Marriage: A Team To Play On When Ready
Similar to Quarterlives author David Morgan, I check the box for married on all tax and patient history forms. I have been married since September 2005, and recently have been blessed with the birth of my first child. To date, my marriage has been terrific.
I have known my wife for over 6.5 years. When we first started dating in July 2001, I had no intent of tying the knot, nor did I suspect that she would "be the one." It was not until three years later that I gave marriage a thought. And my first thought about it was not positive.
At the start of my second year of law school, it hit me that Caryn and I had been together for three years. My mind reached the conclusion, that it was make or break time. I decided to break for what I thought would be permanent. I heart-wrenchingly explained that I did not believe things were working out, and assured my wife that the problem between us was most definitely me. After all, she had not done anything to deserve a separation. My feet had found their way into an arctic glacier when the thought of marriage arose.
The following two weeks provided necessary reflection. After time with my family, I traveled to Bemidji, Minnesota for a Hockey official's seminar. It was in my hotel room that I realized my illogical move. I was leaving a terrific relationship, because I was afraid of commitment and hard work. I begged Caryn to forgive me, and she was gracious enough to give me a second chance. Free accommodations were afforded to me at chateau-de-bow-wow for my irrational decision.
After our relationship resumed, 4-5 months of mental tennis convinced me that Caryn was the one. Positives: a person that is supportive of everything I do; looks amazing; is very intelligent; hates rodents and snakes; knows how to keep my stomach full; and is o.k. with hockey. The negatives: goodbye bachelorhood; she dislikes baseball; and she was not good at cooking rice. (I once mistook a bowl of rice Caryn had made for mashed potatoes. But her rice cooking skills have perfected since that situation.) The positives won in a landslide. I popped the question to Caryn on Clearwater Beach on New Year's Eve 2004. To my surprise, she said "yes." We were ready to be married, and I was excited for it. It would be another great aspect of our lives.
But some people are not keen on marriage. Quarterlives author Frank Bologna posed the question that asked whether "marriage is the kind of decision one can rationally make in this day and age?" Albeit his question may be rhetorical, the question should be answered in the affirmative. Marriage is just one option on the checklist of life that may or may not be pursued. It is for some and not for others. You can only cross this decisional bridge when you come to it.
But how do my experiences counter the thoughts about marriage that Mr. Bologna expressed? Entrance into marriage does not mean you automatically surrender everything you had in single life in favor of your spouse, children, or pets. The notion that a spouse simply must stop aspiring to better him/herself because of marriage is to be rejected. Getting married is not necessarily equivalent to "settling down." True, when you get married you are no longer limited to decisions that merely implicate "me." There is "me" plus spouse and children. But is the consideration of others restricting when it comes to your own life within the marriage? No.
Marriage, like all life experiences and relationships, is what you make it. It is the ultimate test of interpersonal communications, a course that I took and received a C+ in during college. If my wife took the course she probably earned an A. In terms of our country's statistics on divorce rates, our citizenry fails on the subject of marriage interpersonal communication when looked at in the traditional grading range of 90-80-70-60.
What is the penalty for a failed marriage grade? It depends on your standpoint. Legally, there are court costs, attorney fees, child support, division of assets, spousal support, income tax implications and many other costs. Spiritually, Christian churches tag divorcees as damaged goods. No one signs up for a marriage with the intention to fail. People take pride in their relationships and their successes. Problems arise in marriages and relationships when partners shut down their communications, switch their attitudes to uncooperative, or elect to engage in adultery.
Marriage, and other relationships, must fit somewhere into an individual's priority list. And it is generally found near the top of the list when it happens. If an individual wishes to throw himself/herself exclusively into his/her career, then marriage needs to wait. It is difficult to break free of Corporate America once a person has been promoted up the ladder, given more responsibility, cash, and benefits. But when on parole from the office, how will you spend your time? Some enjoy the singles scene while others hang out with friends, head to the beach, or work on a hobby. It is up to the person how time not working is spent, and there is no wrong answer to how it is spent. Marriage is another option.
Marriage is not for everyone. Once you walk down the aisle you must remember that marriage is teamwork. Each player is responsible for communicating with everyone on the team and picking up the play signals. You pick up your teammates when slumping, and always celebrate the wins and losses together. If one is cool with all of this and has an interested partner, then marriage is definitely a rational decision you can make in this day and age.