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Even when you won't think about it, the part of you that's in pieces knows it is in pieces. For a long time (how many vicious silent years do you have available?) it will want to smash all the things it doesn't have.

If you are lucky, you grow up at least this little bit and agree to allow others their public happiness. This does not mean you are not bitter enough to poison anybody right to death, one taste.

It sounds like an accomplishment but really it is a lot more like giving up. It's easier this way, less energy spent on hating Valentine's Day and cursing anyone holding hands. What you had not expected was the opposite of scowling, which is the goddamn yearning all the time.

You can still spend the night at a friend's house after she gets married. But you know there is eventually going to be the bedroom door that shuts. You can say, yeah this blanket is enough, don't worry, I'm fine. I'm just gonna watch tv for a while, you guys go on to bed, I'm fine.

You can say it, and you can even mean it. But everybody knows every time you say I'm Fine you chop it in half. Until the piece of you that is fine is like a little sharp shard stuck in the center of a body that is very weak and very tired, gouging at you all the time from the inside.

You can sit on that couch with some syndicated garbage and a cat who isn't yours and won't come to your lap. You can sit there until you think maybe you can sleep, but as soon as you stand up you know that's a lie. But you get into a bed anyway, a Guest Bed, and you curse at the stuck window and finally wrestle it open with a squeak and a thud and you freeze, hoping you have not woken up the marriage. Hoping the marriage is safe and sound in its warmer bed in its better place down the hall behind a firmly shut door.

You lie there on your stomach, smoking through the window, looking out on the night-blue lawn. Nice out, you think. Rain-cool. Branches bending. Frogs and bugs giving it a little hum. You want to say, Honey, come listen to these frogs, but then you remember you do not even have that reflex.

It can be considered enigmatic for a person to openly state that they do not believe in marriage and then get married themselves. These are the things that trouble us in the little tree houses of our souls. Marriage is a learned behavior, a socially accepted norm in relationships that most often gains us praise from many directions. Then, when you begin to think about it, you wonder why being with someone you love needs a legally binding contract to make it "real."

"He ain't no good, Mary.
He'll never marry you.
You gots to get rid of him."

Hearing a friend tell you they have gotten engaged is generally something we celebrate. Marriage is generally associated with "becoming more responsible" and "getting your life together." There is a tendency to associate someone who is in and out of relationships as being a failure of some kind.

"I wish Jack would just find a nice girl and settle down."

There are those for whom "settling down" and a stable one on one partnership works wonderfully. It has been one of their life's goals. They use their commitment to marriage as a building block for a family and a home that becomes the foundation of their future. More power to them. They have found a partner that they love and trust. That partner becomes their "better half" and they can work together towards their hopes and dreams.

The other side of the coin becomes all too often the cause of marriage. A red flag goes up when you hear certain phrases associated with marriage. "We've been together so long it only makes sense to get married." This is often coupled with a failure to realize you are going from being together out of a mutual desire to a legally and financially binding agreement. This sets certain couples up for failure. I have known some who were together for years, got married and then divorced within a couple of years. The structure of their relationship before marriage involved a number of periods where they needed to get away from each other for a while. They had the need for a certain amount of space and once they were married it became impossible to take "a little time away." I also know a couple that two years ago got married for the third time... to each other. They had been divorced twice because they suffocated under the binding commitment of marriage. They got married for the third time because they are now both in their late fifties and now have two grandchildren. They wanted to be grandparents together.

"Until death do we part."

Sometimes our passions get the better of us. When I got married I had all statements of eternal commitment removed from the wedding vows and replaced with my own wording. "For as long as together we are more than we are apart." The bishop that married us didn't much care for that, but those were my terms. I was not getting married because I believed in marriage or wanted to get married and neither was my bride. We were getting married because there was no other way to stay together and we wanted to stay together. My wife was in the United States on a diplomatic visa that was going to run out in four months. It was a choice of either getting married or having her leave the country. The choice was either marriage or splitting up. We did not want to split up. We were in love.

"Think of the benefits!"

Over the course of the years I have found myself in positions where I am helping to evaluate potential new hires in the company. Although it is no longer a standard question on an application, employers do try to determine a person's marital status, even if it means just looking at their ring finger during an interview. Married persons are generally considered to be better candidates for a job because they are seen as being more stable and committed. A single person can run off much easier while a married person has commitments that must be met and they are far less mobile. They are less likely to pull up stakes and move out west in search of new opportunities. The government makes marriage attractive by offering income tax incentives. If you want to buy a house or a car, buying as a couple offers more flexibility in financing as well as a larger reserve of income to wager on a large loan. When you have two incomes legally bound together, it makes you a more favorable candidate for many things because if one of you becomes unemployed or ill the other can pick up the slack. This is part of why the bankruptcy rate amongst divorced persons is so unseasonably high.

When getting married offers so many benefits, the question is often "Why not?" instead of "Why?" The most basic question I ask people who are about to get married is "Are you ready for having to be together instead of wanting to be together?" They view this question as being cynical, but the truth is that once you are married you can no longer wake up and say, "This isn't working for me. Let's break up." Often, this is the very reason they are getting married. Personal insecurity makes them believe that the possibility of being alone because your partners goes in another direction will be resolved by marriage. Such insecurity is a bad foundation for marriage. Instead of simply having your partner leave, you can end up being tied to a person who is miserable in a marriage. If you are worried about losing your partner and feel marriage is the answer, I shall ask some nice people to pray for you.

"Baby needs two parents!"

I wish there was a legal contract that would bind one to fatherhood. Such a contact could bind a father to supporting his child without requiring marriage. There are those couples, my own parents included, who got married on account of pregnancy. My parents had no foundation for a marriage and were so different from each other that they spent twenty years being miserable in a marriage. They became so resentful of each other that by the time I was a teenager I went to bed hoping they would get divorced. They eventually did and moved on. Both are much happier now. They have both been with their current partners for more than a decade without being married. Both of my parents are religious, church-going people. Both receive strong pressure from the ministers at their respective churches to get married to their partners. It is that whole business about "living in sin." My father is permanently engaged to his partner as a result. My mother's partner tells his minister that he isn't going to get married because he has a bad track record with marriage. He was married five times. Why would a couple in their late fifties who are very happy with the current status of their relationship get married?

Jesus loves me, this I know
'Cause The Bible tells me so

My mother has a strange approach to religion. She refuses to acknowledge the validity of the Old Testament of The Bible and uses the New Testament as the foundation of her life. She also has a problem with the church's views on marriage. She left her former church and changed denominations because of the treatment she received from "Christian people" when she divorced my father. They turned their backs on her when she needed them most, people she had known for almost twenty years, because they considered divorce to be wrong. Now she asks her current minister if he really thinks that Jesus Christ thinks less of her because she isn't married to the man she is living with.

"That boy is going to marry me one day!"

The old image of the young girl fantasizing about the man she will one day marry has become cliche. Thankfully, more and more little girls are instead fantasizing about what they will make of their lives. One of the benefits of changes in society over the last fifty years or so has been that women have come to rightfully believe they can achieve success independently. A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. The old image of a woman needing a man to marry so she can have children and be a happy homemaker has gone the way of wooden warships. This forever changed the landscape of marriage, making it a partnership rather than a dependency. This is good. It also stirs up new challenges.

"The next time I get married, it will be for money, not love."

Marriage has benefits. It has challenges. It doesn't work for all people. For others it works just fine. Some people rush in. Others truly evaluate the situation. This is a partnership with many components. Love is not enough. You can be in love with someone who does not share your sense of responsibility and your outlook on life. You can be in love with someone who doesn't have the same opinions on commitment. No one is going to be on the same page on every issue in life, but there are certain issues you need to be on the same page on. Make sure that you are before entering into what is a legally and financially binding agreement. Marriage has nothing to do with love. It has to do with a shared vision of a life together. I live in a glass house. I'm willing to throw stones.

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