The radio failed me this morning on my drive to work by giving me more morning talk shows than music, so I gave up hope and settled on a station with the least annoying morning talk show. Today, the co-hosts were discussing marriage, specifically the undisclosed line in the sand that some women draw as their cutoff date on when they want their man to propose marriage. Their opinion was that every couple should have this line and should plan to be engaged at a certain point in the relationship, otherwise they are wasting their time and should leave their partner and move on with their life. They had numerous women phone in, all sharing the opinion that the line in the sand is vital and that the lack of a ring means the relationship must end.
I will be celebrating my five year wedding anniversary with my wonderful husband on March 28th, so I’m obviously a fan of marriage. There wasn’t time for me to even consider drawing a line in the sand with us; we made things official on my husband’s birthday in November, moved in together two months later, and were married two months after that. We knew that we loved each other so much that the commitment of marriage was a given. There was no pressure and certainly no ultimatums. We were lucky enough to immediately know what we wanted and to be on the same page about it. I’m happier now than I was when we first met, and I’m eternally grateful to have found my perfect match.
I can understand why some people feel the need to draw that line in the sand and to either promise themselves that they will leave after a certain time without a ring or to promise their partner that they are done if there is no engagement. I do not understand why people think marriage is the be all and end all though. Marriage is fantastic but it’s certainly not for everyone and certainly isn’t a mandatory stage in everyone’s relationship. I suspect that part of the reason the divorce rate is so high is because people see marriage as mandatory in order for a relationship to move forward, rush to the altar, and then realize that they weren’t ready to attach themselves to someone legally.
Discussing your future with your partner is vital; you have to ensure that you both are traveling along the same path and that you want the same things. Ultimatums, spoken or silent, are simply not part of a healthy relationship. Why would anyone want to marry someone that threatens to leave if a ring isn’t placed on their finger? I don’t see how that act contains any love or respect for the individual or for the couple. One woman who called in to the radio show said that she told her boyfriend that if they were not engaged after a year of living together, she would walk. They were monogamous and in love, head over heels in her words, yet she still thought it necessary to put an expiration date on their love if she didn’t get her diamond. Instead of the surprise and joy of her man popping the question unexpectedly, she got a ring right on schedule at the year mark and was able to plan her wedding. She got what she wanted, but not in the proper way.
It’s one thing to tell your partner that you can’t continue on if they don’t get a job, don’t work on their drinking problem, or don’t agree with you on whether or not to have children. These are things that can seriously impact the relationship; no one wants to commit to someone who freeloads, behaves badly, or can’t give you the family you want. You also have the right to present an ultimatum if your partner refuses to become monogamous, as most people aren’t okay with sharing their partner with other people. That monogamy, however, does not need to come with a ring at a certain date, or at all. Many people are perfectly happy without marriage or with waiting until later in life when they are financially and emotionally stable and can plan the absolute perfect wedding and honeymoon.
We should desire to be married because we love the person we are with and because we want to make the commitment to them in front of family, friends, God, or just privately to each other with the assistance of a priest or clerk of the court. Getting married out of fear of losing a person is simply wrong. Where is the love in that? Why can’t a couple be happy together without a marriage certificate? Why can’t a person ignore the pressure from friends and family to get that ring and live their life for themselves? Why can’t we rid ourselves of the idea that you must be married by a certain age, or else you’re a failure? Why can’t we decide for ourselves how important marriage is to us instead of having society do it for us?
If you want to be married and your partner is fully against the idea, then you may need to end the relationship. If both of you are on board with marriage, move forward and don’t worry about the when. The important thing should be that you both desire to make that commitment in the future and that you both wish to plan your lives together as a couple. Stop wasting time stressing about the when and live in the now. Don’t throw away a good thing simply because you won’t be walking down the aisle before you’re 30. Be grateful and happy that you have found love and enjoy what you have. Marriage is simply one stop on a long road as a couple. There is no rule about when that stop needs to be made and there’s no need to speed past all the other joys of a relationship in order to get there faster. Be happy, be in love, and allow things to run their natural course.
I heard a rumor last week about the daughter of one of my coworkers. Her husband walked out on her last weekend after only six months of marriage and they are now headed for divorce. My coworker is now forced to put her retirement on hold for at least five years in order to pay off the extravagant wedding the estranged couple held. The validity of this particular story isn’t really important here because this is a story that countless couples can tell you about themselves. A pair meet and fall in love, plan a wedding that is miles away from what is within their budget, and then their monumental marriage turns into a miserable mess, leaving behind a trail of heartbreak and empty bank accounts.
The wedding day is often described as the “best day” of one’s life. It is the day that every little girl dreams of; the day where she can be a princess and where all eyes are on her. It is the day where men find their other half and are able to make that person a permanent part of their family and a permanent part of their heart. It is the day where two people become one while their friends and loves ones look on with tears in their eyes. It is a special and sacred day, one filled with joy, laughter, and the hopes and dreams of what the future has in store. No one goes into this day with divorce in mind, at least no one with good intentions and a good head on their shoulders.
I’ve been to two weddings in my life. The first was when I was about 13, and the second was a year and a half ago. The first was insanely extravagant and pricey while the second was planned on a budget and was beautiful without being flashy. My own wedding isn’t listed here because I didn’t have one; my husband and I exchanged our vows in an office at a local church on a Friday afternoon after he got off of work. I’m not going to say which way is better because it’s obviously different for every couple. What is important, however, is why you are choosing the particular way you exchange vows. Are you going down Path A because it’s what you want or are you choosing it because of what other people want, how they will judge you, or any other factors that don’t put you and your spouse-to-be first?
The wedding day is about the union between two people who are taking the first of many steps along a loving journey together. It’s great to be able to include and accommodate others so they can share in our day, but while doing so, you cannot forget that it is YOUR day and not theirs. You don’t need to ensure your flower arrangements are prettier than your cousin’s arrangements last year, you don’t need to pay extra for an open bar because your brothers insist a wedding isn’t complete without one, and you don’t need to choose an exotic location for the exchange of vows because mom wants the best photos possible. It’s not their wedding.
There often is a bit of guilt that comes into play when you have family members picking up the tab for certain parts of your big day. That said, simply because they offer doesn’t mean you have to accept. If you do accept, nothing is keeping you from letting them know that you have specific plans that you are sticking to; they can either be accepting of that fact or they can choose to reconsider and not offer any monetary support. A loving and supportive family member will understand that this is your day and will refrain from forcing too many of their wants onto you. Every loving couple deserves to have the “best day” of their lives be for them and about them. It doesn’t matter how outlandish you find it as long as they are happy.
If you are lucky enough to be able to plan your big day with only your own wishes and dreams in mind, but unlucky enough to have those dreams come with a hefty price tag, you need to begin getting your priorities in order. Is it worth beginning your marriage with an enormous debt just so you can have lobster and beef wellingtons at your reception? Should you splurge and book that vacation to Hawaii because your new in-laws promise to pay for it, even though you know they can’t really afford it? If you can’t find happiness in your big day without that hefty price tag, perhaps you are choosing to wed for the wrong reasons.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against expensive things and definitely nothing against being nice and trying to appease your guests. If you can afford to go big, do it! If you can manage to plan things in such a way that will make everyone happy, go for it! But in doing so, don’t sacrifice your own happiness and don’t put yourself or anyone else into a massive hole created by wedding debt. When you go that route, you lose track of what a wedding day is meant to be. The magic is lost, replaced with stress and bills and headaches and cranky guests. It’s just not worth it.
The wedding isn’t what matters in a marriage. It sure as hell isn’t what makes a marriage, but can definitely be what breaks it if you’re going into debt and alienating family and friends. Perfection doesn’t equal happiness, money doesn’t buy it, and your parents don’t dictate it. Happiness will enter your marriage when you go into it with a smile on your face, free of worry and stress. Having a reception catered by top chefs doesn’t make a marriage stronger than a union who chose Quiznos as their caterer, having a team rush over to pic up subs as soon as the vows were exchanged. The price tag on your wedding bands has nothing to do with the strength of your bond. It’s all simply extra icing on a cake that is perfect and delicious as it is.
We skipped a wedding and I have zero regrets about it. Our union was what mattered and our path stayed true to that without putting us in debt, causing unnecessary stress, or being inconvenient to anyone. Had we gotten divorced, not a soul could call our wedding day a waste of time or resources. The choice to renew vows is also available and is something we plan on doing down the road when we have the extra cash to throw into it and the desire to have some sort of ceremony. Doing things on our terms was an easy choice for us and should be an easy choice for everyone. If it really is the best day of your life, you owe it to yourselves to make it all about you and what you honestly want for the first day of the rest of your lives.
Society is falling apart at our feet. Just when I think I’ve heard it all, I hear something that truly baffles me. My coworker told me about a married couple who were happy and in love. They had a baby together, something that is generally a very blissful time, but it was anything but that for husband Jian Feng. Feng was shocked to see that their infant daughter was, in his words, incredibly ugly. He initially thought his gorgeous wife had an affair, as there could be no other reason for the unattractive infant. When the DNA test showed that the infant was indeed his, Feng’s wife confessed to having approximately $100,000 worth of cosmetic surgery before the two had met.
Outraged, Feng took his wife to court and sued her for duping him into marrying a genetically ugly woman and producing an ugly daughter. The outcome was stunning to me; the judge agreed with Feng and ordered his wife to pay him a settlement of $120,000 in addition to granting the divorce. This in spite of the fact that Feng claims to have married his wife out of love and that there were no marital issues until the birth of their daughter, who was so ugly it “horrified” him.
I find it obvious that Feng was in love with the idea of having a beautiful wife and family, trophies that he could brag about and show off to the world, and not in love with the woman his wife is inside. Marriage is for better and for worse, but Feng didn’t give a damn once he found out that his wife’s beauty was artificial. He also cared little about being a father and acted quite cold and heartless after the birth of his child; what loving parent in this world would ever call their own child incredibly ugly, especially when they’re just a baby? I know some kids are a little odd-looking, but the love for a child should go beyond the superficial. Even if you do think your child isn’t supermodel material, you don’t say it out loud and you certainly don’t say it to news stations and in court rooms.
The worst part of this is that the court agreed with Feng and is making his estranged wife pay him $120,000. She is no doubt reeling from his reaction and the subsequent lawsuit, and I truly can’t imagine what this is doing to her emotionally. On top of that, Feng doesn’t seem like he will be a doting and attentive father to his “ugly” daughter, leaving his ex to be the primary or possibly sole caregiver and provider for the child. This poor child, when old enough to understand, will no doubt find out that her father left her mother and shunned her because she was an ugly infant; seeing as this is all over the internet, there will be no hiding it from her if she wishes to find it or has loudmouthed friends and relatives.
At the most, the judge should have granted the divorce, but no money should have been awarded to this despicable man. The order should have been for the couple to part ways and for Feng to pay child support or sign over his rights as a father in order to get on with his life. This judge had the wrong person’s best interests in mind and made the wrong decision. Seeing as this took place in a court in China and the culture there is different from what I’m used to, perhaps this is only strange to me because I’m looking at things from a different perspective. I would hate to think that is true though; surely the majority of people would disagree with this judge and want to protect this new and innocent life instead of penalizing her one loving parent.
Was she wrong to not disclose the surgeries? I don’t believe so. What she did to alter her appearance was more honest than women who wear makeup, padded bras, get spray tans, pluck their eyebrows, wear shaping undergarments, dye their hair, or get hair extensions. What she did is permanent, altered only by age as we all are. Her surgery doesn’t wash off in the shower, it’s a part of her. It’s clear Feng did not question his wife about surgeries prior to the birth of their child, so she was not being dishonest with him. She was surgically altered in what was probably an attempt to make herself happy, to give herself confidence, and to feel beautiful. There is no reason to disclose that to everyone and ruin the positive effects the surgeries had on her self-esteem and self-worth.
She is no doubt better off without her shallow minded husband and hopefully she will be able to raise her daughter properly and without the issues that come with being told you’re ugly or hideous. I also hope that this story gains enough traction to where it becomes a universally horrible thing to award someone for being a superficial and uncaring monster; this type of legal ruling should never happen again, not in cases like this. Love, in any form, is a complex thing that is based on multiple aspects of personality, intelligence, warmth, and presence. It goes deep and often cannot properly be expressed in words. If the only reasons you love someone are because they have pretty eyes and perfect skin, you’re doing it wrong.
I arrived fashionably late to my date with Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling in the movie Blue Valentine, the 2010 romantic drama written and directed by Derek Cianfrance. I missed it in theaters and again on DVD, but wasn’t too let down about it since all I really heard about the film was the hyped up cunnilingus scene. I did know it was a love story of sorts, so after seeing that it was playing on Showtime, I decided it’s worth a shot and recorded it so I could force my husband to watch it with me. If you haven’t seen the movie, please leave now, as I may ruin moments for you.
Ryan Gosling was nearly unrecognizable in the film’s opening; his receding hairline, oversized sunglasses, and somewhat redneckish wardrobe threw me for a loop. Gosling plays Dean, a high school drop-out working as a painter to help support his wife Cindy (Michelle Williams) and their daughter, Frankie. Cindy appears as a frazzled mother trying to successfully juggle home life with her medical career. I was immediately struck by how spot on the depiction was of the family interactions around the breakfast table. In a scene similar to ones I’ve experienced at home, Cindy struggles to keep everyone on schedule as Dean inadvertently works against her and Frankie is simply too caught up in being a kid to care much about getting to school on time. This scene also makes it clear that Cindy and Dean are not in the happiest of marriages.
Through jumps in time, the audience sees their love and marriage in the early stages as it’s built and in the later stages as it crumbles around them. The love story isn’t a typical one, as most of us don’t get together through an unplanned pregnancy, especially when one of the people responsible for said pregnancy isn’t a part of the relationship. Cindy discovers she is pregnant shortly after her and Dean begin to get intimate. Even after a failed abortion attempt and even knowing the child isn’t his, Dean decides his love for Cindy overcomes this obstacle and they marry prior to Cindy giving birth.
Fast forward to now; you can tell both parents love this little girl, but the love Cindy once had for Dean seems to have faded along with his youthful hairline. Dean books a cheesy hotel room called the Future Room in the hopes of rekindling the spark they once had, and I can honestly say that I was quite jealous of this room. However, no matter how camp and fun the atmosphere around the couple was and despite all the alcohol, Cindy was unable to overcome her repulsion for her husband. After a blow-up the next day at Cindy’s job, the marriage seems to have come to an end as Dean walks away and Cindy allows it to happen, all while their daughter sobs in confusion.
The preparation that Williams and Gosling put into this movie is clear as day; their interactions flow as if they had truly been together for years. I’m convinced that the sex scenes were turned into such a big deal due to their realistic tones; the nudity was subtle but the actions were clear and portrayed more honest than any I’ve ever seen, including my limited experiences watching porn. It wasn’t stylized to try to make Williams into a sex goddess, nor did it try to make sex into an artistic act. It kept it simple; young passion fueling it in the beginning, desperation at the end. It’s a shame that it was so hyped up because I feel that putting too much focus on this small part of the film will cause the viewer to miss out on its overall beauty.
It was painfully obvious to me early on that Cindy was no longer in love with Dean. At first I felt she was being distant, but it soon became clear that she had become physically repulsed by her husband. The guy I dated late in my high school years is an idiot, but at 16 he was a heart-throb. I ran into him again sometime in my early 20s and we struck up a friendship. It didn’t take long for him to decide we should give us another shot and for me to decide I wanted to run him over with my car. Not having the blinders of 16-year-old puppy love on, I was able to see his flaws like an open wound and it made my skin crawl when he tried to embrace and kiss me. Luckily for me, this was an easily escapable situation. Cindy, on the other hand, is still married and her husband is desperate to get her to overcome whatever barriers she has raised that results in her rejecting his advances. Watching Williams cringe as if in pain at her husband’s touch hit a nerve in me; I found myself flashing back to failed relationships and finding similarities with them and this film. I honestly don’t see how a relationship is salvageable when one party reaches the point of disgust at the thought or feel of physical contact.
Another touchy subject that is briefly highlighted in the film is infidelity. Cindy’s employer, a decent enough looking doctor, has sent her emails that Dean sees as inappropriate and has suggested that Cindy secure herself an apartment away from her husband and child so the two of them can work together and spend time together. Upon the revelation that this doctor has a hidden agenda, Cindy timidly states that she is married. This is interrupted when an understandably upset Dean enters the office and ends up giving the doctor a much deserved punch to the jaw, but short as it is, it succeeds in raising eyebrows and questions. Would Cindy have resisted the temptation to cross the line for this doctor or would she have remained faithful to a man she no longer loved in order to preserve the sanctity of marriage? I can’t provide an honest answer to this question, but I do think Cindy was drawn to the doctor in both a professional manner and a personal one, and maybe under the right circumstances and in the right situation the line would be ignored. But maybe not.
The final major focus for me is the issue of broken homes. Dean’s mother left his father when he was ten years old, causing him to feel abandoned but allowing his mother to find happiness. Cindy’s parents overcame their differences, mainly her father’s abusive attitude and her mother’s lack of strength in stopping it, and stayed together in a less than happy marriage. I believe these differences in their youth lend to the differences in how they want to approach their marital issues. Cindy wants to cut and run because she knows firsthand what misery and heartache can come from staying together for the sake of the child. Dean wants to do whatever is possible to save the marriage for the sake of Frankie, who shouldn’t know a broken home. It’s hard to give a right answer in this situation because both sides have a valid argument for why their decision is the best one. It’s a decision I hope I never have to face in my lifetime, but one that plagues once-happy families all too often.
The day after watching this film, my husband sent me quite a few reviews that tore it to pieces. Jonathan and Julie Myerson write that “Blue Valentine is simply a film about an abortion that should have gone ahead.” Others put their focus on one line from Gosling’s character where he says he enjoys being a painter because he can have a beer at 8am, taking that to mean the marriage has failed because of Dean’s blinding alcoholism issues. I feel a bit sorry for these people, as the film is so complex and layered and there is so much good and bad that can be taken away from this. Yes, the abortion and the drinking is there and are both factors, but they certainly aren’t the main ones and shouldn’t be the primary focus.
If you have yet to watch this (sorry for spoiling it for you) I urge you to do so. If you didn’t get it the first time around, go watch it again. There are many marks of a great film, and one mark for me is that the film makes you stop and think. Blue Valentine did that for me and then some. It gave me a greater appreciation of the man I have at home and the family we’ve built, the satisfaction of knowing I can’t say he’s not living up to his potential (as Cindy says to Dean), and the comfort of knowing that we have never and hopefully will never have a vacation as awkward and rage-fueled and unsatisfying as Cindy and Dean’s trip to the Future Room.
Everyone that thinks they know what they are talking about ends up giving relationship advice at some point in their life. That includes me; I’ve both given and received my fair share over the years ever since I discovered the shocking fact that I can in fact hold hands with a boy and not contract cooties. A year or so after I had my son, I decided to quit giving advice. I never listened to people who gave it to me and I’m sure people didn’t listen to me either. I realized that if my friends tell me the truth and I dislike it, I won’t listen and will resent them for trying to help. If they decide to take the easy route and feed me white lies, I’ll resent them later when I find out that they secretly though my boyfriend was an idiot. When I decided to move over 1000 miles away to be with my now-husband, 3 out of 4 people I told responded with something along the lines of “this is a bad decision, it won’t last.” So for these reasons, I now refrain from giving advice and simply try to be helpful by listening and making neutral comments. That doesn’t mean I still don’t want to dispense advice, of course, and what better place to do so than here?
IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE FAITHFUL, STAY OUT OF A RELATIONSHIP: Common sense, but time and time again people who aren’t ready to be monogamous find themselves in a committed relationship against their inner wishes. Often it results in scenarios that would be great for an episode of Cheaters. If all you want is sex, there are plenty of horny non-committal people out there. There’s no reason to break someone’s heart because you still want to spread yourself around. If you’re with someone who informs you that they are this type of person (or shows signs of being so) either adjust yourself so you’ll be okay with sharing or get rid of them.
JEALOUSY IS HEALTHY IN SMALL DOSES ONLY: When I was younger, I was a very jealous person. It tapered as I got older, but was still around when I first got together with my husband. Why it was there doesn’t matter, what mattered was that it was unnecessary and had nothing to do with my husband; he had given me no reason to be jealous of anyone else. It’s okay to have little pings of jealousy when a gorgeous girl or hot guy checks out your other half or maybe throws a flirty comment their way, but if it’s not a big deal just let it go. It causes nothing but problems when you’re overly jealous in situations that don’t call for it.
LISTEN TO THAT ANNOYING INNER VOICE: If something inside yourself is telling you “this is wrong,” “is he cheating on me,” or “I don’t think this is working” maybe you should listen up. I ignored the little voice telling me that my son’s father was a psychopath, the one telling me that my college boyfriend probably only loved me because he was on drugs, and the countless other warning flags my mind threw at my heart. Had I taken it seriously, I could have saved myself from a world of heartache. When things are right and the relationship is strong, you won’t get those warnings because your mind will be at peace and happy with what you have with your other half.
THE URGE TO LIE SHOULD FADE AND THE EASE OF HONESTY SHOULD EMERGE: The first couple of dates with someone new are like a job interview. You want to put the best you on display. Sure, I drink on occasion, but I rarely get drunk. You’d only be the second person I’ve ever been with. I don’t mind if you go out with your friends. I was at my mom’s house all night. If you’re not committed to someone, lie all you want, but if you’re trying to settle down you’ve got to knock it off. Love can’t be based on lies. If telling the truth to your other gives you that horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach, there is definitely something wrong, either with your ability to be honest or their ability to have a reasonable reaction to your news.
NEITHER OF YOU SHOULD EXPECT TO CHANGE YOURSELF OR CHANGE EACH OTHER: Having to adapt and start putting the toilet seat down or quit leaving your laundry on the couch is one thing. Everyone has to tweak their behavior a bit in order to keep the peace. If you met your sweetie while she was dancing on the bar downtown, it’s hard to justify being upset months later about her crazy partying. Date someone heavy into a certain religion and you shouldn’t be surprised when that religion encompasses a lot of their life and yours in turn. If you’re going into something with the mindset that eventually the other person will stop certain things, change certain things, or become someone else, you’re doomed to have it fail.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO LIKE EACH OTHER’S FRIENDS: But you do have to tolerate them. My husband’s former friend was married to a female that I was never quite comfortable around. To be honest, I wasn’t all that comfortable being around his friend, but I had the best time I could around them because it mattered to my husband and his time with them was limited due to distance. At the time, they hadn’t done anything that would give me a valid reason to complain so I went with it. I also had the option of simply not hanging around them, but the bottom line was that they were important to my husband and as his wife I should be supportive and accommodating. Don’t be that person who keeps your guy/girl from their friends.
IF YOU HAVE TO ASK ANYONE IF YOU ARE DOING THE RIGHT THING BY BEING WITH THAT PERSON, CHANCES ARE YOU ARE NOT DOING THE RIGHT THING AT ALL: If you’re questioning the relationship, you probably have doubts and concerns and you probably already know deep down that you don’t belong with the person you’re with. People generally ask “do you think I should be with him/her” because they want it to work but know it won’t; they are seeking confirmation from anyone that what they are doing is right so they can feel justified in continuing the relationship.
DON’T LOSE YOUR INDEPENDENCE: It’s easy to get sucked into a whirlwind of love and emotion and forget who you are. It’s also easy for the wrong person to take advantage of that and attempt to control and/or isolate you. The signs are easy to see as long as you keep your eyes open. If people are constantly saying “we never see you anymore” or if every one of your activities is planned around your significant other, you’re probably in danger of losing your individuality. Having time apart is just as important as having time together.
LOVE YOURSELF: Simple, stupid, and important. Don’t allow yourself to be abused or taken advantage of. Don’t let someone else control your actions or thoughts. Learn to be happy with who you are and be happy alone. Become self-sufficient. Focus on your weaknesses and find ways to become stronger. People are always saying that you can’t love anyone else until you learn to love yourself. As sick as you may be of hearing it, it never stops being true.