Fear gripped her cold icy heart as she strolled past the shop windows. The jewels behind that clean sparkly glass made her worry that she might be too old for this fear.
2012. A leap year. A year which traditionally meant that women who were getting antsy could pop the question. Last week a plumpish blonde woman proposed at the Lions game.
But the fear was real. These past few weeks have proven to her why she should be afraid. Love turns downward. It reaches a bottom. A bottom she is worried she might not be able to live with peacefully. She has expectations of her life. Her life should be a certain way. She deserves a certain measure of happiness.
Marriage might mean that measure is more like a ration.
Marriage might mean kids. Marriage might mean teenagers. She has enough teenagers everyday.
Can she live with being happy on Wednesdays and Saturdays only? Is she happy all the days of the week now?
So I have been completing my Psychology course and in the course of my course I have registered for a module on adult development and aging. Well according to my textbook * marriage is an essential part of adult development. An interesting discussion I recently read was about marital satisfaction. What the book says is that after performing extensive studies with many hundreds of married couples covering a range of age groups, marital satisfaction seemed to follow a U-shaped curve. So imagine a U. It has a steep decline and then it rises again. According to this study this is exactly the same shape that satisfaction in marriage takes.
Imagine dividing your married life up into 3 sections. You get the early years, the middle years and the later years. In the early years with the arrival of children marital satisfaction declines in a steep way. Apparently the longer a couple have been married the more unhappy they tend to be. This is in the first 20 to 24 years of marriage. During the middle years when you are experiencing your so called mid-life crisis, and your kids are going through the joyous teenage years then marital satisfaction hits rock bottom. What fantastic timing. No wonder people like me aren’t that keen on this whole marriage thing. Well there is hope. After this rock bottom in marital satisfaction is reached, marital satisfaction begins improving. In the later years, couples are more likely to describe their marriage as satisfying. And in fact many older adults who have remained married say that their marriage is better than is had ever been (Papalia, Sterns, Feldman & Camp, 2007).
Now this is the kind of information that would make me take the leap. I know it sounds a little bit strange that I would decide to get married based on this type of information but knowing that it will be hard in the beginning but it is almost guaranteed to get better later makes me feel much more secure. This is the type of realistic view I like to enter into things with. Expecting roses and champagne all the time and cuddles and kisses are unrealistic. Those are the types of expectations which are the most likely to cause a great deal of unhappiness. Going in with eyes wide open is the one thing that can ensure I don’t become a divorce statistic. I would rather have my expectations of hard work and perhaps a decline in satisfaction crushed than more romantic expectations. When our parents and their parents talk about marriage it’s meant to be this amazing experience that is supposed to complete one. But apparently it’s not.
Papalia, D.E, Sterns, H.L, Feldman, R.D & Camp, C.J. (2007). Adult Development and Aging. McGraw-Hill: New York.
Ok I’m back after a long long holiday in which I was too busy to think much or do much except make it to tomorrow. Ok it wasn’t really a holiday just a long peep into what my future may be like. Teaching Prac! Whoop whoop! Loved it. Big kids (14-18 year olds) are not the monsters that the media portray them to be! They are actually fairly human and completely capable of mature thought and action, although they don’t always choose that way. So 5 weeks of what I thought would be hell turned into 5 weeks of waking up early every day with a huge smile on my face. Ready to face the traffic. Ready to face just about anything, as long as I got to be in the classroom. Friday was my last day, and 4 (working) days on, I miss it like I’ve never missed anything in my life.
Perception is really the key issue here. I thought teaching big kids would be tough, challenging and full of horror. It was tough and challenging, but it was not full of horror. Maybe being married will be like that too. I think that it will be tough, challenging and full of all sorts of horrific things. Things like self sacrifice, monotony and even misery. But what if it won’t be like that at all? There is the faint possibility that I could wake up next to my husband (ignoring heart palpitations) every morning with a huge smile on my face. Ready to face the big kids. Ready to face the staff room politics. Ready to do just about anything as long as I got to spend my life with my amazing man.
Bad days were part and parcel of teaching prac. It wasn’t all smooth sailing. There were days when I left school, got to work (after prac) and I felt like crying. I felt so disheartened that I wasn’t getting through, that classroom discipline is not as easy as I originally thought, but I knew that the next day would be better. And it was. I am sure that there will be bad days in any marriage, in fact well done if you haven’t had any yet. (Just check for inner seething in your spouse from all the bloody compromising they’ve had to do to keep you happy.) It’s about making a decision and sticking with it.
It is not impossible to decide to be happy.
When I was 12, I decided that I would not get married. I planned to have a boyfriend, live with him and perhaps have kids with him. It would all depend on how I felt in the future. When I was 12, I also had a very religious Bible ed. teacher (which is understandable I guess) and a very religious Sex ed. teacher (which is not so understandable). They both maintained that if one decided to have pre-marital sex one would find oneself dwelling in Hell for an eternity. For a fearful 12 year old, reliant on people not being angry with her this was a terrifying thought. I did not want to spend the rest of my (after) life in Hell. However, I also did not want to die a virgin. New plan; I would wait until I got married before allowing someone to pop my cherry.
My new decision to wait until marriage was going well. In other words, I was so terrified of all that fiery brimstone and the devil himself, that I did nothing with any boys. My first kiss came at the ripe old age of 14 and nothing else followed that. Until I met Gavin *. Gavin was a little older than I was, 18 was not that old, just a little over a year, but it wasn’t so much him that affected my new resolve as myself. I already had developed sexual needs and wants and Gavin, while still a virgin, was somewhat more experienced in these areas than I was. He accepted my rules and told me that he’ll wait for me. Less than a year later, I had broken my promise to God and myself to wait until I got married. I do not blame Gavin in any way, this was my decision to take and if there had been any forcing, it was probably me forcing him. Now I would be damned, forever, according to my helpful teachers. I felt guilty, not for having sex but for breaking my promise, for going back on my (relatively new)resolve, for actually enjoying the experience, for relishing in the feeling that I was a rebel. But I couldn’t escape that nagging memory that I would be relocated to Hell when I died and not Heaven. New plan; I would marry Gavin, that would be sure to set things right.
A month after having my cherry popped, I began falling out of love with Gavin faster than Kryptonite kills Superman. Gavin became stifling and unbearable. I felt unable to breathe when I was near to him (it wasn’t his aftershave) and I dreaded visiting him or seeing him. This was a major problem especially if you consider my new plan. But this plan was the only way I could redeem myself, and keep having sex. Five years later, Gavin popped the question. I knew it was coming. I couldn’t run. The smallest and most expensive handcuff I had ever seen (my engagement ring) was housed in a camel coloured box punctuating the question scrawled across a beach near Durban. To say I was disappointed would shatter his fantasy. To say I was disappointed would mean confronting a fear I had locked away in a box with plans for the key. I said yes, reluctantly.
A week later, we were in the car heading back to Jo’burg. I felt like being ill the whole way back. It wasn’t car sickness and it wasn’t morning sickness. I was ill from nerves and a clear non-desire to go ahead with this. I denied this non-desire and called it excitement. Gavin and I got down to the rather expensive and stressful business of planning a wedding. We set a date and booked a venue. To those of you who are married you’ll realise that booking a venue means paying half of the cost as a deposit. Onto the next task which, according to the wedding magazines I felt more embarrassed to buy than tampons, was to choose and book a photographer. Also, the next expensive item on the list. Luckily we were still in discussions and hadn’t made any payments or definite decisions.
A week after our 6 year anniversary, 5 months after our engagement and 7 months before our wedding I broke up with Gavin. He didn’t see it coming. Nor did anyone else. Who would after recently getting engaged? It shows how well I had hidden my feelings from him, myself and everyone else we knew. I’m not proud of it. I had denied how I truly felt about this guy because of some prescription about sexual relations preached at me by 2 teachers who used their experience and my age against me. I had lied to myself for 11 years about what I wanted, about what would make me comfortable and happy. Just because of some prescription designed to protect (I hope) people hundreds and thousands of years ago. How could I let this happen? How could I be so out of touch with myself and so needy for acceptance from a being I couldn’t see and those I shared the Earth with? I hurt Gavin really badly. I wasted 6 years of his life because some old hags told me that I would go to Hell if I had sex before I got married. I took his love, returned it half-heartedly and then threw it to the ground so that I could stomp all over it. All because of a sense of obligation and a selfish need not to be judged too harshly. New plan; no more obligations.
When I was 23 I made a new decision. If I ever find myself being with anything or anyone for any reason other than the fact that I love it and can’t bear to be without it, I need to get out. I need to pack my stuff and move along, before things get as out of hand as I allowed them to with Gavin. I need to give them or it the opportunity to find someone else to take my place. I’ve decided to trust my gut and my inner feelings regardless of what society says, thinks and approves of. This might mean that I never get married. It might mean that I do get married. Whatever it means I know that I need to be honest with myself about what I want and what I need in order to be happy and to keep those around me as happy as possible. My ideas, thoughts and feelings change as often (as the saying goes) as I change my panties, especially when it comes to the fairly contentious topic of marriage.
*Names have been changed.