bell hooks says when we face pain in relationships our first response is often to sever bonds than to maintain commitment. That relationships are treated like Dixie cups. They are the same. They are disposable. If does not work, drop it, throw it away, get another. Committed bonds (including marriage) cannot last when this is the prevailing logic. Most of us are unclear about what to do to strengthen caring bonds when our self-centered needs are not being met.
I’ve always struggled with the idea of marriage. I was never a close witness to any happy loving marriage, aside from a handful of friend’s parents’. I used to fantasize about being a single mom because single moms seemed stronger than most of the women I knew who were married with kids. I had this idea in my mind that single moms were heroes, and really, they are. But I no longer strive to be a single parent. I’m not even sure I want to be a parent. My womb is undecided.
I feel safe talking about this. I’m in a committed relationship with my partner whom with I have discussed these things. It’s really quite funny how there is this social pressure to keep it all a big surprise– when’s he gunna ask when’s he gunna ask??– but I feel like maybe that whole suspense tactic is just more patriarchal bullshit. I’d rather talk about whether I want to get married (in whatever fashion we choose) than to suddenly have it sprung upon myself. How does one say “I’m not ready yet” or “can we talk about what this would mean to us?” to a nervous partner who so desperately wants you to say yes?
bell hooks is so very right. Her words ring true to me. It’s easier (and more surface satisfying) to keep your options open, keep that special someone at the office smiling at you, than it is to face the issues that arise. Where do we go from there? We stand up to that inner voice that tells us that there is always something better. It’s that same voice that keeps us in a perpetual state of always searching. You can’t compare to the game. You can’t be as great as the imagined possibility of something or someone greater. And that is a damn shame. And that is what keeps so many of us thinking there is someone better out there. Someone who will meet all of our needs, and someone who is genuine and kind, but not overly genuine and kind because that’d be no fun.
There is a difference in truly knowing when you are unhappy in your relationships versus feeling discontent with yourself, your habits, your appearance, and/or your purpose. It’s difficult to feel worthy of love when you’re not feeling your best. It’s difficult to feel loved and give love when you are keeping your options open. It’s difficult to feel loved when you are hurting. Or when you’re sad. I want to keep learning to seperate [my bullshit], my inner struggles that are longstanding (one of them being jealousy), from my romantic relationship, all the while knowing I am supported and I don’t need to face my demons by myself. I want to trust that my partner is as complicated and complex as I am, and empathetic towards me as I am towards him. I want to feel loved, and give my best love, and see where that takes me. What avenues might that open if I am able to get to that place? Who do we become when we are not fixated on the next best thing?
It’s reasonable to feel that the sanction of marriage is a part of systemized patriarchy. I would struggle big time with my identity as a married woman. What does marriage say about young people now-a-days? In many social groups, it’s still awesome and everyone is very excited about one day getting married and planning their big day. But in other groups, marriage is like giving in. Giving in to more than just hetero-patriarchy, but capitalism and a long history of oppression. Side note: If I want to live with my partner in his home country, it’s not enough for me to just love him and want to be with him, we must get married. And health benefits aren’t issued to non-spouses either. If I want to live with my partner in his home country, I either have to marry him or find an institution/ company that the government finds worthy enough to sponsor me. And then I must work for this company. sigh. Jobs. Sigh.
But I am mostly talking about loving commitment. Whether two people choose to get married is just their own form of solidifying that loving commitment. I am secretly (not so secretly now) afraid of the judgement I could receive if I choose to get married. I guess it’s fear of people devaluing my identity and politics. Maybe in my head Ive made a story that says married women seem to have somehow given up on their politics or their strength to fight against societal norms? Perhaps I must overcome this strange equation I’ve been battling which keeps telling me that married women are somehow less strong. Because I now know that a good partner is able to actively support you and that can actually make you stronger.
Loving commitment means that you are willing to try your hardest to fight the good fight. That you are open to the possibility that love is amazing and that you can experience it. That you are worthy of love and your partner(s), friend, mom, dog is just as worthy of love. That you won’t drop your loved ones because they frustrate you, or you feel hurt by them or yourself. That you won’t drop your loved ones as they age, or get sick, or start forgetting things. It’s finding a deep compassion for the complexities of being human. It’s saying that you recognize you might struggle, and that they might struggle, in different, or confusing ways, and that what you know so intimately of your own experience of living, you will be patient and loving for as long as you can towards another person.
The pool of potential babes and hotties and hard bodies and smart cookies is overflowing. You can never compete against the pool. You’ll never be as beautiful as all of the beautiful women combined. You’ll never be as smart or as funny as the entire pool. But it’s worth finding a good swimming buddy for those times you think you might drown. Or when you want to celebrate your triumphant conquering of the breast stroke. Tell them you will try your best to save them if they try to save you. And then maybe pinch eachother’s nipples underwater for fun.