Miracles and Marriage Expectations

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Tilt.

Six women have me thinking about marriage…again. About  why people  get  married,  women  in  particular. Every now and then, I have  to  pull out my old feelings about it and take a look and see what’s changed and what I really want and really examine any leftover negative con- notations about the “institution” of marriage. (Ah, there’s one now…a negative connotation, that is.)

The Long-Awaited Honest-to-God Secret to Being Happy

The first woman  on my mind is in her mid-30’s,  if that old. She’s pretty, sweet, not a lot of education but street-smart, and she’s the mother of several children by several husbands. She is forthright when she says (not in the presence of any suitors) that she’s shopping for a husband. It doesn’t  matter what  he looks  like or what  he does for a living—or how he treats her—but  she can’t support herself and the kids  and she isn’t getting child support from any of the deadbeat dads and so she has to do the only thing she knows how: find a husband, any husband, because the kids need a dad who’ll provide for them.

I get a flash of understanding  during this conversation. I never hide the fact that I have two kids, not even from the very first meeting with a new man, though I know plenty of women who do. Now I understand  why eligible bachelors find out I have kids and flee. No explanation. Just suddenly have to go.

The other five women who have me thinking about marriage come into my life at the same time, in a discussion on post-divorce finances. They’re all in the 35 to 45 age range, all in different stages of recovery,  both emotionally and financially.  They’ve been married anywhere from 12 years to 23 years, and they’re all within the first two years on their own in a long time, if ever.

Most of the women were left financially devastated by their divorces, some getting out of the marriages with no more than the clothes on their  backs. Others  have co- signed with exes who turned  out to be addicts  (drugs, gambling, women) and will never pay on loans or child support, and they’re stuck with everything and with starting over. One lost her top-notch credit rating because of her ex’s antics and now depends on relatives to feed and diaper her kids.

“I spent  years  dating,  looking  for the right guy because  I  thought  I  couldn’t  make  it  on  my  own,”  one woman  bemoans.  “I  thought that  once  I found  some- body I could love, I had to marry him. Now I’m in worse financial shape than when I was fresh out of college. All that dating and looking for the right person, and this is what I get!”

All five of those women were making it on their own and perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, their homes, and even their kids. But they thought they needed the “protection”  that marriage had to offer them. In the end, the men had nothing to offer but heartache.

It’s things of this sort that often attach themselves to my thinking on marriage and whether I would do it again, as well as the expectations people have when they start thinking about marrying again. The relationship I want is bonded and intimate and I suppose it could definitely be a marriage but it just never looks like anything else I see around me (granted, this is conservative, Bible-Belt, Re- publican Northwest  Florida  and  the  energy  here  right now is oppressive). I see people bonding for business reasons. For the medical insurance,  if nothing else! For the security and financial support that, as those five women found out and the sixth has yet to figure out, may or may not be there. Sometimes it works out but more often than not for the younger generations, it’s failing miserably be- cause they won’t put up with what  their parents put up with.

Sometimes, especially  when a woman’s  over 35 and has some assets to her name, the marriage is very much a business partnership for the new husband. Nobody really warns women of that unless they’re making them feel old and unattractive as in “he wants you only for your money and there’s no way he could find you hot.” But I hear the same  story from  plenty  of very  attractive  women  who barely top 30 but have  good jobs. It’s incredible to me how many  men  I meet—and  not just  younger  men!— who are looking for a sugar-mama to retire them. From

21 to 61, I can attest that they’re out there.

But some men do have their own agenda, even if they don’t realize  it. It’s the security  of a second  household income, the extra money for the boat, the credit rating, the extra money for the little toys that aren’t the boat, the inheritance, the house,  the standing  in the community. Their  own  business-oriented   or  financial  expectations, just as much as women have of marriage, though women often think of it more in emotional terms, such as protection for the kids or support for a dream.

Damn. My vision of marriage is far too different from what  I see around  me  here.  Being  able  to  depend  on someone else’s financial prosperity would certainly make things easier for me, but realistically, it’s an unlikely scenario and an expectation that too many women in my circumstances find disappointment in.

I have too much to lose to marry someone whose primary interest  in me is the assets I’ve worked so many long  hours  for,  and  I have too much…  integrity?  self- respect? pride?…to marry  someone  just  so he  can  take care of me financially.

I still have the ideal of a team approach when it comes to my definition of what a marriage should look like, of joining two  separate lives of abundance (not necessarily material wealth) to take life and love to a higher level.

I don’t know if that’s realistic or if I’m just expecting miracles.