Divorce is hereditary.
Okay, probably not, but that sentence has haunted me for the better part of two decades, since my mother first told my father she wanted a divorce. When it finally happened, five years later, they became just like nearly everyone else in my immediate family. My great grandparents, on both sides, stayed together until death did them part, and so did my dad’s brother and his wife. But both sets of grandparents divorced. My mom’s brother and sister have both been divorced, twice. It was, at the time, a rather disturbing trend.
But it has made me think, a lot, about what I want from my own relationships.
When I was a kid, 13, 14, 15 years old, I wanted what every girl in my town was expected to want; a husband, a dog, and 2.5 children. I’m still not sure how one acquires a half a kid, but it was apparently a thing. I continued to think that was where my life was headed until I moved away to university, 300 miles away from anyone I had ever known.
I did that on purpose. I wanted a new beginning where no one’s previous perspective would influence how I became an adult.
I often say I was raised in the town where I was born but I grew up in the city where I attended university. I learned a lot in those five years. But even though I had developed the irrational fear that divorce was hereditary, I was still planning to eventually marry the boyfriend who took up most of my free time my final year.
Until I wasn’t anymore. We broke up and I started re-evaluating my stance on getting married. I no longer wanted to BE married. I wanted a life partner.
I want a life partner. Present tense.
I grew up in a world where getting married and making babies was just what was expected of people. I don’t know how much of that was a rural small town mentality and how much of it was a 1980-90s mentality but that’s what was expected. I still see a lot of it today, in older people, especially. Go to a wedding for two people in their 20s or early 30s and listen to how the 50 and older sect talks to the couple, especially the bride.
Sure, congratulations and well-wishes flow like water, but then comes the intrusive, invasive, “When are you planning to start your family?” Today, Grandma, we are starting our family, today. My newly-wed husband and I have chosen this day to start our family.
In some ways, I think society has shaped some of the changes in my views of marriage. Society has everything twisted into so many knots that it’s nearly impossible to distinguish up from down. Same-sex marriage is destroying marriage but we look the other way when tens of millions of people use a dating site specifically designed to help you cheat on your spouse. Interracial marriage is legal but so is judging and stereotyping anyone in one (but it’s okay if you both kind of look white). Celebrity marriages end within days of their beginnings but a plain vanilla middle class couple who can’t “make it work for the kids” is demonized.
And, still, a single woman (and probably just as much the single man) in her early to mid-20s can’t attend a family or community function without someone asking why she isn’t married yet. And if you’re in your 30s, forget it. You’re going to die a spinster, miserable and alone, with no one to care but your cats.
It’s not that I feel like I need to buck the system. I’m not not getting married out of spite or rebellion. I’m not not getting married. I’m just not looking for a husband. I’m looking for a life partner. If, after being partners for some amount of time, we decide we need a piece of paper to tell the world that we can make one another’s emergency medical decisions, then, okay, we get married. But I’m not looking for someone who wants to own property and have a joint bank account. I’m looking for a life partner.
I’m looking for someone with whom I can share love and a love of adventures. I’m looking for someone with whom I can share a home and quiet times in it. I’m looking for someone who supports my dreams, calls me out when I’m acting like an idiot, and expects me to do the same for him.
I had a conversation, today, with one of my sorority sisters, about wedding cakes, in which I proclaimed that, should I ever have a wedding, the desserts served at my wedding will taste like actual desserts. I’m not a big fan of cake, to be honest, so if I am forced to eat the stupid thing with everyone watching me, I want it to taste like something I want to eat. Perhaps a red velvet layer cake with cream cheese icing – because anything else is sacrilege – or some sort of mocha fudge concoction with white chocolate icing. Forget this white cake and fondant nonsense. I’m getting the good stuff.
Which I think is actually a decent metaphor for my whole view on the subject. Why settle for the same thing everyone else has when you can dive in with both feet and have what you really want?