The judge who agreed to marry us, Serge and yours truly: young and dumb and just married with no fucking clue what was just around the bend.
I've been thinking about marriage, specifically whether or not it's important to really get to know someone before grabbing hands and taking that blind leap off the cliff of singleness into the stormy waters of matrimony.
The dictates of polite society generally shove us none to gently in the direction of carefully excavating your lover's past, present and future before hitching your wagon to their star. And I agree with that sentiment, I do, it's just that I no longer think that really getting to know someone before marriage is the key to a long lasting marriage. In fact, other than agreeing on the basics - money, marital roles, amount of kids, where you're going to live - there ain't a whole lot you can really do before marriage to assure success. It's what you do after you walk down the aisle that matters so whether it takes you two weeks or two years to nail the aforementioned basics down is irrelevant, is what I'm saying.
The whole rumination on marriage happened after I fell into the Facebook space-time continuum last week. You know how it is; one minute you're logging in to just reply to a message real quick and three days later you come up for air with greasy hair, furry teeth and a razor sharp knowledge of the names and accomplishments of the kids of everyone you ever ate lunch with once in high school and maybe, if you're an asshole like me, a smugness you half-heartedly attempt to suppress over the hot girl that gained an assload of weight since she last tossed you her trademark I'm-better-than-you stink eye in the halls of your educational institution.
So I was looking at the photos of some friends from high school. Specifically the photos of this one girl I knew who got pregnant at sixteen. Both she and the sperminator were friends of mine who had been hanging out together for a couple months when she discovered she was pregnant.
As usually happens in the cases of most teen moms, she dropped out of school and I heard about her infrequently; small fluffs of information randomly whispered between mutual friends over the years like dandelion spores set adrift by the sweet breath of a kid after making a wish. She had the baby, a boy. She named him XYZ. She married the dad. And then, as we all scattered across the country and settled into our own lives and pregnancies and babies, I forgot about this girl.
Until Facebook, of course. And then, like running into her at the local mall while shopping with my mom on a Thanksgiving visit home, there she was staring out from my monitor. Still beautiful and, yes, still married. I admit I was shocked to see she was still married. Not that I wish her anything but the best but the odds were admittedly stacked against her. Knocked up at sixteen by a boy she'd only been dating for a few months. But here they are all these years later, the all-American family, seemingly. The boy, whose tiny spark of an existence first ignited this family, now almost a man himself at eighteen. And two more girls.
It makes me happy to know they beat the odds and yet I wonder about their dynamic. I want to message her and inquire about her secret to marriage. I would never, of course, but I'm curious as hell. I'd love to see a movie of their relationship from then to now, ages sixteen to thirty-six. What was each year like? Did they ever separate? Did they ever talk about divorce? Or did they just get lucky and learn to love each other and keep on loving each other as they grew into adulthood together?
Who knows about these things? Some people jive and some don't. But that's doing her marriage a disservice because maybe it wasn't so much jiving as hard work to get to where she is now; mom of three gorgeous, talented kids. One already in college even, which is particularly weird to me, seeing someone my age send a kid to college when my own kids are experiencing the sunrise of their journey on the planet.
There is another good friend of mine from childhood who got a girl pregnant that he didn't seem to really care that much about. Although he married her at eighteen and went on to have more children he seemed quite unhappy. Cut to fifteen years later and a look at their Facebook story tells me they're more in love now than they ever were. Vacation snaps, photos of kids and parties, little love missives shared via Facebook... I can only surmise he fell in love after he got married. Years after he got married. Who knew? I was positive both couples I mention here were on the fast track to certain divorce.
Then there is a third couple I know who I last saw at a wedding around fifteen years ago. Sweetest couple, dated for years out of high school before getting married. Could not have seemed more in love and yet it appears they've divorced.
You never can tell. While certain statistics seem to paint a dreary picture when it comes to marrying too quickly, a lot of what I've observed, including my own experience, begs to differ. Is it better to wait to get to know someone before you marry them as opposed to getting hitched in a hurry? Not necessarily.
Thing is, people are constantly changing. You aren't the person you were ten years ago and ten years from now you won't be the same person either. Same goes for your spouse. So what good does all that pre-marital getting to know each other do when we're all just changing all the time anyway? Arranged marriages aren't A Thing for nothin'. In fact, you might argue that all that getting to know each other can work against you. Get to know someone and become comfortable with who they are and what happens when they up and change?
Another detriment to really getting to know someone before marriage... You'll never want to marry them. Seriously. Think about it: if you had to deal with some of the shit you deal with in regards to your spouse BEFORE you were married would you have made it down the aisle?
If Serge and I had dated for a year we probably never would've gotten married. Sounds harsh but at the time, during that first year of marriage, we stumbled through so many roadblocks chances are if we'd encountered the same issues while just dating we both would've tossed in the towel. Not that I didn't love him but sometimes things became so hard I know that merely dating him probably wouldn't have kept us together. As I did others before Serge, I likely would've broken up with him as opposed to knuckling down and working through the tough times. But the act of being married meant something to us and so we kept on keeping. Here we are nine years later with a family that is the most important thing in the world. Wouldn't trade it for anything.
What I'm saying is all the talk about how to prepare for marriage or advice on not rushing into it or living with someone or not living with them or you only dated for how long? or you need to see a therapist before you get hitched; it's all bullshit. Nobody knows anything. Nobody can predict anything. Your marriage, however it goes down, is its own universe. Nobody can really say this is what it takes or that's what it takes to create a successful foundation for marriage because you never can tell. People get married for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes they don't even know the real reason they're marrying until years down the road and by that time the marriage has shape-shifted into something completely different. Could be better, could be worse. Point is, the reason you get married becomes irrelevant once your married. It's what happens after that makes all the difference.
What about you? Why did you get married? Love? Lust? Pregnancy? It was the next logical step? How long did you date? Would you change anything? Examine your first year of marriage. At the end of year one would you have still agreed to get married? What about now? If you knew then what you know now would you still have gotten married?