Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Goldilocks of Marriage

Last Friday night in Portland, Jay and I ended the evening sitting with my brother-in-law, my sister discussing life, marriage and all sorts of things on their puffy couches. One thing that the four of us have in common is that we all have divorced parents ("four" might be strong as my sister and I obviously have the same set of parents but LAY OFF ME I'M STARVING). The acknowledgment of that fact brought forth stories of how awful it was to witness one's parents' separation - no matter the varied ages involved between all of us. It's a rough a$$ chapter and can be described as nothing short of a death you experience. The death of the family you knew. The death of both of your parents ever sleeping in the same house again (that's a big one as a kid and it literallllly changes overnight, pun intended). The death of not feeling guilty because you all were with one parent over the other and you wondered if the other was lonely. A lot of finalities come along with the dissolution of the nuclear family unit, none of which are a cakewalk in the beginning. None. Well, except for the fact that you get to eat a lot of junk food until your dad figures out how to grocery shop again. 
Before I go on, I feel inclined to say that despite all of that - I am happy with my parents and their separation. When they broke up, all I could ask my 11-year-old self was "WHY would they ever divorce?" Now it's hard to see how they were ever married. They are completely different people who live their life and handle events so differently. For that reason in the long run, their divorce was wise. Being unhappy forever shouldn't be a viable option either. Thankfully, my parents are still good friends and family events are still family events that include all of my parental units. We are a bigger, happier family. Phew (because I don't know how I could handle it if they were not). Same with Jay. He has an amazing set of stepparents, two wonderfully different homes to visit when we're in Ashland and a plethora of awesome stepsiblings who we love immensely. And we both were touched when we looked over at our wedding to see his dad and mom, parted in marriage but unified in their sons, holding hands as we said our vows as they sat next to their spouses. A nod to the cherished role they had in raising their children together and to the fact that family is always family. There can be a lot of good in life post-divorce - there is no arguing that. It just takes a bit to get to that point.
^Here's a nice pic of our joined blended FIRST family on both mine and Jay's side the day before our wedding. And this is even missing a couple people. Noteworthy that my biological parents are standing by each other as is Jay's. There is a happy story at the end of a parting.

But even so, I'd like to make it my goal to not get divorced. I'd like to make my marriage work. I'm committed to this life that I'm building with him. A sentiment shared by my sister/bro-in-law on that night on her couch less than a week ago. And with a pep in our step and hope in our voice, we all all came to the conclusion that our generation just might have the best shot at that. We are basically the generational Goldilocks of marriage. Let me explain.

The generation that my grandparents' called home was pretty set on tilling your own soil vs. going in search of greener pastures. Marriage was forever and problems were to be solved behind closed doors. And that's admiral and wonderful and there's nothing that warms my heart more than seeing lovebirds in the twilight of their lives still holding hands as they peddle down the street. However, I fear that that the severe aspect of that mindset brought forth so much secrecy and so much emphasis on not airing your dirty laundry in a way which lead to too many marriages that went on when perhaps they shouldn't. Verbal abuse, physical abuse, years of unhappiness in forced societal roles yet not a word uttered or a cry for help. Yes, this porridge is too hot.
Then there's our parents' generation. A group of free-spirited vagabonds who thrived on redefining the cultural norms. Sex was now seen as a hobby vs. a sacred act, gender roles began to be fluid and self-expression became the gold standard. While I embrace their efforts to live authentically and break stride with the decades of the past, I believe their mindset could have impacted their decisions when faced with conflict in their own marital unions. Too easy was it to move on from the commitment of marriage because there's so many other beautiful fish in this wonderful sea. Yes, this porridge is too cold.

And now here we are. An educated generation who grew-up with ample resources about getting help if you need it and were inundated with the message of being treated properly while given limitless options for how we wanted to live our life. We could be a homemaker or a career woman and each decision reflected our feminist ability to CHOOSE what we wanted for ourselves. We felt able and willing to imbibe in the spirit of youthful indiscretions but we also knew that when we felt it was time to buckle down, it was time to buckle down. We get married later once we've had a chance to know who we are. We can use the generational role models before us to create a hybrid in our view on marriage - take your vows seriously but don't let it cost you your sense of self. Work together to find a groove with your partner to merge the two. Yes, this porridge is just right.
Now, I'm well aware that this post comes with a lot of generalizing, unscientific data and assumptions. But I think there's some truth at the root of it. I love my big, fat, expanded, happy, blended, modern family and I would have it no other way. But I also take seriously what I said to Jay in 2014 as we stood in the middle of that field in front of most everyone we love.
After all, some porridge is too hot and some porridge is too cold. But if you can bear, bear, bear witness to each other continually even with the varying degrees, you may just find that your imperfect union can be jussstttt riiighhhht with a little bit of elbow grease and a whole lotta commitment.

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16 comments:

Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders said...

There is a lot of generalization with what you said, but like you, I agree that there is some truth behind the generalization. Our grandparents were in it for the long haul no matter what, and our parents saw that which is probably the reason that they reacted that they did. I think that our generation knows what it feels like to have parents go through a divorce which is why we're probably making more of an effort to make our marriages work. Plus it helps that therapy and other helpful things are so readily at our fingertips now! Great post today!

SMD @ lifeaccordingtosteph said...

Really great post, I enjoyed the read and how your family operates and how you guys approach your marriage - I am a child of divorce (a later one, I was 17, and it was a freaking soap opera mess) - and looking back I am so happy that my parents split up even though it seemed life ending at the time. I have spent a lot of time in ensuing years thinking about the marriages of my grandparents, my parents to each other, my parents to their new spouses (who seem like they should have been their spouses all along), and my own marriage...what I'm willing to put into it, what things could possibly make me walk away.

The Siberian American said...

You wrote this so well! I agree that (in general) our generation has seen both sides.

The Girl who Loved to Write said...

This is SO good. I love the way you wrote this, and I love that goals you have for your own marriage!

Nadine Lynn said...

I love love love how you tied this in to Goldilocks, you are so right on all of this!! My parents got divorced when I was in college and while it wasn't anything super messy it was still hard. They had issues for a long time and as an adult I look back and wonder why they didn't so many years before that. They stayed together for my sister and I and while I can appreciate that, I feel bad that they were both unhappy for so long. My sister and I were quite aware that there were issues, we weren't naive. Anyways, I am with you on all of this. When Chris and I got married, I went in to this for the long haul. The good and the bad, the ups and the downs and the everything in between. I like to think that we can work out anything.

Pat Hatt said...

Very true, good can come from divorce, my parents not so much lol, and this generation does have more of a happy medium. Plus people tend to wait longer to get married too these days, in general. Although with all the social media dirty laundry gets aired quite easily, that can ruin things.

Kay R. said...

Very interesting take on generations and divorce! Thoroughly enjoyed reading it!

MilitaryPugWife said...

Such a great post. xxxoo

Kaitlyn Danielle said...

Love your big blended family picture, how cute! I'd love to have a picture like that in my house. My parents are divorced and remarried too, and thankfully everyone gets along as well. I strive to have a relationship and marriage like the one my mom has now. He treats her like a princess and I love seeing my mom so happy. He'd give her the world if he could. I believe marriage can be forever if you truly find the right person. I have so much respect for my grandparents generation and all the long lasting marriages. It's inspiring.

kaitlyn-danielle.blogspot.com

julie @ jewelswandering.com said...

Insightful post...! My parents are still together and only in my adult life have I met more people who come from a divorced family. But yes, I do think our generation now are more self aware and are more cognizant of what it means to be married and what it takes to stay married - and learning to bend...!

Elle Sees said...

everyone, minus me, has been married at least 3 times in my family. it's ridic. but in terms of my parents, i liked them much better divorced than married. they got on so well. and the same goes for my grandparents. they were divorced but got along very well as i was growing up, and it was good to see that as a kid.

Emily said...

This is so sweet and it's amazing your family all get together for family events. That definitely makes it so much easier for the kids but I can imagine how tough it was to swallow as a kid. It's not something I've experience but seen many friends go through it.

Evelina said...

I love that everyone in your family gets along! My parents are also divorced and I remember praying that they would separate for years. My dad was abusive and the relationship was toxic for everyone. It's quite the opposite perspective most kids have about their parents' marriage but things are so much better now!
Evelina @ Fortunate House

Kristen @ See You In A Porridge said...

i love all the porridge in this post! haha. but seriously this is a beautiful way to talk about something like this and i really think you hit the nail on the head.

my parents are divorced (well they were never married, but you know) but it happened when i was very young, and thankfully i only have like 2 or 3 memories, and no relationship with my father at all (who is now dead). KC's parents are divorced and he had more of an experience like yours, with some extra bad thrown in, but it all worked out and they can be friendly now.

i hope we have the same kind of porridge marriage, the just right kind :)

Elena S said...

This post is absolutely beautiful! xxx

Ellen Ross | Ask Away said...

well said. cutest post ever. all of it so true <3
XO Ellen from Ask Away
www.askawayblog.com