I'm not married. Marriage was political anethema when I was marrying age. I was born in 1958.
But now, I've lived with my companion for 25 years, so I don't think about it as a practical matter.
I guess I have an old-fashioned pre-civil-rights "gay marriage." My lover and I addressed medical issues, power of attorney, what happens to our stuff, how we want to die, etc.—although that took a long time. It was hard to think about, and complicated to execute.
This is not to say I did it "right," it's more like, "what happened from a lot of good intentions and fate." I think you have to be ready for pie in your face at all times.
When are you more in favor of marriage as an institution?— when you consider your own marriage, or when you consider other people's?
As an institution? Never. "Why let the state be your pimp?"
As a practical matter, I MYOB. Most of my friends are married, and I don't harangue them— I realize "marriage resistance" is out of vogue and I'd be a curmudgeon to act as the Bad Fairy.
I'm laissez-faire on my loved ones' weddings. I'm happy they are in love, care about each other, etc. Mazeltov!
It'll either work out or it won't. They will be so much happier if it does, so I'm hopeful too.
Have you more frequently advised others to:
a) separate? or
b) not to separate?
I'm usually sympathetic; friends want a comforting ear.
No one is going to "take your advice," if you're not running their lives— and why would you want to? It's sad when they're crying and bereft and harsh.
I never seem to be able to predict how it's all going to turn out, let alone give advice.
Do you know of reconciliations that have not left a scar on one or both of the partners?
No. I don't know of any intimate relationships that don't make an impact.
Reconciling is tough, it's harder than breaking up.
I mean, demolition takes one day, an hour, a matter of minutes.
What problems are solved by a happy marriage?
I'll try to answer this earnestly.
If one has a devoted family, which might mean a devoted partner— you always know someone is in your corner, someone who sacrifices for you without a moment's pause, who is endlessly proud of you, who thinks you're the bee's knees.
They are then your best friend and I would say that is more profound than "marriage," per se. Everyone doesn't need a marriage, but dear friends, however you define them, are where it's at.
How long, on average, can you live with your partner without losing your self-integrity?
I can do something silly based on one torrid night— I don't need to LIVE with someone to engage in self-deception.
I think sticking to your guns, your true feelings, is more a case of growing up and growing old.
When you're younger, as much as you don't want to care what anyone thinks, you DO. And when you're old, you can barely put up with anything that doesn't go your way!
How do you explain to yourself the urge, when contemplating a separation, to look for blame— either in yourself or your partner?
Would you, of your own accord, have ever invented marriage?
No! No human being invented marriage out of love or care. It's a property relation.
What induced you to marry?
a. desire for security?
b. a child?
c. the social disadvantages of an irregular union, for example, difficulties in hotels, gossip or the tactlessness of others, complications with officials or neighbours?
e. simplification of household arrangements?
f. consideration for your families?
g. the experience that irregular unions can equally lead to habit, boredom, disenchantment, etc.?
h. the prospect of an inheritance?
i. a trust in miracles?
j. the feeling that it is only a formality, anyway?
These are old-fashioned answers, but there is a grain of truth to all of them.
I'm not married, but I made a common-law marriage, for some of these reasons.
(b) Our child benefited from all of us living together; it was easier and more supportive for everyone, not as stressful as solo parenting.
(e) Simplification of paying one rent, cooking on one stove, etc. Sharing! YES.
(h) And we didn't get an inheritance from living together, but we want to make sure we are okay when the other one dies, so that's where the legal commitments came in.
I would say, in fact, the number one reason we "drew up papers" is because of end-of-life issues. We witnessed our friends who were widowed or terminally ill— and just devastated by the process of "being left out." Welcome to the gay marriage debate!
Lack of legal standing affects straight and bi unmarried companions too. Folks can be completely fucked because there is no formalized plan.
But as to why we decided to live together--- it was pretty spontaneous. Is that the "miracle" option? We were in love, we were together nearly all the time, we were raising a kid, and this cool opportunity came up to move together, so we did it. i think there should be (k) for Impulsivity.
Do you feel in harmony with the habits of your present marriage? If not, do you believe your partner is happy with them, and on what do you base your assumptions?
Yes. I mean, we know exactly how we differ, but we have "workarounds." Lots of them.
When do you find marriage most of a strain?
a. in everyday matters -
YES! DRIVING, DRIVING, DRIVING. And our concepts of time, what's "on time," when to leave, when to arrive, etc.
b. on journeys
c. when you are alone
d. when you the two of you are together
e. in company of others
f. in the evenings?
g. in the mornings?
Does marriage produce common tastes? (as the furnishing of the marital home seems to suggest), or does the purchase of a lamp, a carpet, a vase, etc., always mean a silent capitulation on your part?
Living as we do, we really get along in that respect.
I appreciate my companion's sense of beauty and grace; it's one of my favorite things about him. Neither of us is quietly mourning our sacrifice when it comes to our surroundings.
If you have any children, do you feel a sense of guilt toward them when a separation occurs? I.e, do you believe that children have a right to unhappy parents? If so, up to what age?
I would, I feel awful about the ripple of breakups, in any direction. It's not cute. But staying together when you're horrid is just another kind of guilt and ruin.
I'm the daughter of harshly-divorced parents, and so is my partner.
But we are both friends, even close friends, with most of our ex's— we're a different generation. I believe that's a legacy of feminism, gender equality, sexual liberation.
If you have been married more than once, at what point did your marriages most closely resemble each other-- at the beginning or at the end?
The middle is really where it's at.
In briefer relationships, I burned similarly at both ends. Started out hot, ended up with a smokey room and a grease fire. Today, I find that fire a "turn-off." I would list it as a "turn-off" if I were a Playboy Bunny.
If you find after separation that your former partner does not cease blaming you, do you conclude from this that you were more loved that you realized, or do you feel relieved?
If that's the case, I think they never really knew me, nor I them, but the fantasy image of the "Beloved" can imprint on one forever.
What do you usually say when one of your friends gets a divorce, and why didn't you say it to the person concerned before?
"I'm so sorry, honey."
And you don't say that until it's over.
Can you be equally frank with both partners in a marriage when they themselves are not frank with each other?
Absolutely not. And boy do I hate being put in that position.
NO NO NO NO NO
If your present marriage could be called "happy," to what do you attribute this?
Friendship and the eye of the beholder!
If you had to choose between leading a happy marriage and following a call that might endanger your marital happiness, which would you consider more important?
I've done the latter many times. When something propels you, you don't feel like you have much choice about it.
On the other hand, "suffering is the flame that burns away desire--" who said that? Lao Tse? Suffering is sacrifice and sometimes sacrifice is indeed noble.
I think I only can see these things at a distance, not when they're on top of me.
Do you think you know how your present partner would answer this questionnaire?
I hope that I get the general drift.
Would you like to see your partner's answers? Would you like them to see yours?
Obviously Mr. Max didn't know about blogging.
Do you consider having "no secrets" from each other as a necessary part of marriage, or do you feel it it precisely the secret between two human beings that binds them?
Our unconscious is running the show, and the secrets are unceasing.
Thank god we don't read each other's minds, as lovers or friends. Didn't Esther Perel write something wonderful about this?
I like answering these questions and realizing I must be leaving something out.
Top Photo: Dustin Hoffman and Katherine Ross in The Graduate.
Bottom Photo: Liv Ullman and Erland Josephson in Scenes From a Marriage.