In my last post, I shared stories of the bad marriage of my alcoholic parents and step-parents, and how that not only didn’t turn me off marriage, but provided me with hard-won answers to what I wanted in my own life and relationships.
I spent Christmases alone in Atlantic City. I was starved for connection and family. I wanted, needed someone to love, to love me, to care about, to make a good life with. To cure my loneliness.
I wanted someone who could be my partner, who could be honest, who I could have kids with. I wanted someone to care about, and to care about me. Who put the same emphasis on family, and on helping and wanting the best for each other and our kids.
I came to the conclusion that family is everything, and why we’re here. I reasoned that if everyone decided to not have kids, then the world stops, at least as far as humanity is concerned. So we must be here to bring the next generation in the world, raise them, love them, and hopefully leave the world a better place with the legacy our kids represent. And I wanted to give these kids the love I felt that I had missed out myself.
Not being raised with any religious instruction except my father’s contemptuous dismissal of all religions as stupid, I had had no moral or cultural basis to help me as I struggled in my hard times, at least partial answers that might have provided values of right and wrong and why we were given life at all. I struggled, and as I came through my struggles I decided that even though I was an honest agnostic, I wanted to give my kids that background, so they had a starting point should they hit their own challenges.
Once I knew what I was looking for, I found the woman I was looking for. It’s been twenty years we’ve been together, and I still remember the moment I laid eyes on her the first time. She accepted me as I was, for who I was, and we spent months talking as friends and really getting to know each other before we had our first date. We both knew when we started dating that we would eventually marry.
Marriage is on the decline nowadays. And for good reasons. I would never wish anyone into marriages like my parents had.
But I would encourage everyone to consider marriage. Consider why you’re on earth, what’s important, and what happiness is. And be realistic about where your priorities are and why you want someone to share your life with in this all-too-brief time we’ve been gifted.
I have come to believe passionately that the quality of one’s life is ultimately judged by the quality of the relationships during your life. Did you love, were you loved, did you nurture, help, and leave the world a better place than you found it? Did you leave happiness and compassion? If you did these things, then ultimately, your life was happy, and I defy anyone to say it wasn’t. My parents, in contrast, all died bitter, angry and alone.
Everyone has to find their own definition of happiness, of course. And of course life is more than just raising kids and having a good marriage: there is meaning and value in careers, education, art, conservation and endless other things. But I personally struggle to say that Titans of Industry who changed the world have lived a fully meaningful and happy life if they left behind divorced spouses and alienated children. Aristotle said that happiness is meaningful work. I can’t think of any more meaningful work than raising kids, loving them, and being loved by them. And the best way to prepare your children for the future and raising happy kids is to have two parents, united by a commitment to raise those kids well. That commitment is marriage.
If marriage isn’t for you, that’s fine. I’m not judging, and there are many understandable and valid reasons to not marry, or to divorce. But it feels like increasingly people look down upon those of who commit to marriage. My purpose here is to tell people why I think marriage is still relevant, important, and the right choice for some.
Marriage Takes Work. But It’s Worth It.
I’ve always looked forward to growing old with my wife. Living our days, raising our family, overcoming challenges, encouraging each other to grow while still being our own persons, celebrating our victories, commiserating in our setbacks, and always finding love for each other as a couple committed to each other and our family.
I am never alone. I always know that she is there for me, as I am there for her.
Some days are hard, of course. We fight. Feelings get hurt. At times I’ve been a jerk, done things that were shitty or selfish. But we’ve always worked things out, and I’ve learned to grow as a person. Her happiness is so important to me, more important than doing what I want, when I want. And that’s true in reverse as well. I sacrifice and give up my freedom for a larger purpose, as she sacrifices and gives up her own freedom for me, us and our kids, and our shared purpose and commitment to each other.
I’ve never regretted being married once.