• Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
  • Sunshine and Unicorns
sunshine & unicorns: a blog about love, learning, and life in the upper midwest

07 August 2008

hello I love you won't you tell me your name

I have a somewhat-brief (or maybe not) post script to my previous thoughts on love & marriage.

Often when I see couples together at a restaurant, store, or pretty much anywhere in public, I tend to let my mind wander to what may have brought them together. The intense-looking couple in their 30s bickering over each other's spending habits right there in the toilet paper aisle - were they once high school sweethearts? The elderly folks holding hands and smiling over pancakes: were all the years as happy as this one seems to be? The tattooed, pierced, over-madeup punk-rock burnout chick and the overtanned football all-star type guy dragging along a screaming drooling toddler - opposites attract, or a saturday-night 'oops'?

I (along with the greeting card industry) would like to think of weddings as the ultimate in romantic occasions. The coming together of two people who are madly, deeply, truly in love. I am not, however, so naive that I actually believe that. I know from first and second hand experience that many people get married out of circumstance. If it's not because a bun in the oven has brought urgency to the matter, it's because of traditions. We're SUPPOSED to get married. So, we do.

The point is, as romantic and 'meant to be' as I would love to believe marriage is... I know it's often not. And I wonder HOW often it's not - and how many of those people do stay together. And, do they become happier as time goes on? Decades ago, many people fell in love AFTER marriage. And many families these days are 'non-traditional'. First-comes-baby; then-comes-marriage, second or third marriage for one or both, etc etc. I am not looking down on people whose lives have taken this path. My own romantic life has not been traditional, either. But as a person constantly on the lookout for too much information, I often am curious about the life choices that led people down the paths they are on. As a helpless romantic, my curiosity usually concerns love and happiness.

Many of my close friends, including a couple whose wedding I am to attend in a month, have been lucky enough to really find their 'soul mate'. Their weddings were (or will be) filled with true love and the celebration of such. No one was celebrating anyone 'finally settling down' and (hopefully) no guests were making the seemingly somewhat popular (yet incredibly disrespectful) bets on how long the marriage would last. These are the 'true' couples. The couples who have no use for pre-marriage books like discussed in the post I linked above. They know each other. They love each other. They might, some day, be the couple bickering about money in the grocery store, but they might also be the old folks with the pancakes, holding each others wrinkled hands - hands that have been through a lifetime together. And, they could be the motley crew - a seemingly mismatched couple who in fact are very happy together. One friend of mine told me, when I asked, that the premarital counseling she and her husband were assigned through her church was not at all helpful to them; they learned nothing about each other they didn't already know. The couple getting married next month have been together for over 8 years already. They too, I think, are not expecting many surprises for the future. So (and we finally get to the actual inspiration for this post after many tangents on what is a rather touchy and very complicated subject for me)...

Why can't I find a damn wedding card to express congrats without insinuation that the couple barely knows each other?!

I must have looked at about 50 cards yesterday trying to find a pretty, romantic, yet not trite wedding sentiment for my friends. The following phrases came up in almost every case:

"Beginning your life together"
"The first day of your journey as a couple"
"The start of your path of love"
"Embarking on your adventure as a couple"

You get the picture. Basically these cards are written, from my point of view, as cards you should give a couple when you find out that they are dating. Maybe I'm reading in to this too far (I usually am), but the popularity of these types of sayings indicates to me that most couples are not the 'madly deeply in love' type. They are the 'newlyweds' in truest terms of the word. They're getting married quickly, perhaps after little time together and no time spend cohabitating, perhaps even without any premarital sinning.

And the traditionalist* in me thinks: "Is that how it SHOULD be?" Practically, I say no. How many people would have married the totally wrong person, had they married him or her after just a few months of blissful dating? (But then again, how many people do just that?) Playing devil's advocate, I have to wonder if that isn't what 'marriage' is all about. Older generations tell us that marriage is hard. Are some of us cheating the traditional steps of marriage by getting all the 'honeymoon stage' and all the initial 'hard stuff' over with BEFORE we tie the knot? We date, we screw, we disagree, we cohabitate, we disagree some more, we air all our dirty secrets, we cook each other's meals and we open each other's mail and we poop with the door open. And if we're both still around after a while, THEN we get married. Why get married at all? Tradition, I guess. After the decision's been made, gotta formalize the paperwork, right? And wear a big pretty dress and have a party. (Note: Statistics tend to state that more people who cohabitate in this way get divorced at higher rates than those who don't, oddly. It is my personal opinion that this is because many people who cohabitate before marriage tend to have a more liberal viewpoint that includes divorce being not-so-bad, whereas those who move in together after marriage have probably more conservative or religious morals that condemn divorce. [Sources: 1, 2 (if you can't trust Dr. Phil who can you trust eh? lol), and not really a source but an extreme opinion: 3 ])

In the end, I did find a suitable card for my friends, and it's a little more suitable than 'welcome to a new life' while also being more romantic than "Well, ya finally made it official!". But it sure took long enough to locate.

(*note to self: I must elaborate on this somewhat conservative 'quirk' of mine later)