...like a horse and carriage, what's all the fuss? People love. They want to marry. It's a no-brainer for a lot of us, but what about the small fraction who insist upon marriage meaning solely a legally sanctioned relationship between a man and a woman?
Being blessed to live in Massachusetts, I am lawfully wedded to a person whose gender chromosomes map out XX, and not XY. Massachusetts is known for its liberality--for which I am extraordinarily grateful. Friends of mine have been in the forefront of the fight, and I do mean fight, for marriage equality. (You will note I did not write gay marriage. All marriages, even between chromosomally similar folk, are not gay.)
In any case, I began to wonder about the history of marriage and how we got into the pickle we're in socially. Two books have inspired me. The first is "Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy or How Love Conquered Marriage" by Stephanie Coontz. The other is "Love Between Equals: How Peer Marriage Really Works"by Pepper Schwartz.
Marriage hasn't always been the way we seem to think it has. We baby boomers have this idea that it has always been Ozzie and Harriet forever. Au contraire! In fact, O & H enjoyed about 12 years of supremacy and pfft! It was over. That small fraction faction is clinging to an ideal that has not ever been even close to forever.
In fact, marriage was originally about politics and borders and power, and had nothing to do with anything even resembling love or intimacy. Sure, children resulted, but they resulted from duty and duty alone. It's only in the last two centuries that love was even a consideration. Here's what the publisher says about the book on Amazon.com:
Marriage has never been more fragile. But the same things that have made it so have also made a good marriage more fulfilling than ever before. In this enlightening and hugely entertaining book, historian and marriage expert Stephanie Coontz takes readers from the marital intrigues of ancient Babylon to the sexual torments of Victorian couples to demonstrate how recent the idea of marrying for love is--and how absurd it would have seemed to most of our ancestors. It was only 200 years ago that marriage began to be about love and emotional commitment, and since then the very things that have strengthened marriage as a personal relationship have steadily weakened it as a social institution.
Marriage? A weak social institution? Well, sure. Everyone knows that half the marriages made in America end in divorce. It was Coontz' powerfully drawn history that made me look elsewhere for a model of healthy marriage--gay or straight or anywhere in between. Enter sociologist Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., and peer marriage.
What, I wondered, is peer marriage? And do we want it? Certainly in a household like ours which neither bears nor rears children, peer marriage sounds like a good bet. And it is, if, and that's a big if, if we can dig ourselves out from under Ozzie, Harriet and the unconscious expectations instilled in us from our own parents' marriages.
It's Archeology 101, my friend. Really. Truly. Madly. Deeply. Digging isn't the half of it. That's why I so welcomed the concept of peer marriage--marriage between equals. Dr. Schwartz guides us into processes of becoming conscious about what we want in marriage and how we might get it. She looks at the 'provider role' in traditional marriage and busts it. She looks at household responsibilities. She looks at priorities plain and simple.
So here's the simple truth: marriage, as it is today and as it ever was or will be, isn't simple. It isn't easy either. But it is worth it. At this point in our lives, we have a horseless carriage, and a lively, demanding love-filled marriage.
To that small fraction, I say, I'm sorry you're so scared about your own marriages, and I invite you to consider the wisdom of Stephanie Coontz and Pepper Schwartz.
Follow Dr. Susan Corso on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PeaceCorso