Week 25: Why Get Married?

March 10, 2017 — “You are getting married? Again?” says a friend of mine. Another friend of mine asks: “I see that you guys are so happy, but why do you need to get married? Can’t you just ‘be‘?” There is also the standard: “Prenup!” And my favorite response so far: “Hey, you’re a divorce lawyer, you can always undo that later!”

Why should we get married? We could just live together. Or we could just keep seeing each other (aka “dating.”) We aren’t having kids. We don’t need each other’s finances. People used to get married because of clans or family rites, or property transfers or good breeding. Then we decided to get all Jane Austen and marry for “love.” But I know my fair share of those who have married because it was time to “settle down and have kids” and “everyone expected it.”

What does it mean to get married these days anyway? Sometimes it is hard for me to know. I’m a divorce lawyer. All day long, I see people having the most vicious fights over their kids, their money, their dog, and even their crappy used furniture. Some people are divorcing because the passion is dead. And some people tell me that they were never even happy from the start – not even when they were dressed up and walking down the aisle. “I knew that we weren’t going to last but my clock was ticking and the venue was paid.”

-He'll do for now.-.jpg

But, I’ve seen so many people humbled, crushed, embarrassed, nasty and broken by their spouses. I suppose they can end up that way without being married — because heartbreak is always painful and break-ups suck — but a divorce is a very public undoing of that very public marriage commitment. People can commit to each other without marriage, but does that avoid the hurt if it doesn’t work out? No.

As I contemplate this question, I search Google. An article on Psychology Today asserts that the value of a public commitment is inherent in the act of marriage:

“And these two aspects of commitment are, to a large extent, inseparable: the public declaration of devotion would not mean as much without the promised made therein. . . .[W]e rarely make commitments for no reason. Rather, the commitments are the expression of love and devotion.”

Sounds like a long way of saying the marriage is a way of showing love for each other. I find another article, this one is on US News, and it is called “9 Reasons Why You Should Get Married For Yourself and For America.” O.M.F.G. Really? As you can guess, it is the culmination of the 9 worst reasons anyone should ever get married. Ever. Examples: Reason #1 “It’s Cheaper. Single people pay more for food”; Reason #6 “It makes Mothers less stressed.” (Clearly the author was never married to my ex-husband!); and, my favorite, Reason #8 “Marriage provides better social networks.” Are you fucking serious? Yeah, this article is total garbage.

I turn to an old stand-by for thoughts on marriage, divorce and love, the unparalleled Nora Ephron:

“Sometimes I believe that love is as natural as the tides, and sometimes I believe that love is an act of will. Sometimes I believe that some people are better at love than others, and sometimes I believe that everyone is faking it. Sometimes I believe that love is essential, and sometimes I believe that only reason love is essential is that otherwise you spend all your time looking for it.”

― Nora Ephron, Heartburn

If you spend all your time looking for love, then maybe Ms. Ephron is suggesting once you find it, don’t let it go?

Of course I ask Mario why we should get married, because we talk about everything and nothing is off-limits. “The bottom-line is that I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you,” he says. “Do you want to spend the rest of your life with me?”

The simple answer is “yes.” So the complicated response to the question “why get married,” well, it turns out not to be so complicated at all: because I want to. “Does that sound privileged?” I ask Mario. “It’s not privileged, as in an expectation,” he says. “But it’s a privilege to marry you.”

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