7.17.2013

Marrying Two Perspectives

http://www.theweddingoutlet.com/Cinderella-Moment-Dark-Figurine-m.jpgPicking up on yesterday's post, about sex and relationships on campus, I want to riff on this notion of marrying young versus waiting.  Yesterday's angle was that college might be the best time and pool to find a partner, rather than romance getting in the way of more important stuff like maxing out on classes and extra-curriculars and angling for the ideal first job.  Today's is whether you should "find yourself" first and then get married, or find yourself by getting married.

Slate recently published dueling articles, by Julia Shaw and Amanda Marcotte.  Shaw's position can be summarized as follows: "Marriage wasn’t something we did after we’d grown up—it was how we have grown up and grown together." Marcotte counters: "I grew up in one of those red states where young marriage is the norm, and we didn’t call the man you married young your 'soul mate.' Our preferred term was 'first husband.' There may be something to the idea that your young marriage helps you grow up, but all too often, the beneficiary of the marriage-matured person is the next spouse. It’s a tremendously stressful and expensive system, and it’s no wonder that younger generations prefer to keep those starter relationships a little less legally binding."

You can probably guess who I agree with more.  I heard a wedding homily put it like this: "You are each committing, for the rest of your lives, to whoever is in that body - even if whoever is in that body changes."  In other words, people change; our commitment is not just to the person we know now but to who they become over time.  And: "You are committing, for the rest of your lives, to being the number one influence on the other person, and to the other person being the number one influence on you."  In other words, what we're signing up for is that how we change will be to change together.

I actually found Ms. Marcotte's words to be unconvincing and cynical.  But her perspective is not without its merits.  There is a very real sense in which marriage does not and cannot "complete" you.  Yes, you have your whole life together to grow up, to evolve, to stretch to new ways and new places you couldn't have imagined when you were at the starting line.  And yes, marriage means two independent and distinct units become one entity, forging a new identity together.  But it all has to build on some kind of base understanding of self.  Or, as I once heard it said that about marriage, less than one plus less than one equals less than one (i.e. two incomplete people make one incomplete unit), but one plus one equals way more than two (i.e. two complete people make a unit far greater than the sum of its parts).

There is the practical matter of actually finding a good mate, which was ground covered in part in yesterday's post and which is part of the thrust of Ms. Shaw's exhortation to marry young.  Sometimes we can't or don't choose the if, when, and who as much as circumstance does.  But if we're thinking conceptually about if, when, and who to marry, let's at least mine the wisdom from Ms. Shaw's and Ms. Marcotte's perspectives.  No matter where you're coming from, socially and politically and religiously, it's an awfully important decision in your life.
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