I have always considered marriage as the most interesting event of one's life, the foundation of happiness or misery.
A work colleague of mine recently got engaged and it started a flurry in our office. Those who were married had some snide remarks, those who wish to be married looked a little wistful and those who cannot remember not being married smiled and offered planning advice.
Marriage - in so many ways really seems like an outdated institution. After all does a piece of paper change the way you feel about someone...the legality of it really only comes into play if you are splitting up and then boy does that piece of paper carry weight and change the way you will forever think about your former partner. Do we still need marriage in an age where living together is no longer scorned, banning some backwards places and religious beliefs?
So in all of the excitement and genuine happiness that I felt for my co-worker there was a moment when she stopped and asked me what I thought about marriage. Hmmm do I give her the Hollywood version...you know the one "oh yes ...he'll come home, throw his keys on the granite counter of your perfectly orderly and Pottery Barn house, ask you how your day was and listen to what you say, offering advice when needed as he pours you both a nice glass of red wine while you sort the organic, locally grown cheese...after which you eat at a perfectly set table with witty banter, lingering looks and fantastic sex at the end of the night....this will happen every night and he will continue to be fashionable, slightly less handsome Brad Pitt and you will gain only 5 pounds and never have an undereye circle..." . I wasn't quite sure if she was ready for the more likely real life version "well you'll come home and he will turn on the tv and not hear a word you said after you have repeated it multiple times, you will step on a lego which has been left in the kitchen again for no reason since your kids do not ever seem to build anything with legos, there will be a flurry of questions from your small children, you will have GIANT undereye circles, and you will eat sometimes on a Star Wars plate because my dear you will be too tired to even rinse an extra plate post dinner". There is harmony in both of these scenarios and before the 2 of you who have the first one in real life pipe in...zip it.
In the end I went with the optimistic truth....marriage is really hard. Two people come to a place with different reactions to stress, who have to not just deal with where to make out but how to pay for the things they want, and who by definition are expecting different things from this life. There are times when I would like to sneak in my house and just hide, eat cereal and read my book. I have learned to appreciate my friendships even more because you can get the person who listens to you and spends time looking in your eyes. Your husband is not Al Bundy for the most part but he is not exactly Christian Grey either. You are no Angelina Jolie in "Mr & Mrs Smith" but you are not Peg Bundy either. Maybe you both have a little of all of these characters but mostly you are yourselves. I told her to set realistic expectations because nothing ends a marriage faster than the ones that can never be achieved. Marriage is the most annoying, pleasant, funny, sad, friendship, love affair you will embark upon.
Last week I also went with another friend as she tried on wedding dresses and I felt, for one of the few times, that I missed out on that by eloping. I never thought it mattered to me, because a marriage maybe many things but it definitely not the wedding, but I guess it did. So back to my original question...is marriage still relevant? I think it is because though it is hard, when it is good it's a celebration both emotional and legal of love and a wish to spend life with someone who makes you feel good. Marriage will not make us anything because marriage is what we make of it. It is not for everyone and when they end they seem to be a place where what once was healing becomes the way to hurt as much as possible. I wish my two friends who are embarking on this well...may they have the marriages that they have hoped for.