I Publius: Marriage: It’s a lousy proposition

GREAT BARRINGTON Let’s talk marriage. To begin with, there are some marriages made in heaven. People fall in love, they adore each other and they stay in love with mutual respect until one or the other departs for the next world. This column is not about them, if indeed they exist.

Let’s remember that at least half the marriages end in divorce. People outgrow each other. Their bodies change and we all know that the mating, and often, the marriage ritual has long involved pure, naked sexual attraction. Human beings are really not all that different from the antelopes or the wildebeests that you might see on one of those animal programs. They look each other over and eventually they mate. Sometimes they stray. There have been many surveys showing that an awful lot of people (particularly politicians) do.

I was sitting out in a café in New York City the other day watching couples walk by. Many of the women were in a state of partial undress. They were showing their stuff. It was not I whom they were showing off for. They were on the hunt for suitable mates. Many were walking on stupid six-inch heels that accentuated the muscles in their legs. I kept thinking of the antelopes herding together showing their stuff. Some of the attentive males are warded off, some are accepted, and so it is with those of us who think we are better than the antelope. Some feminists have denied all of this on the basis that the female is too often objectified, as in made into a sexual object. As for me, I always have thought, being raised by a powerful mother and married to an achieving wife, that, one thing has little to do with the other. Hey, I love looking at beautiful women. Maybe it’s the wildebeest in me. Maybe it’s the way that the species has been propagated forever. Whatever it is, it is.

So, people get married. Often they do not get what they bargained for. Many people make the mistake of thinking that they will marry and have their way with the other partner. They will mold them like clay and turn them into different people. Sometimes they do. Yes, they win. The spouse drinks the Kool-Aid. Often, sex becomes a tool, a reward, a benny for doing what the other spouse wants. I mean, some partners have very little incentive for sexual activity, particularly if the marriage is uneven. Too often in this society the male who is single is sought and compared to the male who marries. (This can work the other way around, too.)

Sometimes, the fallacy of thinking you can change another human being ends in divorce. Sometimes. It takes on a lifetime war of its own. Spouses live together and often stay together “because of the children,” or money, or because someone is the daughter or son of the rich guy. There really are too many typologies to even try to classify them all. Sometimes that stage lasts for the rest of one’s life. We all know people who fall into that category. Sometimes, especially when children have seen it happen with their parents, people think that’s the way it should be.

In some marriages both sides wake up one day and realize, if they have made it through stage one and two, that they can’t live without each other and the strangest thing happens. They realize that they will never succeed in making the other person into their image and they realize that it is OK to be living with someone who is very different. You look at them and say, “This is neat!” All of a sudden, you give up any pretensions of trying to change the other person and you just revel in the differences. Sometimes, in stage three, you just celebrate who they are.

Now, there will be some of you reading this column who will think that this column is autobiographical. Some will think that I am writing about the Lovely Roselle and me. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, you can put me squarely in category one, which is described in the first words in this column.

Originally Published in the Berkshire Eagle, 8/8/09

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