Monday, January 23, 2012

Some Musings on Marriage

I believe that marriage is the foundation of a society. In that I mean providing a stable environment in which to raise children. Marriage, when the event occurs, is held in great reverence but somehow that seems to fade for many. Sometimes held together for the sake of the children while at other times disbanded in spite of the children. Throughout the years I have given much thought to the institution of marriage, relationships, lovers and children.

Some recent happenings have given me pause to reflect upon the various aspects of marriage. This includes the recently announced divorce of a friend of mine, my coaching of a parent involved in an international custody dispute, and an evolving friendship of mine that reminds me of a previous relationship that I believe had the greatest impact on my life.

As with most topics that I research and develop an opinion on I fall somewhere between the polarized opinions often borrowing from both. Marriage, it appears, is no different in this respect. As my parents close in on 50 years of marriage I can say that I come from a background of married parents -- all adjectives set aside.

My first observation is the very broad statement that marriage is the business relationship of raising children. That is not to say that there is no room for the romanticized concept of two hearts attracted to each other being joined in matrimony. For the most part though I have found that concept to be mostly a Western invention. There are still places in the world where arranged marriages are mandatory while in others it is the norm. I believe there is some logic to this.

From the time you sprang into this world from the womb it was likely your parents who were there to observe your behaviours, idiosyncrasies, and expressed likes or dislikes. There is also the issue of genetic traits -- physical, social and emotional -- that no one would be more keenly aware of than parents. In the grand scheme of things, parents, lacking hormonal activation, are likely a better determiner of who a child's mate should be than the child himself. After all, it is my view that marriage is the business relationship of rearing children. If it was your intention to start a business you would likely look for someone skilled in that trade, management or general business operations before you would invest with someone merely because of an attractive personality. At the same time you wouldn't want a business partner that you find disagreeable, who you didn't like or appreciate as a person.

In our society deeply rooted in western romanticism we still cling to the concept that marriage is between two lovers and that children may be an eventual consequence of that relationship. Two people make a commitment to be bound to each other for so long as they may live, to hold no others before and to suffer the travails and celebrate the exhilaration in life together. To me this seems an improbable premise for living.

Most people I know, myself included, fall "in-love" with a feeling which is wrongly attributed to a person. The feeling my come from the experiences with that person but those are not the essence of that person. Those experience may be recurring but the feeling can be fleeting just as when you received a new toy and the excitement wore off.

When the excitement -- hormonal activation -- wears off in a marriage someone usually attributes that to not being "in-love" anymore. As animals motivated by the pleasure principle we then seek to replace that feeling. All too often the result is the inclusion of a third-party to act as a surrogate for the partner for which one has lost attraction. If the basis for the marriage was founded upon sexual relations then the compensation relationship will likely be sexual.

I have been through innumerable relationships -- applying the term in the context of shared knowledge or experiences -- with both men and women. This includes the parties I have assisted through divorce or mediation. From all of this I have determined that the root of all problems is communication.

Men have been mystified by the attraction of women to me. Women have been wrought with guilt over their preference for me. From my perspective there is no great mystery -- I am an empathetic listener. Being brutally honest and having a non-judgmental attitude are rare traits which I possess.

In hindsight I now see that my most significant relationship was the extra-marital affair I had. This wasn't during my marriage. It started back in high school when I was about 16 and continued for two years afterward, about four years total. At the time I was so naive about it.

The night I met her and her husband I felt that immediate bond. She held my hand as I prepared to leave their home and told me to come back anytime. Over the ensuing years I returned often. I was a family friend who also helped with the general household chores and raising the small children.

However, the husband's occupational demands required the he travel extensively and be gone for periods of time that may extend to a month in duration. It was those times when I was with her on a near daily basis. If I was in school I may have left to go see her. If my parents observed that I had not been home the previous night they knew where I was.

It was those nights that provided the greatest intimacy. We expressed our innermost secrets and feelings to each other. Some things that I didn't even share with my eventual wife or anyone since and things she hadn't shared with her husband.

I recall fondly the rituals we shared, watching the show Moonlighting while enjoying our bowls of French Vanilla ice cream with added milk. There were times of just lounging on the couch together after the children had gone to sleep, sipping on wine and sharing our thoughts. Watching her awaken and viewing her natural beauty was insurmountable. Smiles radiated from her face as much as the morning sun shining in the kitchen where I had prepared breakfast after finishing my paper routes but before heading off to school.

Soul mates could never be more aptly applied. We shared our mutual likes and dislikes that were known to each other without ever being expressed. We never found fault in the other although we may have disagreed. We communicated openly about everything entrusting the other that such knowledge would not ever be used against the other.

Then near the end came the time that her husband called. Because of the time difference it wasn't until about 1:00am our time that he called. We had been laying in bed, looking through her childhood photo albums and enjoying some wine -- likely where I obtained my appreciation for fine drink. As I listened I could discern that the conversation was concluding and reached for the phone. Her hand cupped my mouth and as she hung up she said, "If he knew you were here right now he would kick your ass into next week." I had always assumed it was known to him. I chuckle just writing that.

But there was another where it was made known. Well at least her desires. This was after my wife had filed for divorce. I was much older at this point and I suppose a bit wiser.

This gal I had met while married through circumstances related to being a parent. As I ramble on here I have to intentionally be a bit coy as I don't want to reveal the identity of these women. We never had much interaction while my wife was still on the scene. After she abandoned my son and I though this woman provided significant support. I was also able to provide support to her much the way I had with the woman whose husband was traveling around the world.

We were together on a near daily basis sharing in the household chores, child rearing and general experiences that a married couple would. But when the weekend came or the husband returned in the evenings I would be gone. Eventually she quit sending me on my way at those times. We often shared dinners together and played our favourite card game, Skip-Bo, afterward.

Again, nothing seemed out-of-whack to me. I was a friend who was available on a daily basis. She was a mother and wife in a marriage that lacked the emotional support which I provided. Being me though my support went beyond that.

I am a very intimate and physical person. It may not appear so to one upon first encounters as I maintain a large field of "personal space" around me but once you are in, you are in. She was definitely in. Much so in what seemed to be very innocent ways. When one of us was at the stove cooking the other may come from behind, wrap his or her arms around the cooks waist and rest the chin upon a shoulder. Just a comforting embrace that neither got elsewhere at the time.

I will avoid saying inevitable but these acts progressed in a predictable fashion. As she was married there was a clearly defined demarcation line that I wanted to but would not cross. I had plenty of experience in the field of restraint though after the previous marital affair.

We slept together when the opportunity availed itself which was bliss to me. Women are at their greatest point of beauty when they awaken. Those moments led to some intimate discussion which at times touched upon her wanting me to just live there all the time and be a husband to her. I must digress a bit to let you know I often stayed overnight sleeping in the living room and sometimes she would join me out there when pissed off at her husband. I didn't want to be the home-wrecker though. It would be hypocritical of me to break apart a marriage after I had strongly condemned my wife for doing so.

Comic relief was found in that moment from her declaration that she had no intention of divorce, she would just have two husbands. Marital commitment is something that has lost some appeal to me. I can make the commitment to the person which I have. To this day I am available to her as a person. It's the affinity that I avoid. I thought the bigamy idea was humourous and joked about it often. But as I said this one was made known.

I was truly stunned when I arrived one day and was greeted with "Well he said no!". "To what" I queried. She had actually asked him the previously night if I could live there and be a second husband to her, in the de facto sense.

That was a relief to me as it kept me from having to be the one to say it. Where would I find the time? There was another relationship running concurrent with this one. She was in the next town up the road. Fortunately for me I had a car that topped out at 140mph. I met her at the mall where she worked. A very outgoing girl whose personality dwarfed her tiny stature. We spoke briefly and I committed to the invitation to soon return. We spent hours together at the next encounter. I can recall the sick feeling in my gut as I returned home.

That was our relationship for awhile, hours together while she worked. On the occasions that my son was with his mother for the weekend I was usually leaving the mall after closing and staying at her house where her boyfriend sporadically stayed also. I think she felt sorry for him more than anything. He had some serious issues, was medicated and to put it mildly was having difficulty extricating himself from dependence upon the household of his parents.

He didn't seem to mind my regular presence. I suspect this guy wouldn't have minded living in a box over a heating grate though. The three of us, or four when my son was with me, had a decent roommates type relationship. There were clearly defined boundaries that we all maintained.

There were times though when I was told we need to cut back on our time together. That provided some necessary relief for me. Besides these two there were also the occasional others like the gal I had hung out with when a large group of us went to King's Island. We clicked that day. I saw her in passing a few days later while I was taking some children to play at the park. After returning them to their mother we went back to my house where this gal stayed for the next four days. She reminded me of the Ally Sheedy character in The Breakfast Club. She had everything in that bag that she needed. I didn't let that one go on long though. It was either let your boyfriend and parents know about me or forget it. This one block down the street all the time doesn't cut it for me.

Eventually the gal from the mall married a friend of mine. He was the ex-husband of the woman whose children I was taking to the park when the Ally Sheedy character accompanied me. This is starting to sound so Jerry Springer and there is plenty more to go. I won't go into detail about her sister either since she was a single gal and that has nothing to do with marriage.

This girl marrying my best bud eventually brought me back to where it all began in high school. So I spent my days hanging out with a married woman at her house while her husband was off at work but also maintained my relationship with them as a couple when he was there. As I am being scurried out the door one day she tells me that he doesn't know that I am over there during the day with her and that he would go ape-shit if he did.

It was not that he didn't trust me. He saw what my wife had done. He knew about her extra-marital affairs or more precisely random sexual liaisons and how she had refused to take our son for any time and care for him after she abandoned us. He had been scripted, as so many men have, that another man is not to be in your home with your wife when you are not there.

As I had already been through marriage I did have somewhat of an alternate perspective to my position on being with a married woman back when was in high school. He was also my best at the time so now I wasn't going to let some woman foul this up. We were neighbors anyway so dropping by later in the day wasn't really an issue. Timing never had been, she was just lonely during the day. Lonely housewives seems to be a common occurrence in my life.

Eventually they divorced. That wasn't a surprise to me as I thought they had jumped into marriage too quickly and that it was much a matter of convenience. But at least it got her away from the mommy-boy who was just an anchor being added to her sinking ship.

I don't think that particular marriage was any more stable than the co-habitation of some unwed parents. This may go against common perceptions and political ideology but relationships clearly cannot be identified by a prescribed criteria based upon some legal acknowledgment. One of the most committed women I know is not married and hasn't been.

I was smitten upon meeting her. Especially since I was blessed with the pleasure of getting to rub her pregnant belly. Back to Jerry Springer here, she is the sister of an aforementioned woman but not the one whose children I took to the park. She was in a committed relationship and would bear two children by him before it ended. She now is with the father of her third child who is just over a year in age. Their relationship wasn't without its' trying moment though. It was a year ago when she called me wanting help. She had a newborn and the father had run off to go live with his girlfriend.

This piece of work had the audacity to be texting the girlfriend while in the delivery room with the mother of his child. He then moves out and refuses to see the child. He told me to never contact him again when I tried to establish a parenting time plan for him.

I could make a list a mile long of things she does that are not to my way of thinking or preference but, all that aside, she has a deep commitment to family. Her home was adorned with all the mementos of familial commitment. She was devastated by the abandonment of someone whom she thought was an equally committed partner.

Again, I was there so often that I eventually just stayed. This being different though in that there was not a husband living there simultaneously. In time however the relationship was reconciled, I moved out and they are now living together in another town. I was proven wrong on this one because I told her he didn't possess the ability to maintain the type of commitment that she and her children needed.

To this day I have never met him and really don't care to. I saw too much pain in a woman whom I love with a deepness and intensity that few others have exceeded. It is unconditional. I don't want to be around anyone who has caused her to have such anguish but she does and apparently it is working for them. My experience in the divorce industry told me otherwise but maybe there actually are those exceptions.

I think that she also feels a love for me that transcends that which married couples have or are expected to have, at least in Western culture. As I said the list is a mile long but I overlook all of that. There is just nothing that she does or has done that could break the sense of commitment that I feel for her. Equally though she could probably compile a longer list about me. And still, it is overlooked.

If I thought that we could be compatible as spouses then I would have long ago asked her to marry me. But we aren't. Those lists are a mile long and while they can be discarded for the sake of maintaining a deep yet infrequent friendship, confidant or whatever applies, when it comes to the business of marriage these issues must be resolved. I don't think we could find resolution among those lists.

She will always remain one of the handful of women that can call upon me at any moment and get my full charge. That is something that is very likely incompatible with the expectations that most people have of marriage. I commit to people though. If I was married at the time she called a year ago I still would have gone. I would have fulfilled my family obligations and certainly been stretched for allocation of time but I would have been there.

Some marriages are more open than others which may be consensual or just unknown to the discarded party. The prior year when I was practically living at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the month of May I was wandering about the garage area when a girl comes up to me and asks who I am. She takes me back to a group of people including one of the sponsors of a car. We settled upon all going to St Elmos for dinner. The girls and I go in my car and we are eventually joined by the others who had remained behind awhile to close their garage.

After dinner, which included their shrimp cocktail with the fiery hot horseradish sauce and some wine, we headed to the Slippery Noodle. We promptly ordered another bottle of wine and started dancing. We put on a nice show and other patrons who were enjoying it covering our drinks for us. At one point I get the hint from the bartender that our groping may be getting beyond the acceptable limit. We manage to stay upright the whole time although a few off balance moments resulted in spilled drinks.

As the last members of our party prepared to leave I suggested to the girls that we should just get a nearby room and then head to the track in the morning. That, of course, was purely from a safety concern standpoint as we may have been intoxicated. It was a weeknight early in the month so I suspected that it shouldn't be a problem to find a room. As it turns out though, the girl who first approached me was married. Her friend told me that she had to get her home because her husband would be wondering where she was.

I suppose it is because I am more of a foot person than a hand person but I hadn't noticed the wedding ring even as we had walked around town hand-in-hand. She sure wasn't behaving in a manner that I expected a married woman to exhibit.

At this point I come almost full circle. I have recently had a relationship evolve rather quickly from the casual friendship that we had in the past to one of an unconditionally accepted confidant. She is a soul-mate.

She had been in somewhat of a long term relationship with a guy who was clearly abusive to her. In one instance she and I were at a very public place taking care of some business. I was then going to drop her off elsewhere where he would then pick her up after his workday ended. But before taking our journey he calls and she tells him that she is with me. He then leaves work and moments later we can see him circling the parking lot waiting for her to come out.

I am not often taken to violence but I came very close to yanking him out of that truck and telling him that he better never contact her again. I restrained that urge purely out of respect for her and the knowledge that I knew she would come to her senses and ditch him, which she did.

I guess it was after that when she really opened up to me. Actually to life, she blossomed like a springtime flower. We engaged in philosophical discussions that would have been impressive coming from any adult. She has evolved into a more dynamic person not constrained by the heavy hand of a partner whose insecurity about himself left him intimidated by her friendship with me.

She and I are connected in a way that transcends any limitations that society would seek to impose upon us. We share commonality in behaviour, thought and desire. We had a moment last night where I said the exact opposite of truth in such a natural and believable manner that she was instantly sucked-in by that possibility. We laughed about it together -- me so hard that I had abdominal pain. But she took no offense. Had that been with my wife I would have been berated for making fun of her, "calling her stupid" and, likely, she would have thrown something at me. But this gal takes it in stride and we both find our gullibility or other logical lapses amusing.

I think she will make an outstanding wife for someone. Not me, I want this everlasting friendship to continue and I don't quite see myself as the husband type any longer. Not for one woman at least but I have an inkling that few accept that. There is plenty to go around though. One day I woke up in one woman's home, went to see another gal took her along to go pick up another, dropped off the first one and then laid my head down in the bed of a fourth one that night. But they all knew and knew the limits.

All she needs to do is find an exceptional man who will accept her relationship with me. In choosing that future husband she will likely be paired with someone for whom she feels a mutual attraction. It's the particular type of attraction that I feel is significant to ensuring a lasting marriage. It's not wrong to suggest that carnal motivation often pairs us with a spouse. But it's the essence of the person that provides a lasting bond.

I believe that marriage is an ill-defined institution. The typical vow asks for a lifelong commitment to a person and that no other shall be placed before that person. I am not here to suggest that there is anything wrong with the vow. The problem I see is that people have been scripted in a way for marriage that is not compatible with either the vow or their nature. Literature from the distant past through current media portrays marriage in a romanticized sense. Two people meeting, falling in love with each other and living "happily ever after." Yet the reality is some cultures was that a mistress was expected and accepted.

What makes women and men happy is not always compatible with marriage. I don't want to say that it is not possible for two soul mates to effectively be parents and spouses for life without the involvement of others. I know it happens but what I see more often is that people who are attracted to each other expect to become soul mates and that they will live happily ever after because that is what marriage produces in the romanticized view. Relationships must be nourished though and what may be a lasting emotional bond may not produce effective parenting while those who can effectively manage family together may not possess that deep, lifelong emotional satisfaction. Thus, it is my contention that marriage is a business partnership. Afterall, it has been turned into a state regulated legally binding partnership. The pros and cons of the potential partner must be weighed and balanced with emotional attraction to hopefully find a happy medium.

I have seen so many spouses and been involved with many more women than mentioned here who were not having their emotional needs met in their marriages. I feel that our society would be best served by embracing the concept of lovers being compatible with successful marriages rather than the downfall of them. I don't propose embracing sexual liaisons but quite to the contrary -- embracing the desire that leads to those sexual liaisons.

Often times women who engage in these extra-marital sexual affairs were seeking not the sex but the emotional high of being placed upon a pedestal, being heard and being appreciated. Likewise men, although biologically endowed with a drive to spread their seed, also have emotional needs. They want to be understood and appreciated. These desires need to be communicated and acted upon. The action should come from the spouse but if not, then from someone else. The term "cheating" gets tossed around in this respect but I contend that it is not.

I don't feel that I ever cheated some man of his wife or girlfriend. I was there when he wasn't or in addition to him. I was not depriving him of his partner but was instead satisfying a need of hers. Contrarily I feel that my wife cheated. Instead of giving attention to our son when she returned home from work she talked on the phone with guys or slept. Often she was tired from having been up during the night talking on the phone or going out for trysts. So I finally stood up for my son and myself and insisted that she give us due attention first before going out for her sexual rendezvous. That lasted a short while before she just moved in with one of those guys and ignored us.

It may seem contrary to our culture, norms and religiously based impositions but I feel that lovers are a substantial part of what keeps marriages intact. It's the failure to communicate about them or trying to hide them that breaks marriages apart. At least where I have been involved. Don't seek refuge or comfort in thoughts that these anecdotes are aberrations. It's far more common than people believe. I certainly won't expose anyone but it may surprise many to know what I know about some people. That's my musings on the subject -- take it as you may.

UPDATE: It was just after midnight on the second night I was writing this when I get the text asking if I had a place for her to live, that she was done with him and that he was not willing to make any effort to save their relationship. It was the gal whom I briefly lived with a year ago. Maybe I have been redeemed in my previously held contention that he didn't possess the ability to maintain the type of commitment that she and her children needed. But I stand resolute in my charge to help her -- that commitment is lifelong.

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