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 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.