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“A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity.  The order varies for any given year”.  Paul Sweeney

Everybody loves Raymond, for those who have not seen it, is a sitcom about the travails and trivia of marriage. Mostly, marriage is characterised as one long cantankerous compromise. 

I got married at 22, (27 years ago yesterday) a fact which surprises me still, almost as if I was not there in City Hall, Toronto, doing it. And if one of my children came to me with that news now or in the near future, I would be thinking and no doubt asking ‘have you gone nuts?’

Yet against the odds of personality and ideology, it has and is working. But that is the thing. Marriage is a daily work from which there is normally no vacation, no leave. If there is, probably akin to no pay leave. Not something that one is sure to want except if you have lots of reserve in the bank. Marriage is more like a staycation. You remain put, enjoying the comforts with which you are well familiar, from time to time, taking a long drive or going to a different beach.

The road in a long union is predictably rocky, as rocky and uneven as the characters involved. People change over time and change in different directions and with hormonal fluctuations, not to mention. I heard Douglas tell the children last night that marriage, despite the challenges, obstacles and problems is… I did not hear the positive part because I was taking in the string of hard sounding nouns.   And Douglas is a genuine romantic person.

The children are quite curious about marriage now, asking questions like, do you get bored with each other? They cannot fathom how this is done, this relentless living together.

The big give in conventional marriage is space, physical and psychic space. Children long, yearn for their own individuality expressed in wanting that actual and metaphoric room of one’s own. Yet marriage is predicated on the communalistion of space. (“What you thinking?” “Why you making that left turn?” “You don’t think it is time to wake up?”) It is a convention upon which many marriages flounder and it is a convention now quite at odds with the atomisation and individuation of comtemporary times.

While I would advise my children that this extreme giving up of space which defines a conventional marriage, should be resisted, the fact is that it is the lure of reliable, intimate companionship that is the attraction of marriage. To have someone to share passion, life, thoughts, anxieties, satisfactions, angers, laughter, gossip. The sense of security that comes from giving and receiving love, appreciation, care, despite bad behaviours, is profound. As Iris Murdoch noted:  “there is no substitute for the comfort supplied by the utterly taken-for granted relationship.”

Still, maintaining the integrity of self in the union is the struggle. I watch young  women still not fully comprehend the meaning of  decades of feminist activism. Playing dolly house from another century, giving up their  identity, tending children and house solitarily even though working full-time. While completely capable, acting as if they need protection offered up by benign masculinity, not grasping how thin that line is between protection and control. And young men still comfortable in confining gender privilege.

Equality, fairness and autonomy are always worth the struggle. And especially so in a marriage unless one wants to settle for a life of diminishment. So like Phyllis Diller famously said: “Never go to bed mad.  Stay up and fight”. 

Would I do it again? Get married that young? Probably not, except with this particular man, it would be hard to say no, and not at all wise. As it turns out, everyday.

 

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