Epiblogues: Marriage vs. Motherhood

First of all, thank you for your candid comments to my last post. People responded all over the Internet to the question Heather posed, Wednesday and each response was an eye-opener for me. I got to really thinking about marriage and why I struggled so hard early on. 

I was also taken aback by a commenter questioning my love for Hal because I'll admit to a wandering eye, to struggling with the idea of monogamy (sexually as well as intellectually and spiritually.) I happen to be very honest with myself when it comes to love and the reality of relationships and I've never believed that one person can or should complete me. I certainly don't "complete" Hal or anyone else. Nor do I aim to. Faaaar too much pressure and besides? We are complex individuals with complex needs extending beyond our families and spouses at times. 

It wasn't until Hal and I became honest with each other about our fears and the pressures or married life that we became happy and really honestly fell in love with one another. True story. 

I resented Hal in the beginning of our marriage because I thought he wanted to keep me from my life, taking away my open road and replacing it with a culdesac. No outlet. I resented him far more than I resented Archer for making me a mother.
Being a wife was the reason I felt so alone.

But my loneliness, it seemed was a construct of my own fear. One day I spoke up and everything changed. I had been wrong to feel trapped. I was in nobody's cage but my own. A cage I had likely spent my life and every serious relationship building and breaking down, afraid I might fall under someone's spell. Belong. 

No woman should ever feel trapped in her marriage just like no man should ever feel trapped in his. Our lives are precious, full of opportunities that at times, we must seek out. Otherwise it's too easy to resent our partners, our children and families. I was resenting Hal for the parts of myself I had to sacrifice in order to be with him. The day trips and the daydreams I could no longer pursue... But I could. I can. I know that now. And in retrospect it was insane of me to think otherwise. But I was young and I had never been bound by law to any person and I was scared. Intimidated by "forever."

Over the last two years I've realized that forever means nothing .... that I'm with the man I want to be with as long as our forever lasts. Whether that means five months or five decades. A marriage where windows remain open no matter the weather, and culdesacs are bulldozed through. Where in order to stay true to each other we must first be true to ourselves. Where a healthy love depends on our mutual respect for each other's independence . No cages. No clipped-wings. 

By having no expectations when it comes to happily ever after... We have found true happiness. 

The end. 

GGC

90 comments:

Anonymous | 12:24 PM

amen sister.

April | 12:25 PM

well put.

mames | 12:30 PM

you said it, sister. i think your take on healthy marriage is spot on. i think the best thing about a grounded beautiful relationship is the space and safety is actually provides each individual with, the better to explore our self and find the depths.

and i just love reading here. love it.

Joe | 12:33 PM

It's completely unreasonable to think once we marry we lose our desire to meet, love and connect with others.

Also, I've always posed the question: Is it better to love just one person for the rest of your life or to have a lifetime of true loves that is shared with several people?

I agree with you: Love in the moment!

growingupartists | 12:34 PM

I'm so glad you're talking about all of this, it's hard to find such candid opinions on marriage. I have a different take on keeping options open, however, and not only for the sake of children who depend on stability for their own complete selves.

The true challenge of love, for me, is finding that reflection of your whole self in another person. Getting there together, where all of your needs are met, is a true possiblity.

But resisting any sacrifice whatsoever, I suppose it's one theory. But that same sacrifice can lead you deeper into yourself, to strengths you didn't even know you had. Giving up freedoms on a superficial level, may cause your insides to scream, "noooooo!"

But you may be sacrificing other parts of yourself in the quest to be free. The parts of your whole self you'd integrate, had you not stopped at the emotion of fear.

Toodlicious!

Meg | 12:40 PM

I love the way your mind works!

And you and Hal have a marriage that works for you. One that you love. So don't let commenters try to challenge that.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 12:42 PM

Great points, growingupartists! I totally understand why you would feel that way. To me? It's whatever works, you know? Whatever makes you a better woman, mother, spouse, human being.

Lady K | 12:43 PM

Awesome.
And inspiring words.

Katy | 1:12 PM

Number one- Well put.

Number two- People who chime in to cast judgment or to look down upon another person's life, usually are leading a pretty crappy life themselves, so just ignore them.

I think you are right on in your view for your marriage. I take my relationship one day at a time and truly found happiness when I stopped defining myself through that union.

I love my partner, but I am no asset when I feel trapped, while simultaneously clinging to him.

When I started to see myself for who I am, not who I am with, I became a better partner to him.... In doing that, he became a better partner to me.....


All of the sudden, I didn't feel trapped anymore. I wanted to be there. I wanted to honor our commitment.


Though, I am totally tired of band practice;-)

growingupartists | 1:14 PM

Absolutely, whatever works. It's your journey, right? Just one thought that came to mind...maybe you have yet to grieve the part of you that "didn't get to choose" and so she's holding out for those imagined possibilities.

But then, exploring all those possibilities in real time sure sounds fun. Enjoy!

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 1:18 PM

Katy - EXACTLY. Exactly.

Megan | 1:39 PM

Thanks so much for posting this. My partner and I had only been together for seven months when I got pregnant and all of a sudden we were on this journey we hadn't planned for. You really helped make how I feel clear to me (it's so muddy in my brain sometimes!), and I think I now understand a lot more about how my guy feels too.

Maternal Mirth | 1:43 PM

I was married once and it's a scary thing to think about doing it again. Until I am no longer scared (of cul de sacs and roundabouts), then I will know I can do it successfully.

GREAT POST!

☆Susan☆ | 2:26 PM

I've never read anything that so completely described how I feel about my relationships, with my husband, or otherwise. You completely rock.

Caitlin | 2:38 PM

I seem to be the minority here, but I gather from your blog and the comments that there are many different types of relationships that are right for different types of couples.

What makes my marriage with my husband work is that we enjoy the monogamy and the thought that we will grow old together, happily strolling arm in arm around that cul de sac for years to come.

A relationship isn't a cookie cutter print. No two are the same, and rules should not apply besides the rules that the two of you agree upon--and boo for those who make accusations without understanding!

Mel @ A Box of Chocolates | 2:39 PM

Very well put! I love reading honest and real posts rather than the fluff some people "think" we all want to read. I like you say you and Hal will enjoy "your forever". I'm glad that you have found your happily ever after for now and hope that it continues on.
Mel

M | 2:40 PM

Well said... Those should be the words spoken at the ceremony that makes us that couple or at any dedication of one's love to their partner for now.

Marin | 2:44 PM

Exactly. Also, clearly you aren't committed to Hal or in love with him because you had Fable mere months ago.

Gag. People's lack of sense makes me want to scream.

Molly | 2:50 PM

Rebecca, I'm glad you said this just the way you said it. The last year has been the hardest of my life, and the last few months have been some of the easiest, because I've learned how to say the words "I'm scared" and "I don't think I can handle all of this on my own" to my husband. He's the first person I've ever felt secure enough with to admit what a mess I really feel like sometimes. Our marriage is richer and stronger and better because of it. I feel bad that it took four and a half years of marriage for me to get here.

But we're a work in progress. So maybe it's okay.

Catherine Just | 2:56 PM

This was so well said. Thank you for sharing it. I agree with you on all points. And it makes me feel much more aware of how I choose to blame him for how things look in my life instead of taking responsibility and doing what I want and honoring myself - because I KNOW he already does honor me and my life and desires. No clipped wings here - all in my head sometimes. And with baby coming I am much more aware of those beliefs that come up....

bitemycookie | 3:03 PM

i want to cage you, my pet.

Anonymous | 3:17 PM

I can appreciate everything everyone is saying but since I have the "been there, done that" shirt, I'm gonna add: Please do not have children unless you are absolutely, 100% committed to the child's other parent--with your eye on FOREVER. If you have childen but the marriage doesn't work out, the potential ramifications are not to be taken lightly. My ex re-married 10 years ago and his wife is an absolute witch and has been doing nothing but trying to keep my son from me ever since. Thousands of dollars in legal fees as well as a gazillion tears (as well as TEARS--in my heart) later, my son is finally seeing the light, but our relationship has been irreparably damaged. I never thought it would happen to me, after all I was a good person, and we had a "friendly" divorce!!! So it can happen to anyone. Don't be fooled, no matter how "friendly" your split, your children WILL be affected by having his or her parents separate. Aside from that, on the topic of marriage, I absolutely agree that you cannot expect anyone else to make you happy, just that you are happy with them. And a committed relationship does occasionally (or even, often) require sacrifice and putting your own needs on the back burner. That is not the time to bail my friends, that is an opportunity to make your relationship even stronger. Focus on the other person and your partnership and not yourself and the relationship will be made stronger--win/win. If the above does not sit well with you, then hey, why pretend to be committed. No one says you have to get married, so don't do it unless you are willing to embrace all aspects that come with marriage. OK I will get off MY soapbox now, and yes I've learned the hard way myself....Here's to love in all it's many forms!

Anonymous | 3:53 PM

I love the way you write, Rebecca. I'm glad that you clarified your relationship with Hal and it just makes so much sense to me. My partner and I are going to have a baby in the summer. We aren't married and I am actually okay with that for the time being. It's more important to me that we are really committed to one another and our child. If we can fit in a wedding celebration in there and if feels right, so be it. Here's to no expectations!!

Shan | 3:58 PM

At a friend's wedding recently, her mother stood up to make a speech about her own 30 year marriage, saying, "Loving your father is a choice I make every day." I think it not only expressed that a relationship is something you have to work at every day, but it also reminds you that you always have that choice... And you should choose to be happy, no matter what that means you need to do.

Julie | 4:03 PM

Thanks, GGC.

As a woman getting married in 9 months and change, I sometimes stuggle with this. This thought and idea is so taboo in our world. I've come to accept that I'm going to be the best wife I can be for us, but just as importantly, me.

Jenn @ There's Your Karma | 4:06 PM

It's nice to read someone who "gets it." I'm going to echo that sentiment with an *air fist pump*.

Amber | 4:14 PM

this is bang on, rebecca.

people look at me like i'm crazy when i say that about marriage too, but you know what, it works for us. we're getting married in october after 6.5 years together. in those 6.5 years we've lived together and apart (on different continents apart) more than once, we've traveled together and alone, we've been inseparable at times and wanted nothing to do with each other at times. this is all ok.

we don't need each other, we want each other. and one day, we might wake up and not want to say "yes" to this anymore and that's ok too. forever has never been my goal. this whole idea that if it's not forever means you've failed is so damaging and ridiculous.

totally with you on the monogamy thing as well, to put it mildly.

to be blunt, i just think most people are way too insecure in either themselves or their relationships (or both) to understand a lot of what you've said here and therefore jump to the "you don't really love him" conclusion. i get that too and it infuriates me. our relationship is healthy and we have a very mature, i guess you could call it, outlook on it. we've been together a long time, we're best friends above all else, we have complete respect and trust, but don't assume that what trust means to you (general you) is what it means to us. ya know what i mean?

anyway, just wanted to say i totally get it. here's to young couples breaking the mold and doing it for themselves, because yes, we can have it all. you two are living proof and so are we.

rock on.

Amber | 4:17 PM

just read katy's comment:

"I love my partner, but I am no asset when I feel trapped, while simultaneously clinging to him."

and just, YES. you have summed up the first couple of years we lived together in one sentence. i didn't figure this out until we moved apart (different provinces) for a year. best thing we ever did.

Ms. SIngle Mama | 4:19 PM

You have an incredibly refreshing view on marriage... and your open mind (releasing yourself from that forever) is probably why you and Hal have such an amazing relationship.

Thank you.

Haley-O | 4:35 PM

I totally agree. You have to take marriage one day at a time and REALIZE that it takes work. That's why I found this whole "momversation" really interesting. I spoke to friends about it, etc., and I realized that EVERYONE finds marriage challenging (as challenging as motherhood!). I never thought of it as something I have to work at. But, EVERYONE needs to work at it -- at respecting your spouse and staying true to yourself and your own individual growth within the marriage and beyond.

Brooke | 4:43 PM

You have the wisdom of a woman at least three times your age.

Anonymous | 4:59 PM

oh yeah. when i got with my baby's daddy (that just makes me laugh!) i needed everything he had to offer. stability, old fashioned morals and someone who followed me around all day. he believes bars are for single people and loves to sit home every night. after 8 years i have become more secure and confident in myself and our relationship. there was a point where i felt trapped and smothered because he didn't want me to go out without him and still followed me around the house and wanted to sit home every night. the problem is NOT him. he hasn't changed one bit. i have. we fought, i rebelled, i gave in (and so on...for miles..), we fought some more, didn't think we'd make it, etc....we are still together but only because he became accepting of the person i've grown to be. he needed to be reminded that fell in love with my free spirit so many years ago and without that i am not the person either one of us wants.
we are so much better now that i don't feel so confined. i am free to love him, not forced to love him.

Anonymous | 5:00 PM

jjlibra

sweetsalty kate | 5:44 PM

Absolutely stunned. Rebecca, you have renewed my sense of value of this entire THING, this blogging. This is stuff that I absolutely cannot acknowledge with people invested in me/us - friends, family - especially since my husband is irritatingly perfect. Drives me crazy, though. The f*cking halo gets in the way. And yet... yet. I wake up, 36 years old and claustrophobic and content and fretting all at once.

And so to see this here...
"I'll admit to a wandering eye, to struggling with the idea of monogamy (sexually as well as intellectually and spiritually.)"

It's a shock how much it resonates. There's something anarchistic and upside-down about it (in the context of my world view) - and yet it's comforting and calming.

And holy crap Amber. Wanna hook up? I think I just fell in love with you. Well. Right after I fell in love with Rebecca. Off to check on the viability or extra-marital lesbian polyamory and I'll get back to you.

EdenSky | 5:45 PM

Yes, just...YES. Exactly like that. I don't know how you manage to understand my thoughts and express them more eloquently than I ever could, but thanks for that.
I too was unable to let myself really love until I got over the whole "trapped" thing, which turned out to be all in my own head.
My partner does not complete me, neither do my children. Not expecting them to do so is what allows me to hold my head up and feel proud of myself as an individual, a person in my own right. The labels of mother, partner, daughter etc. are all parts of who I am, but they are not all that I am. I think a healthy relationship requires 2 people who understand this and are willing to be there for each other and love each other without expecting to be the only important thing in each other's lives.

kittenpie | 6:14 PM

This might be part of why I never found it hard - we had a long-distance relationship for the first nine years of us, the first four years of our marriage, which gave me LOTS of freedom. And when he did start being home, I wanted to be with him more because I never had, but we also try to give each other time for ourselves when we can. Perhaps that all helped it seem less constrictive?

Anonymous | 6:16 PM

Wow. Thank you for the little bit of amazingness I'll be reading over and over again!

Karen | 6:44 PM

I'll admit to being confused at first by the notion of "struggling with monogamy."

My first thought was, "what's to struggle with?" You want it or you don't. You choose it or you don't. Yes, there's a sacrifice. We are complex people with complex needs and there is a big world out there with many paths for us to satisfy our needs and wants. But monogamy is one of those paths and offers its own benefits.

So after some thought, I realised that one possible struggle is in weighing the pros and cons of monogamy before committing to it. For me, the pros vastly outweigh the cons but clearly there must be people for whom the scale is a lot more even.

I suppose another possible struggle is in finding a definition of monogamy that is satisfactory for both partners. For one example, I do not think that it is non-monogamous to have a private conversation or casual friendship with some who attracts me or with whom I find a sexual charge. But I wouldn't talk about sex with that same person.

Pornography is another grey area for many couples, especially solo use of pornography. I can't decide whether I consider using pornography as non-monogamy. I can't see past its antifeminism to consider it a valid form of sexual expression/satisfaction. Homemade porn is a totally different matter. Yes, I'm sure that there is some "fair trade" commercial pornography out there, the same way there's fair trade coffee but I think enough of it is crap and exploitative that I'll happily write off the whole lot of it.

One thing I am even more opinionated about is the idea of the biological imperative against monogamy. Total cop-out IMHO. I have fight-or-flight insticts that make it "unnatural" for me to refrain from hitting someone who angers/threatens me. And yet, I CHOOSE whether or not to hit and I CHOOSE whether or not to have sex.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 6:54 PM

Interesting thought re: porn (which I can totally get behind. Pun very much intended.)

I wonder how you can call porn exploitive when women personally choose to partake in it? I never understood that. Would love to hear your take, Karen.

Kim | 7:12 PM

Rebecca, you said what a lot of wish that we could have (at least when I was married). I wanted and expected the moon yet I felt like I had to give everything up.

You are doing a great job. Your blog gives me a lot of strength.

Hugs mama,
Kim

tlf | 7:13 PM

who rocks?
rebecca rocks, that's who.
i cannot write anywhere near as eloquently as u or the posts here but EVERYTIME i read ur posts i want to remind u how cool u r. how real u r. how brave u r. i usually write 7th grade stuff like "go away "anonymous"! guess what, we love ggc here, we happen to think she fucking rocks." ....keep doing what u do, u help so many of us out here. hal, archer and fable are so blessed to have u. xoxo, tlf

Amber | 7:26 PM

kate: your place or mine? lol

and rebecca, my thoughts exactly on porn. you read my mind i swear, only you spit it out a lot more eloquently than i do.

as long as it (being porn or anything else) happens between consenting adults i really couldn't care less what goes on in people's bedrooms. or computers. as the case may be.

the "porn is anti-feminist" movement is being dangerously reductive, i think. especially when you consider the reclamation and re-appropriation of not only the terminology, but the acts themselves. is the dominatrix being exploited? i mean, really? and those who support that notion will say, "yes she's using her body to get what she wants when she should be using her brain", but why "should" she do anything? i suppose the professional athletes should find another job... bodies are not for profit.

women have taken back so many labels that one could define as damaging/patriarchal/hetero-normative, not the least of which are "wife" and "mother". the idea of being a wife was so repulsive to me until very recently, not because i didn't want the relationship, but because i struggled to allow myself to be defined by something that, to me, had been (and continued to be in so many cases) synonymous with "maid" "property" "stay home and sell your dreams to the highest bidder to pay for your husband's cigars" (ok, i'm getting sarcastic), but wife doesn't have to be those things. wife can be "partner" "friend" "lover" "girlfriend" "me".

when brian and i get married in october we won't be two people becoming one. we'll be two people who are now allowed to be on the same dental insurance. the paperwork doesn't change who we are.

i struggle with monogamy too, in a big way. hence we're a little alternative in our relationship right now. we're constantly reevaluating and doing what works best for us in the moment. i'm moving towards a place of desired monogamy for the fist time in my life, i'm not sure if that's a result of the wedding and all the mental and emotional work i've been doing to prepare for it or not, but i'm getting closer to a place where i feel content with it for the first
time ever.

/hijack

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 7:32 PM

Amber - Please! Hijack away! Love what you wrote. Totally agree. Want to kiss your face. I think many women find it shocking that sex to some is NOT about anything other than sex.

Men? Are never questioned as being "exploited" in porn or anywhere else for that matter! What's the difference between a man having sex on camera? Why must women be the "exploited, taken advantage of" sex?

Amber | 8:04 PM

"there is nothing inherently special about sex, sex in and of itself is just sex" is my mantra in life.

can i throw some critical film theory up in here? (yay using my degree for once!)

you asked, "What's the difference between a man having sex on camera [and a woman having sex on camera]?"

most feminist thinkers would argue along the lines of laura mulvey's concept of the "male gaze" essentially, the men are behind the camera, the men are watching the women, the women are being watched. therefore, the men have the active role and the women have the passive role. the audience looks at the woman through the camera (through the male gaze) and therefore only sees the experience from the man's perspective. and when the woman watches herself on film she too is only allowed to see herself through the male gaze and is therefore denied self identification. this is the essence of patriarchy.

anyway, i agree with the theory, but i think it's far from universal at this point, plenty of female directors out there, porno or not. ;)

vertigobcooks | 8:22 PM

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

The way you felt about marriage is the way I felt about parenthood. The simple act of getting the kids dressed, de-pooped, de-spit upped, fed, buckled into car seats, etc. made me tired. There are days when it still does. But I have found that by simply looking at their little faces in a different way, looking at my caring from them in a different way, loving them rather than resenting them for changing my life. I realize now that the changes are lovely, amazing, yes life altering, but in a good way, changes. Man, am I lucky? I have an almost three year old that loves cars with a passion that is charming. I have an 8 month old that is beautiful and funny in her own specific, completely unique way. My mistake was not recognizing the simple loveliness in every moment, even the challenging ones, of being lucky enough to be someone's parent.

Thank you again for being so willing to say things that most of us are only willing to think.

Rachael | 8:26 PM

What a great post. Marriage is not the same thing for everything. The main thing that's REALLY important in a marriage is that both parties agree on what THEIR marriage is to them. If it works for you, it works for you - why should anyone else have anything to say about it?

Karen | 8:26 PM

I never said (or thought) that pornography was exploitive only for the women involved. I'm certainly no expert but I imagine that many of those involved - men and women - are in some way vulnerable (limitted economic opportunities, education, addiction....)

Indeed, I really think feminism is about improving the world for everyone, not just for women. For example, I think that one of the biggest remaining challenges of the "inequality" of the sexes is that men are not "allowed" to participate fully in the family and in other relationships. Women's educational and economic opportunities have grown faster than men's domestic and emotional opportunities have grown. Certainly there are differences in the nature of the barriers to opportunity, i.e., systemic versus attitudinal. I am certainly not suggesting that feminism's work for improving the lives of women is anywhere close to done. I am saying that men are also suffering the consequences of inequality.

I am normally loath to recommend her writing because I think she goes too far and writes too intemperately but... Naomi Wolf does make some interesting points in The Beauty Myth about the damaging effect of pornography on wider society's view of normal and healthy sexuality. I haven't read it in a while, but I also think it addresses the exploitation issue directly. I don't think she's an expert either but she's looked into it much more than I have.

Amber | 8:40 PM

here's a question, do you think it's more about inequality or inequity? where equality is essentially defined as two things/people being the same/of the same value and equity is essentially defined as two people having the same opportunities?

i think this one of the biggest differences between second and third wave feminism, and one of the reasons a lot of feminists argue amongst themselves about what the movement actually is.

Anonymous | 8:53 PM

I agree. A marriage is bigger than two people. If you expect one person to fulfill all of your needs that have previously been filled by many, you will only set yourself up for disappointment, and a lot of arguments.

EdenSky | 9:12 PM
This comment has been removed by the author.
EdenSky | 9:15 PM

EdenSky said...
I should think that the pron industry, like any other, has more than one side. People of both sexes are exploited by others at difficult times in their lives when they might have made other decisions under different circumstances. At the same time, intelligent people of both sexes make the decision to profit from their sexuality and make careers of it. In either case, to return to the original idea...How is watching porn failing to be monogamous? If my partner wants to watch consenting adults, who he will never have any real contact with have sex, I don't really have any problem with that. He is a big boy and learned years ago that things that happen on television are not actually real. By that same reasoning we have both seen strippers (together and separately)and gone out clubbing to flirt and dance with strangers (again, together as well as separately) To me it's all one and the same. Fantasy. A game that actually brings us closer. If I go out with my girlfriends and a guy hits on me I feel good. It's nice to know that someone else in the world finds me attractive. If I come home and find my guy has been watching porn, well, neither one of us has had any kind of physical sexual contact with another person, but we both feel sexy and use that spark together. We appreciate each others sexuality, but I would still consider this to be entirely faithful. We both know who we are going to be with at the end of the night and (at this point in our lives) we wouldn't want to be with anyone else.

Days like These! | 10:26 PM

I've always appreciated your honesty!

Karen | 4:12 AM

You guys are dragging me in way over my head.

Amber: re inequality and inequity. Your question makes my head spin. How can the two be separated? Chicken and egg to me. If "society" believes that two people are equal, will it not provide them with the same opportunities? If two "equal" people are given the same opportunities, will the not derive and contribute equal benefits to/from society, and therefore, be judged equal by society?

Amber: Is the male gaze an equality or equity argument?

EdenSky: Re fantasy. I think the jist of Wolf argument is something like this. We all adults who recognise that luxury car commercials are just fantasy, that they can't "make us" want cars or buy cars. But clearly many people do, more than enough to pay for the advertising. The marketing is pervasive and creates and changes demand. Similarly, pornography creates demand for casual sex and impossibly built and brushed partners, thereby having manipulated men's natural and healthy sexual instincts and undermining the value of women's healthy sexuality and bodies.

re porn and monogamy: As I originally said, I never get that far because the porn itself is a problem for me, not whether or not it undermines monogamy. I also think it's a grey area for lots of couples because some people may use pornography as a substitute for "marital" activity, not a supplement for desire.

Hilary | 5:53 AM

Thanks for being so honest. I have SO MUCH respect for you and Hal and the way you choose to raise your (gorgeous, omg!) children. The haters are clearly just jealous. Too bad for them.

Sarah | 8:00 AM

LOVE this! It completely sums up my relationship w/ my husband, and actually feels "safer" to me than "forever". It allows us the freedom to love each other and - more importantly - ourselves.

Sarah S/C | 8:46 AM

I am going to completely skip over the whole porn tangent and go straight to this: I think you should ignore that commenter. What matters in each marriage is whether or not the marriage works for the two people involved in it, and that is all. A marriage is a very flexible arrangement, as flexible as those two people allow it or choose for it to be, and by definition a very private affair (as only two people ultimately experience each marriage, regardless of the number of people who come in contact with the marriage or an individual representative of that marriage), so what works for you works for you and that’s all that matters.

Personally, I have never found monogamy to be a struggle and I have never considered my marriage to be anything less than liberating. My marriage has been remarkably simple thus far and honestly, marriage has come very easily to both of us. It would be ridiculous for me to presume that I could even begin to understand your marriage because mine has been such a mirror opposite of your own. And I figure that if I can come to that point, to the point where I say “well, monogamy is easy peasy for me, but WHAT THE HELL DO I KNOW ABOUT YOU OR YOUR MARRIAGE?” then surely other people should be able to as well. Surely, that lone wolf commenter’s query about your loyalty or love for your husband based on the disclosure that you view monogamy differently than they do should not be considered valuable input. At all.

Congratulations on finding a happy balance in your marriage. In the end, if both of you are satisfied with the relationship you have created and nurtured together, there isn’t anything else that matters.

E-Lo | 9:12 AM

You're so right. What's the big deal about checking out other dudes? I know for a fact that my husband checks out other chicks - and sometimes tells me about it. And as for the commenters in the last post saying you need validation - what the hell is wrong with that? Sure, when a guys hits on me, I feel great. There's nothing wrong with that kind of gratification... what's so terrible about someone else making you feel good? It's the same as taking a compliment on your shoes from a woman. It's not like I'm going to jump on the first guy that hits on me and take off. My marriage means the world to me, but you're right - my husband can't fulfill all of my needs - that would be asking waaaaay too much.

Great topic!

Karen | 9:28 AM

Sarah S/C: I'm sorry about the porn tangent but in my defense

1- I was just giving an example of your point exactly - whatever works for the two people. My example was porn might need to be negociated.

2- GGC herself ASKED me to elaborate.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 10:06 AM

No apologies, Karen! I absolutely value your opinion and think this is a really interesting topic. I've always had issues with "feminism" because it puts women into the same category. "WOMEN." I have never related to the stereotypical sexual woman, and I know I'm not alone. Some women don't equate sex and love. Some women don't think of monogamy as "secure" and some women get off on watching other people have sex. In fact MANY women do.

I have never felt like a victim and it's interesting to me that so many women feel the need to stick up for their "sisters" when their sisters don't necessarily want the same things.

I guess I'm an individualist more than a feminist. Or as Nin calls herself, "a humanist." I believe we should speak out for ourselves as HUMANS, not as "men" and/or "women"... especially when in these modern times, the lines are beginning to blur in terms of social-economics. Women, in my opinion dominate men FAAAAR more than men dominate women these days... At least from where I stand and what my experiences have been with both sexes (and in my own skin).

It drives me crazy that so many women raise their daughters afraid of our sons and in terms of sex? I also never related to feeling exploited or viewing women who CHOOSE to take off their tops (pants, etc) for cameras "exploited" either.

I wholeheartedly disagree with Wolf. (Woolf vs Wolf round 1!) I think fantasies unlock a lot of our hidden truths and FAAAAAR too many people are pent up because they fear their own fantasies. Porn, I think plays an active role in a healthy sex life for women who aren't threatened by it. And as far as the nature of the business? You would be shocked at how professional the business is. It isn't an industry of crack-whores and the men who love them. Not even close.

You say:

"pornography creates demand for casual sex and impossibly built and brushed partners, thereby having manipulated men's natural and healthy sexual instincts and undermining the value of women's healthy sexuality and bodies."

I think the mind has FAAAAAR kinkier shit going on within its walls than any off-the-shelf porno flick. ;)I know mine does.

I also think that what's a healthy sexual instinct for me is very different from yours, etc. We are all individuals and like you said, whatever works for two people.

It's all about choice. INDIVIDUAL choice and I hope feminism has a fifth wave coming up around the bend that explores the importance of SELF instead of trying to herd women into categories like cattle. I know I don't want anybody but ME speaking for me as a woman.

All women are not created equal nor should we be.

Anyway! Thank you, Karen and everybody else for this discussion. I think its totally fascinating and eye-opening to hear from all perspectives on the matter.

Meg | 10:49 AM

Woooow boy.

re Porn: I was raised in a family where porn was tabboo, the body was a temple, yadda yadda yadda. When I first met my husband, he was very forward with the fact that he enjoyed porn. Because of the simple fact that he was honest with me, it opened my eyes. I started to look at porn and it became something we could enjoy together. It also helped us to be monogamous by fantasizing. We have used porn as foreplay so that I could imagine being with another man or even a woman and he could fantasize about other women or about acts that were performed. Having sex after porn can be erotic, passionate, and freeing. It enables us as a married couple to step outside the box, yet still remain physically faithful.

re Feminism: I've always hated the term. Along with Rebecca, I feel that it puts women into a category. We are all different women. Some strive to be equal to males, some strive to take care of their men by staying home and cooking. Whatever. But I don't think you can classify porn and feminism in the same category. After all, men and women have some pretty equal rights IN porn!

My 2 cents. This discussion is fun.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 10:57 AM

True that. Couldn't agree more. Thank you for sharing!

bluejeanamy | 11:21 AM

woo-eee, good discussion.

a little unusual, but porn was the way I broached the whole I-find-girls-attractive-too discussion with my husband. It’s super accepted/embraced in the porn world, and so watching/enjoying together was a great way to un-self-consciously open up a part of myself/my sexuality with the hubs.

now we check out chicks together like it’s no thing - it’s definitely brought us closer and brought some extra spice to things, too… :)

sarah | 12:09 PM

See I get this. I get that love is a choice and that we must choose to love the person next to us every. single. day. I get all that.

But oh, I SO sincerely hope to find someone that wants to be in the trenches with me. A person who can look at me after the epic relational mistakes that I will (inevitably) make and still say "Let's figure this thing out." To me that's what a commitment to be monogamous implies. A partnership where neither is looking for an out, because both are equally willing to do the work necessary to stay in it. That said, I don't think choosing to be monogomous requires that you sacrifice your individual identities. Or that alternatively, choosing to only embrace the "now" better allows for those individuals to better express themselves. Maybe I'm missing the point?

As a complete aside, you write beautifully.

Amanda S. | 12:32 PM

Hehe...

I don't mind porn at all, and watch it every now and again. What kind irritates me though, is that the women in porn are a all the same! I don't mind my fiance watching porn, but it aggravates me that all he's exposed (pun unavoidable) to is a bunch of blonde haired, fake boobed, coked out fakes! Not ALL porn is like this, but A LOT of it is.

I wish they had equally erotic and dirty indie girl porn.

I want to see Gael Garcia Bernal and Diablo Cody (although her cred is questionable these days) go at it! AND I want Queens Of The Stone Age to do the background music (QOTSA makes some good shit to get dirty too). Fuck Kenny G.

Is this too much to ask?!


Just had to get that off my chest.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 12:45 PM

Sarah. I totally agree with you -- it isn't the "monogamy" that I have issues with so much as the idea that marriage is a place where two people can't or aren't supposed to color outside the lines. I think a lot of relationships are built on unrealistic expectations and to expect one's partner to go against their dreams or instincts (regardless of what they are) isn't (for us as a couple) a happy or healthy life.

Our happiness comes from the fact that we both agree to NEVER hold one another back from any experiences, fantasies, potential life lessons, childhood dreams.

Just livin' my crappy life, bein' judgmental | 1:01 PM

I suppose it's the ultimate compliment then, when neither of you choose to color outside of the lines. Or does that not even factor into the equation. Is coloring outside of the lines expected, and agreed upon?

I've only heard from Hal in the one Momversation video, and I intuit him to be less of a free-spirit (I'm probably wrong). He seems devoted to supporting you, and his family. Why did you guys get married anyway? Wouldn't it be less complicated to just date semi-exclusively?

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 1:04 PM

That's the whole point (and the point of this post) ... We don't NEED to color outside the lines because we don't HAVE to stay within them.

She Likes Purple | 1:27 PM

Bec, my mind is spinning with all I want to add/comment on (I may just have to write my own post, you know?) but I just want to say, your readers and comments section are the best on the Internet. So many intelligent people talking about important things.

And, I'm totally quoting you with this line: "We don't need to color outside the lines because we don't have to stay within them."

Zeynep | 2:29 PM

Ever since I was a kid, dreamy eyed with thoughts of a gorgeous wedding and an overwhelming desire for an everlasting love, my very very wise mother said, "always leave a part of your heart out for someone other than your husband cuz you never know when a pot will fall of someone's windowsill on your head and the guy who comes to get you an ambulance could be the one who could love you more." She shattered my dreams yet at the same time paved the way for the most unimaginative proposal answer, 14 years ago:

Husband: will you marry me?
Z: sure. If it doesn't work out we can love other people, though.

ps.: we still hold hands when we are walking. And I love him to bits.

Anonymous | 3:03 PM

Rebecca~

I have enjoyed reading your post and the comments that followed (as always). I agree with She Likes Purple, I've been a lot of places on the internet, and what you have here is pretty special.

Peace~
Karen

Baby in Broad | 3:12 PM

First off, I'm fascinated that we got from having different relationships to marriage to discussing porn, and whether or not it's oppressing or exploiting people. Awesome.

This REALLY resonated with me: "I was resenting Hal for the parts of myself I had to sacrifice in order to be with him." I felt the same way. Sometimes I still do, actually, and I remind myself that it's all about me--not him. I'm still me. I just happen to be married to this guy, and we have a baby. But being married doesn't make my dreams, desires, likes and dislikes go away overnight. They may change, or the priorities may change, but that's about me.

Making a change that wounds the essence of YOU (or sacrificing something unwillingly) because you think that's what you're supposed to do to be a "good wife/husband"? Sucks. And not at ALL what a good partnership is about, in my opinion.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 3:32 PM

You're absolutely right, Karen and SLP, I'm so lucky. Truly. I have the best readers (and comMENTORs) ever.

Amber | 4:28 PM

i <3 this discussion! can't say more b/c i'll wake up boy with my typing.
:)

Harmony | 7:22 PM

Wow, what a timely post. This is something that has been discussed to death by my husband and I the last couple of months, well not only months, but since we first became a couple. Monogamy is something that we both have issues with, we have always been very open with our fantasies. However, right now I'm majorly crushing on a guy who works at Trader Joe's (the TJ's in Toluca Lake has so many hot guys) while he's going to college. He's crushing on me too and I'm feeling the burn of being in a pretty monogamous marriage (I did have a girlfriend for a little while a few years ago, but my husband ok'd that). My husband is not happy with this crush and has become more possessive of me. Now monogamy totally works for him and he doesn't want it any other way. We are still working through things and really one of the best aspects of our relationship is that we can be totally honest with each other and really work through issues we have.

Anyway, I'm commenting because your honesty is refreshing. And it's really comforting to know that I'm not alone.

MePlusMyThree | 8:21 PM

My husband and I have been together 15 years and I both agree and disagree with your sentiments.

I agree that it is unreasonable to expect that for the rest of my forever, I will never be attracted to another man. Marriage is not a perfect bed of roses just as motherhood is not rocking your baby in a chair while sunlight streams in through yonder window. Yes I have found myself attracted to other men but my loyalty lies with my husband.

Marriage is messy and hard and wonderful and passionate and hard - in our years together I have loved my husband, lusted after him, and sometimes even hated him. Often all at the same time. If a man had caught my eye during one of our lowpoints and I had thrown away our marriage on the idea that our relationship had reached its "sunset" - oh what I would have missed!!

My husband and I have history together. We have grown into adulthood and parenthood together, we have mourned family members, stood by our children's hospital beds praying for miracles. We have held each other hands, kissed foreheads and boo boos, read books, taken road trips, gone into debt and gotten out of debt. We have shouted and fucked and loved and listened. We know each others eccentric faults and love each other anyway.

Too many people don't honor the history that they have with someone. Too often they surrender to this amorphous idea of happiness and fail to realize the joy (and happiness) that comes from perservering through the "sunset" and watching the dawn together.

MePlusMyThree | 8:45 PM

And before anyone says anything I realize that it is up to the two people getting married to determine their own marriage and how they are going to define it.

I just get frustrated when I see this *shrugging shoulders* "oh well if it doesn't work we will get divorced" apathy.

Some marriages just aren't going to work but I think so many people miss the truly amazing possibilities in their marriage because it is so easy and so accepted to just throw in the towel.

Hannah | 10:00 PM

I am really enjoying reading these last two post of yours, as well as the comments, GGC. I am getting married on Sunday and am really looking forward to it. I do know that a "happily ever after" marriage doesn't exist, and that it will always require work and compromise. I am really happy to hear that so many people were able to get through rough patches and make things work.

Sarah S/C | 9:30 AM

Karen, please please PLEASE don’t think I was skipping over the porn tangent as some sort of slight to you. I was just skipping over it because I knew if I started talking about porn (home-baked or otherwise) and third-wave feminism then talked about monogamy, my comment would be the full length of War and Peace. As well, the porn tangent here was my college thesis, and as such I’ve already talked more about porn than any reasonable person ever should. I’m pretty convinced there’s no end to that topic. That’s all. I wasn’t at all skipping over it to be rude!

Ms. Single Mama | 10:14 AM

Was totally inspired by this discussion so I linked to you from my blogging gig at WeTV.com...

http://www.wetv.com/blogs/mama-drama/2009/01/is-your-marriage-a-cage.html

The porn conversation is interesting. As a single mom all of this is fascinating me actually. Single parenthood is on the rise - dramatically - but in my experience it's the men who leave, not the women.

I'm an exception. I left before he ruined me.

I think the key to this discussion is that each and every mother and woman needs to know who she is first and be able to communicate that with a trusting spouse.

writebrite | 10:37 AM

I finally found actual love (after two failed marriages) in a with my Mr. W. Our relationship began with absolutely no expectations due to our own personal baggage and fear of a third disaster on both sides. Somehow that "no expectations" thing was the key and we bloomed into something I never knew existed. It amazes me every day that I can feel this way...no expectations, 100% honesty without fear, and honest-to-goodness LOVE, the way we were (brainwashed) lovingly taught it should be as little girls.

mylittlebecky | 2:50 PM

i really appreciate your openess... sometimes i can tell my boyfriend feels the same way. it's good to see "the other side." i think almost everyone is afraid of forever.

Anonymous | 6:00 PM

Wow. Thank you. Thank you for speaking candidly and being completely open. I have been struggling with what sounds like are very similar to what you felt in the beginning years of your marriage. I'm a little over 2 years in and we have only been together for about 3 and a half in total. In the beginning (year one) I was ecstatic and in love and birds were chirping over my head. Suddenly, I feel trapped, and so so so lonely. I can't get away from it. He's so wonderful and sweet, but I just feel so closed off to everybody. I know I should probably be a) happy my husband is a total love and happy I'm married to a wonderful man or b) be talking to a therapist, but for now, your blog has helped me really think about my feelings and be honest with myself. Thank you.

Storked!GOTRattled! | 6:07 PM

Hey Bec,

Beautiful.

EdenSky | 9:06 PM

Wow, Thanks Karen for responding to me before. I love opposing viewpoints from interesting and intelligent people! and Thanks GGC for giving us the opportunity to get days worth of entertaining debate out of one blog post!

Katy | 7:24 AM

I don't think there should be lines to stay in or out of, at all in a marriage. A commitment between two people is custom fit for those two people. Some couples find that being totally monogamous works. Some are polyamorous, some swing, etc etc..

The decision is up to the couple. It is not right for a person outside of this union to judge what works for a certain couple.

All couples are special, little snowflakes... no two are alike :-)

***major dork points***

Also, to Being Judgemental:

I think if you read the well written comments here, you will see that not everyone agrees with GGC's viewpoint, but they are able to remain respectful, without being insulting.

I think for some homework, you should do some deep, self examination and ask yourself this question: "What do I really gain by anonymously putting people down, whom I don't know in person, on the internet? How does this benefit my life and happiness?"

I am really starting to feel pity for these grand, saints of the internet. If only we all could be so chaste and righteous.

Amy E. | 7:31 AM

It's so nice to find a story that parallels my own so closely. 21, pregnant, quickly married and totally in over my head. We to found that once we quit trying to pretend that it was all a fairy tale, things were much, much easier. This post eloquently put into words what I haven't been able to. Thanks!

Jessica | 7:58 AM

Thank you for posting this. I've been depressed and feeling trapped in my own marriage for sometime. I think maybe you have inspired me to change my thinking. Thank you!!

Anne | 9:31 AM

Long-time reader delurking to say thank you, thank you, thank you for your honesty. A breath of fresh air. Congratulations on that hard-won happiness!

JessicaToday | 4:18 PM

I truly LOVE reading your words.

Rock It | 9:36 PM

ok so i have to keep saying it i love love love your blog. i had never seen it that way...i always always have felt restricted in every single one of my relationships...and its true we build our own cage (in some cases...not all). i saw things the same way... and maybe it is age but i think also our spirit is free. and so anything resembling a cage...i.e. marriage seems terrible...but maybe its all in our minds....thanks...love your blog