, rituals, and narratives that cannot and must not be violated under any circumstance.

 I have seen unhealthy relationships which imploded, withered, and fell apart beyond repair because one or both parties unwaveringly obeyed the toxic, unwritten rules and impossible narratives hidden in plain sight beneath the surface of our culture. Some were desperate, others were indifferent, and some were even scared, and married the first willing person they could find. And like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, I came and saw, and beheld a broken horse, and the name it said on the horse was “Misery”.

 If only more people could take some notes from my friends. They can borrow my notebook; I’ve been writing in it for years.

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