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"There's marriage, and there's everything else." Thus spake Cobb, and as I watch the fallout from the detonation of a friend's long time relationship, I have to wonder why more people don't get this and act accordingly. Sure, promises were made and broken, but this is why marriage used to be so damn hard to get out of. Marriage is SERIOUS FUCKING BUSINESS. You're making a legal commitment which is going to kneecap you financially as well as emotionally if you fuck it up. That's what it's there for. The tax incentives and stuff are just society encouraging what ought to be happening naturally. Any other kind of long-term relationship that involves sex and friendship that doesn't end up in marriage is going to explode sooner or later, and there are damn few exceptions I can think of that would prove me wrong. Like only one*. I find it significant that California and some other states snuck palimony into the legal system because they were too high-class to admit they wanted to put the stamp of approval on common-law marriage, which everyone knew was for trashy Southern folk and not glittering Hollywood people. Whatever.

I feel bad for both the people involved, but at the same time a little frustrated that they couldn't see this coming a mile away. Men who act like dogs aren't going to suddenly get up on their hind legs and start wearing Armani. Women going through stress that makes them crazy who won't put some of it down shouldn't be surprised that other people get tired of their shit and start looking for fun elsewhere. You want commitment? Get a ring. Nothing else works, because nothing else can call in John Law and the Church for backup.

*Edited because jolest is right, as usual.

Comments

( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
haikujaguar
Feb. 17th, 2009 03:18 am (UTC)
*passes a beer*

*nods*

wombat_socho
Feb. 17th, 2009 03:24 am (UTC)
Not that either of them pay a damn bit of attention to what I say, but I had to get it off my chest. And that's what LJ is for, no?
haikujaguar
Feb. 17th, 2009 03:31 am (UTC)
Sadly I read the whole thing without realizing who you were talking about. Mostly because this is a thought I've had many times before while watching the disintegration happen to other couples-who-did-not-fully-commit.

There are traditions, customs, social mores that we deconstruct at our own peril. :/
wombat_socho
Feb. 17th, 2009 11:25 am (UTC)
Well, this isn't the first unmarried couple I've seen break up like this, and I'm sure the same is true ion your case, so the confusion is understandable.

"There are traditions, customs, social mores that we deconstruct at our own peril. :/"
Yes. Unfortunately we're fighting forty years of cultural conditioning that condemns all of those things as "repression".
haikujaguar
Feb. 17th, 2009 11:27 am (UTC)
*nods*

I think the problem is we started this deconstruction decades ago, in the 50s. And now people think that marriage is not the 'solution' to relationship problems like this because it obviously 'doesn't work'.

They're right: marriage doesn't work like that, unless you've been raised to think it is a Really Big Deal and you'd better not shack up with anyone until you know they're the right person.

It's that mentality, of looking at every relationship as a potential "forever after" that has suffered. But people these days don't seem to believe in "happily ever after"s, and will settle for "this is working for me now." :/
wombat_socho
Feb. 17th, 2009 11:32 am (UTC)
But people these days don't seem to believe in "happily ever after"s, and will settle for "this is working for me now." :/
Which misses the point that you have to keep working at the marriage to make sure it continues to be "happily ever after".
haikujaguar
Feb. 17th, 2009 11:37 am (UTC)
Well, yes, that also.

I think there is a sickness these days I'm having a problem really identifying, but it's almost like... settling. Like people don't believe they can have a relationship that lasts for decades, so they don't plan for one, or act like they're going to have one. They make choices based on what they think they can maintain for now and don't reach for or demand anything more.

It goes along with a sense that everything is disposable, even people. Even relationships. So if this one isn't perfect and meeting your every need, then you can just toss it and go looking for something new, because people are replaceable.

If you combine these two things, you get this weird, angry, instant gratification culture where people are wandering from bed to bed and apartment couch to apartment couch, trying out different people and moving on when things don't work out perfectly. They never plan for any future. They think of children with unease because that would require a stable household for at least two decades.

And they are not happier this way.
wombat_socho
Feb. 17th, 2009 11:38 am (UTC)
Agreed.
haikujaguar
Feb. 17th, 2009 11:46 am (UTC)
I've met a couple of children of divorced parents now whom I've said, "We're friends now. We'll be better friends in a decade." And the concept that I might hang around that long was... stunning to them. That I might plan for it, and consider it normal and even good. They want to know how I know I won't move on.

I don't know what to say to that, except that I find it unspeakably sad. Many of my friends I've known and loved for over a decade, and I consider that agreeable and the-way-things-ought-to-be.

And that's just friendships. My husband I've known since I was 17.


I'm not saying that any of this was the issue for the people you're discussing; like you I don't know them that well. I'm just observing trends.
phoenixalpha
Feb. 17th, 2009 04:11 am (UTC)
I can't believe you wrote this, and I absolutely cannot believe you're making this about marriage.

This has nothing, absolutely NOTHING to do with marriage of any name, size, shape or form, and to claim that it does is fucking bullshit. If you're in a relationship, a committed relationship, you do not cheat, you do not fuck around, and you especially do not sneak and lie. Marriage is a formalization of what already exists or should before anybody makes any promises, exchanges any shiny trinkets, or talks to their local priest or judge.
windelina
Feb. 17th, 2009 05:03 am (UTC)
I agree with both of you here.

1. Marriage wouldn't have saved this relationship. Making more of a commitment just means it would've been messier in the long run (that's me agreeing with P).

2. The relationship was never going to work and years were spent with both sides not copping to that fact (that's me agreeing with WS). Nobody - least of all themselves - should be surprised by this outcome.
433
Feb. 17th, 2009 05:24 am (UTC)
Agreed. Would it have been better if they had gotten married? Of course not.

Amy and I have a house together, so the financial incentive to stay together is larger than marriage would be right now. Does that mean we're not going to get married? Of course not, we're planning on it in the future, but just for the toasters and the potentially higher taxes.

People in relationships should treat each other with respect and should act in accordance with the rules they have come up with. If you're not willing to do it for the person you love, a contract from The State won't make a damn bit of difference.
qob
Feb. 17th, 2009 05:28 am (UTC)
Contemplating marriage makes you count the cost in a way that a "committed relationship" can't No they shouldn't have gotten married, but if you reach the point where you have to shit or get off the pot, you have to make hard choices that you don't get to otherwise.
433
Feb. 17th, 2009 05:47 am (UTC)
The simple fact that 50% of marriages end in divorce these days means that not enough people are making those hard choices, and that marriage itself is not the be-all, end-all of successful relationships.
qob
Feb. 17th, 2009 03:49 pm (UTC)
yea, I definitely agree with you here. I have way too much to say here that would be better shared over a cuppa than on LJ.
wombat_socho
Feb. 17th, 2009 03:55 pm (UTC)
I'll be coming up again for Detour this year, and it's in St. Paul. We should get together and have a talk.
wombat_socho
Feb. 17th, 2009 11:37 am (UTC)
If you're not willing to do it for the person you love, a contract from The State won't make a damn bit of difference.

But it will make you think twice about screwing off, unless you're too stupid to take long term consequences into consideration. And that's all I'm saying.
433
Feb. 17th, 2009 02:16 pm (UTC)
Again, it should, but statistics show that it doesn't right now.
wombat_socho
Feb. 17th, 2009 03:50 pm (UTC)
Statistics are for average people!

Having contributed to those statistics, I agree, it doesn't always work. I do think - and I'm admittedly extrapolating from personal experience and occasional observation - it helps.
wombat_socho
Feb. 17th, 2009 11:36 am (UTC)
1. I disagree. I think marriage might possibly have acted as a brake on behavior that eventually disrupted the relationship. Unfortunately this is like the argument for concealed carry - it works better in the aggregate for large numbers of people than it does for individual couples.

2. It could have been made to work, but it would have been damn hard. Odds were not good; despite my innate misanthropy I am hesitant to say "never" since I've seen longer shots come in. Still, you know them better than I do.
windelina
Feb. 17th, 2009 01:52 pm (UTC)
Actually - I think you and I agree but just come at it from opposite directions.

My interpretation of what you are saying is:
You believe marriage might have acted as some sort of glue to help them make more of a commitment to change and to fixing things.
(You're right - I do know these people better and I know some of the core issues involved and for it to work would have meant one of them agreeing to do something completely foreign to their nature. Giving up some part of who they were deep down.)

I believe marriage can act as a sort of filter or ultimate test. If they had been marriage-minded (some people don't see themselves as ever getting married, after all), they might have asked themselves "should we get married?" and if the answer is "no" then use that information to either fix things to get to the point where it is "yes" or get out of the relationship. If things aren't going to go there ultimately (with "there" equalling a life-long commitment to each other) then why bother?

I am a child of divorce and know the hurts it causes. I also believe deep in my soul that my parents divorcing is the best thing that could have happened to me. If my father had been given more influence in my life, I would've had some real problems.

I believe in marriage - obviously, since I'm married. And I would not have gotten married unless I truly and honestly believed that we could make it work for the rest of our lives. I believe in myself enough to know that if things fell apart that I would survive (otherwise how to you have the strength to open yourself up to the potential hurt?). But I am not one who believes in getting married "for now and let's see how it works out."
wombat_socho
Feb. 17th, 2009 03:52 pm (UTC)
Actually - I think you and I agree but just come at it from opposite directions.

We do this a fair bit, it seems. :/
That having been said, I agree with your comment and don't really have anything to add.
wombat_socho
Feb. 17th, 2009 11:30 am (UTC)
Denying reality gets you nowhere. The thing is what is, that's what I think, and if I'm wrong in this particular situation, then I'm wrong, but this is how I see it.

If you're in a relationship, a committed relationship, you do not cheat, you do not fuck around, and you especially do not sneak and lie. Marriage is a formalization of what already exists or should before anybody makes any promises, exchanges any shiny trinkets, or talks to their local priest or judge.
Yes, which begs the question of why people in such a relationship don't just tie the knot and get the extra security. jolest and JM to the contrary, most of the time that sort of thing doesn't work in the long run. Because it's "everything else".

Finally, nice to know I still have some surprises left in the tool box, even if you don't like or agree with them. However, I am curious as to why you find this post so out of character for me. Just because I divorced your mother doesn't mean I don't believe in the importance of marriage.

Edited at 2009-02-17 11:43 am (UTC)
jolest
Feb. 17th, 2009 07:22 am (UTC)
Any other kind of long-term relationship that involves sex and friendship that doesn't end up in marriage is going to explode sooner or later, and there are damn few exceptions I can think of that would prove me wrong. Like none.

And that makes JM and myself (28+ years and counting) .. what? (Sorry WS, but you don't get to play the "none" card on this one.)

Marriage is no panacea. Sometimes it helps couples stay together thru rough times. Other times it holds people together long past the relationship's "freshness date" when both parties would be happier if they moved on.
wombat_socho
Feb. 17th, 2009 11:26 am (UTC)
Apologies. You are indeed the exceptions to (that prove?) the rule.
chebutykin
Feb. 17th, 2009 02:56 pm (UTC)
You're missing something really key.

Marriage was considered at one point early on (as in, right around the time the house was purchased). The thought was set aside for the time, because the medical issues and remodeling the house were big stressors at the time, and we figured that it would be best to get through that mess first. Problem is, the mess continued, so the idea of marriage continued to be shelved. If we couldn't make it work then, it wasn't going to work under a marriage contract, either.

If we had managed to work through these problems at some point, I'm pretty sure we would have wound up as married. Just because we were dating for seven years doesn't mean we were absolutely opposed to the idea of marrying each other. It means we wanted to make sure things actually worked right first.

I may be a fool for not walking away two years ago, and he may be an asshole for not doing the same, but the other parts of the relationship were good enough to make it worth repeated rescue attempts. What, we were supposed to walk away from all the other things we cherished at the first sign of difficulty? It's not a surprise at all that it didn't work out, but sometimes it's worth betting on the slim odds.

So, in a way, I agree with you. On the other hand, fuck you.
wombat_socho
Feb. 17th, 2009 03:43 pm (UTC)
So, in a way, I agree with you. On the other hand, fuck you.

I had that coming.
As you say, I didn't have the whole picture. Still hoping things turn out well for both of you; despite the bitter and vindictive exterior, I do hope that most of the people I consider friends live happy lives.

Edited at 2009-02-17 03:54 pm (UTC)
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