to be or not to be (married)

“singleness is a gift.” that is a common refrain in church circles, single’s ministries, women’s bibles studies and the like, and in many respects i agree.as a single woman i use all the counter space in the bathroom, hang my swimsuits from the showerhead, order marc fisher, vince camutos, and michael kors regularly, and lie on the sofa snacking on marcona almonds while watching the season 6 finale of homeland. my meal plans are solely for one. if lentils are the delicacy for the evening no one complains. how i spend my coins is at my discretion and if i decide to stay out til 2am no one is texting, calling or looking for me. (side note, that would be nice every now and again). but sometimes this gift is one i want to exchange. when i’m tired as hell and i don’t feel like stopping at Kroger for yogurt to make my smoothie, when i’m headed out on a business trip and i have a 40lb bag that i must bump down a flight of stairs, hoist into my trunk, and then get myself to their airport. at other times, i am find that marriage is overrated.

the other day a married woman shared an issue with her husband wherein she gave him an ultimatum: you mother moves out by summer or i do.  as she explained it, this was not the first time mom-in-law had moved in and that the husband makes these decisions without her agreement.  i wanted to know how long she had been dealing with this and she said, the length of the marriage, 4 years.  as we talked she said she was afraid of failing at being married and that’s why she stays.  i told her i’ve never been married and the thought of it scares me because i am afraid to fail at it. we shared the same perspective from two different vantage points. she is in it and afraid she can’t make it work, i’m not and the mere thought gives me hives. so why do we get married? what are good reasons to join your life, finances, family with another person? why not remain individuals, share your lives as life-long partners? i know the biblical response and for just a moment, let’s suspend that (i didn’t say negate, i said suspend.).

i am not sure i know of a good reason to be married. i have a litany of selfish reasons: i’m tired of paying all the bills, tired of an empty bed, the fear of dying alone, the fear of losing a parent or loved one and walking that path alone, the desire to have a built-in support person to whom you can tell anything (ok, maybe that’s a stretch, i often wonder if the “my husband is my best friend” comment is really true), having someone to face life’s challenges with (job loss, relocation, illness), someone else to take out the trash, pick up the milk i forgot, drop off my car to have the brakes fixed, drop me off at the airport. my list is endless. in no way have i indicated what i would do for him. almost like that’s implied. well sure, i’d do all those things (except take out the trash, because i hate that) for him, for us, to make it work. but notice that the idea of benefiting the other person surfaced after my needs are met.  these are the reasons i’m not sure that marriage is for me.  love, yes. companionship, yes. support, yes. but a joining of my life, maybe not.

i find these are the topics people avoid because they have the script ready.  “well the bible says,” or “my husband is wonderful!” or, “my parents were married for 55 years and they are still in love.” yea yea yea. we’ve all heard that, but where is the no-holds barred, stone cold TRUTH? the days when maybe you’d prefer to be single. to have that so-called “gift” back. when you want to pick up and move to dubai but you have a husband to consider (and, lord have mercy, children). it troubles me that the perspective is, “get married, have kids, buy a house.” all three are commitments that may offer great joy but also come with great sacrifice. in a day and time when expenses are rising and income is not keeping pace, i can understand wanting to have someone at home to shoulder the burden. as a single woman i cannot afford to lose my job, i cannot simply quit (like i’ve seen married women do) because the responsibility to keep things afloat is solely mine.

in my 20s if i didn’t like a job, i would exit stage left without hesitation. i had rent, a car payment, insurance, and still IDGAF. if the manager didn’t recognize my value i packed my shit. fast forward 20 years and i am more thoughtful (smile). i don’t react rashly to criticism or blatant disregard for my talent; i steel myself against the vicissitudes of corporate politics and focus on what brings me joy: the fact that my hope is not tied up in the job and neither is my destiny.

back to my conversation with the married woman…her brutal honesty was refreshing, like cucumber water. she spoke her truth and as we talked i shared mine. i’m not in any position to advise her to stay or go but i did tell her that her mental health is paramount to her overall health, that her son needs to see his mother well and not in a depressive state. without question there are two sides to the story, but any husband that moves his mother into his home and defers to her instead of his wife has a bit of an Oedipal complex and perhaps should reconsider who he married and why.  it pained me to see her without the safety and security marriage is supposed to bring (or so i thought), and sadly she is not the only woman in that boat.  the sea, from which “they” say are many fish, is teeming with married women who know her story because they are living it, or have lived it and they too wonder, should i leave?

i’ve imagined that if i were married i would (we would) find an older married couple to mentor us and another couple around our age, both of whom have been married for a time. i don’t see marriage as a union that can be held together by the two people in it; i am convinced a husband and wife need a community of people who will support them in how to make it work, how to stay together, how to remain in love despite life circumstances.  somehow we forget that the troubles we faced as single people don’t end or change simply because we said, “i do.” how we manage troubles in our singleness is not likely to work in a marriage. buying $500 Manolo’s, drinking 3-fingers of Black Velvet Whiskey, and consuming a bag of jalapeno cheetos for dinner is unlikely to fly when one has a husband at home.

until my knight arrives i will continue to wrestle with these thoughts and hope that when i do meet him, that he is patient enough to recognize my reticence and invested enough to work through it with me.

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