Are You Marriage Material? Er, Do You Want to Be?
Let's get my answer out of the way quickly. I don't think I want to be marriage material right now. I'm not in a bendable phase of life. Emphasis is on the "right now." Maybe one day ... but, if I put any credence in numerology, then I may never be marriage material. It's possible I never was deep down. My number is "One."
As a divorced woman of 48, who has had two men talk to her seriously about marriage since her divorce, who struggles financially, and who has sexual needs but who wouldn't do well a in a casual affair, I'm sometimes introspective about the whole marriage thing. But for me, the marriage question is not a dating advice matter. It's a "who am I at this moment?" question, because I was married for 23 years.
Friends, both male and female, have accused me of being afraid of marriage because my first one ended so badly. They say I'm still smarting from the hellish divorce. Could be. I sort of get the shivers when I read passages like the following from a MidlifeBloggers.com post entitled " How Can You Tell the Difference between a midlife crisis and shaking the dust from your feet?"
I also have the wonderful example of my mother. She’s 76. Two years ago she married a guy she met on an internet dating site. They’d known each other six weeks and decided to take a trip to his native Alaska, and while they were there they thought they might just as well get hitched. I asked her, tentatively, did she not think it was a bit sudden and she answered, We’re both 74, what are we waiting for? (source)
Her post is not about getting married, but I focused on this woman, her mother, remarrying at 74.
Also, I have a friend who told me about her mother, who's about five years older than I am. She said that her mom met and married her second and current husband a few years ago. I didn't like the sound of that at all. I've even heard of some BlogHer members over 40 who've remarried. When I hear of these nuptials I think good for them! But the thought also crosses my mind, you mean I'm not safe yet? Somebody could still roll up and want to get married?
At other times I wonder what's wrong with me that I have no desire to be one half of a twosome.
At Black Women, Blow the Trumpet, Lisa Vasquez has a provocative discussion about African-American men and women and the spouse shortage. She began her post with a phone conversation she had with an ex-boyfriend who's now married who told her that he thought she didn't want to be married. Like me, she went trolling through her soul after hearing the statement, and that resulted in her writing a post on the subject that includes what women say, what men say, and a series of questions for other women regarding their views of marriage.
At the post she has the following list of what she reports men tell ministers will make a woman unsuitable for marriage.
Which factors would deem a woman less desirable as a marital partner?
Women who have unresolved anger towards their fathers or towards men.
Women who are domineering and critical. Women who have control issues.
Women who have low self esteem and are deeply insecure and emotionally-needy.
Women who have been sexually violated or physically abused in childhood or in adulthood. (Those who have not thoroughly worked through their survivorship issues.)
Women who are self-centered.
Women who have siblings and mothers who are allowed to meddle in their lives.
Women who are too attached emotionally to having family validation and approval.
Women who were forced to grow up too soon.
Women who have managed their lives poorly.
Women who have never seen positive, healthy examples of solid marriages.
Women whose parents had an exploitative, abusive or imbalanced relationship. (Those who have not addressed the wounds and negative expectations that resulted from it.)
Women who have not learned how to have friendships with men.
Women who are career-obsessed.
Women who do not get along with their future in laws. (Read more at African-American men and women and the spouse shortageBlack Women, Blow the Trumpet)
The list at BWBTT is much longer than the list the dating guy gives at AskMen, where I also found one man's answer to be right on target about marriage readiness.
Carl - Accountant, 38 "Having already been married once, I want a woman that communicates and can work out problems." Since the married life is not all about good times, he wants a wife that matches his character. Like any other project in life, he believes that a marriage should be worked through and constantly perfected. "The flipside," says Carl, "is that if you don't keep at it, you'll end up in divorce court." That's it, that's all. (Ask Men)
Marriage has lessons we sometimes learn faster by going through divorce.
I didn't need to answer Vasquez's questions for women at BWBTT near the end of the post, but you may want to take a look at those.
I'm not on the market for marriage, but I have a friend who is on the block. Well, she says she may not want marriage so much as to have a long-term relationship. I don't even want that. She's one of those friends who tells me I'm scared of marriage, but when I look at the amount of energy she's given to thinking about what kind of man would be right for her and compare it to how much I think about this (very little), I know what I feel is not fear but disinterest.
I enjoy the freedom of only concerning myself with what my children and elderly parents need and what I need or want. I hated the pressure of being expected to conform to what my former spouse or society believes makes a "good" wife. Neither have I found myself since my divorce thinking I'd do this or go there if only I had a husband or boyfriend. When I try to imagine being married, I shudder, true, but I don't think that's about fear of marriage but aversion.
Perhaps those men in Vasquez's post would put me in the category of being "self-centered," but I don't think that's it. I don't put myself ahead of my children. I'm concerned about social justice, improving the world, and helping people other than myself, and I volunteer time to causes because of how people will be served, not to get a gold star. But, I do like making decisions about my life and how I spend my time for myself. Does that make me self-centered?
In contrast, being in a good relationship and spending time with a male companion is very important to my friend, so much so that she's taken time to dissect what makes a good mate. She's also divorced, btw, and was married for the same length of time as I. Like me she wasn't happy in her first marriage, and she doesn't want a man to run her life, but she does, unlike me, want steady male companionship.
When she talks to me about men of interest and relationships, I realize she's far more suited to what most men want in a wife than I am. She talks about cooking and organizing living space, how she would help so-and-so get his health on track. She also puts lots of energy into her career, and I doubt she'd give it up for a man. Still, with time, money, and a male focus, I think she could Betty Crocker down and be a great, traditional wife.
Is that what it takes, doing the Betty Crocker quick step?
I know some women don't like to hear it, but I think most average men prefer traditional wives who will cook and clean and free them of those duties if at all possible. My mother didn't model this aspect of life to me as the key to a happy marriage, but I do recall arguments about cooking and cleaning when I was growing up. She worked, but my dad still hoped for June Clever, although he was not Ward.
To me household duties are something you do because you have to whether married or not. Only those wealthy enough to keep household staff can avoid it. But when you're a married heterosexual female, you do such duties on someone else's timetable and sometimes how someone else may want them done. And if you put these duties off for a while when they fall to you, there may be trouble. But for me, while I've gone through spells of domesticity, making a home does not come naturally. It's a real effort for me to think domestically regularly.
Nevertheless, I was raised seeing women serve men, not my mom as much as other women in the family, but I did see this behavior as standard. A man comes home and you fix him his plate. You attend a gathering and look! The women are preparing plates for men, bringing them their food and fetching their drinks. I still see this on TV shows and in commercials. Is it nature, or are we women nurtured this way? I think it's a little of both.
My stronger egalitarian nature, however, has never warmed to living my life this way, yet my practical nature senses that many relationships work better when the female adopts the servant role. Unfortunately, I'm one who easily absorbs guilt about not living this female tradition. Sunday School lessons shout in my head, "Who are you to not want to be a servant? Christ was a servant!"
The point I make here is not that you must like housework or even do housework in order to be a wife. If that were true then wealthy married men who employ cooks and housekeepers could declare their wives are not wives. What I'm talking about is compromise. Are you willing to compromise, are you willing to take on a duty or adopt a position on a regular basis that you don't like or that doesn't agree with your nature? Will you take it on for life?
For you, the stickler may not be housework or you may have a mate who doesn't measure his wife by housework, but something will come up that you must do that you would prefer to do on your own timetable and not someone else's, if you do it at all. Will love be enough to keep you in your place?
I married too young for me, I think, at age 20. I wish I had thought things through more carefully and not even had a relationship so young. I wish I had scrutinized myself back then the way Anxious Black Woman apparently has done according to her comment at BWBTT to Lisa Vasquez:
I guess I should jump right into this since I'm unmarried. Except, unlike you, I think marriage is VERY political, so I'm not sure how much this can be divorced from politics. Also, I too have been told that the reason why I'm in my 30s and still unmarried is because I don't want to be a "wife," and my eyes are finally opening and realizing that, yes, I have not been imagining myself in wife mold. I've fantasized the whole "bride" thing. Wife thing? Not so much. (Comment at BWBT)
When I read that I wondered how did I get married at all? I didn't fantasize about weddings either. Wait! Oh, yes, I fantasized romance and thought I was in love. Stupidity just sort of happens.
I know myself better now. I've been stupidity stricken since my divorce. I mean totally smitten. I met a man and found myself feeling that I wanted to take care of him. No, he didn't need anyone to take care of him, not even to cook for him. He is one of those new-age "strong, secure" men. But I knew that if I were with him, I'd lean that way, lean toward deferring to him and putting his wants ahead of mine. Visions of fixing a plate danced in my head. That's how stupid the infautation chemicals in my brain made me.
And then I wondered, but how long would it last? How long would I want to defer? When would I start to feel I was taken for granted? And what would happen the first time we strongly disagreed? After getting used to being put first, would he turn into a crazy control freak trying to rein me in? Or would unconditional love prevail on my part and make me able to bend over backward? (And I knew it would have to be me because I could tell this new-age strong man could be inflexible.)
Unconditional love, a phenomenon that creates flexibility, is a rare thing, perhaps even a myth when it comes to the average human. On that the owner of BWBTT and I agree. But wouldn't it be nice to find a mate who possessed that quality. Not one that let you run over him, but one who bent with you? I think the average man either bends too far or rarely at all, especially the older, average man. A firm, yet bendable middle-aged man is hard to find. And is it male nature in general that assumes the woman must bend? When they drool over flexibility is it about more than great sex?
Like I said, until I'm ready to bend over again, I'm not the marrying kind.
Nordette Adams is a Contributing Editor for Blogher.com whose personal blog is at this link.