SOCIAL STUDIES Dear Marriage, You Kind of Scare Me Charlotte Townsend

Drawn by Charlotte Townsend

Dear Marriage,

You kind of scare me. In just about every romantic comedy, the female lead is so desperate to get married, pawning at the mere idea like it will make or break her existence, that it paints the entire gender as obsessive marriage-whores. Well, let me tell you something: the idea frightens me beyond belief. It’s not the settling down that stresses me out, it’s the idea that I could be making the wrong choice that gets my palms sweating. My parents got married with (I’m hoping) every intention of staying together forever. Six months after I was born, they – yup, you guessed it – got divorced.

I had lovely childhood—who would complain? Two Christmases, two birthdays, two tooth-fairies… you get the point. But I never had a traditional “family” growing up and I’m scared I will make the same mistake that my parents did, which will in turn force my child(ren) to be shuttled between two homes every other weekend. Yeah, two Christmases were great, but the plane rides on actual Christmas? Not so great.

How does anyone know when they are really with the person they should be with forever? Well I guess that’s not the hard part, the better question is—does that person feel the same way? I am friends with both the man and woman currently in a relationship— he calls to tell me that he is head-over-heels in love and going to propose and she calls to tell me that she is so annoyed with his puppy love she’s going to break up with him.

How can one person be so in love and the other want a break up? How can people be so in love and then snap so quickly? How can you share a family and suddenly realize this is not what you wanted? These are the questions that haunt me whenever I see a couple on the street, a couple pushing a newborn baby, even the 75 year-old couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary (Oh, come on, we’ve all heard of the couple that breaks up after decades of marriage).

Will this fright ever go away? I hope so. I want a family one-day and all that, but when I picture my family, I just picture me and a newborn. I’m not sure why. Maybe it has do with the fact that my mom was alone with a newborn, but that’s what I imagine, just me and my precious little angel-winged cherub.

You seem like a nice idea, marriage, from what I’ve seen in the movies. Two people married are built in best friends that cook each other dinner, love each other, create a family together and never have sex (well, maybe that’s not that great, but all the rest seems just dandy… come to think of it, that kind of contradicts the creating the family together bit, but you get the picture).

Maybe the key in having a successful family is to be like Brad & Angelina and not to get married, but then again, I doubt that Jen thought her happy marriage would end so tragically… Okay, I am going in circles here but I attribute that to my overthinking brain!

You know that saying, “the one”? Well, maybe there really is only one the (Yes, it was necessary to bold, italicize and underline it to emphasize the importance of the “the”) one. I cannot give you advice on how to find your “the one” but I can give you my opinion on how not to find him—don’t go looking for some rich, hot, sexy, bachelor to pick you up in his Bently GT Continental because 1) I don’t think someone like that exists and if he does 2) He is probably a complete douchebag. Look for someone with similar interests, similar outlooks on life and similar dreams to you.

I’m not an expert on this or anything but these things seem like common sense, and I’m pretty sure it is where my parents went wrong, so in turn, I pass on to you what I’ve learned. Marriage is built up (in rom-coms and on the E! channel) to be this huge extravaganza, but never do the sources of entertainment really concentrate on the love of the ceremony. I think the key is finding someone you are crazy about (with similar interests, outlooks and dreams), that feels equal affection and passion towards you. My mom once told me, “Never love someone who loves you more than you love them” but I think know it should be equal.

Personally, my palms are still kind of sweating with the notion of one day thinking about settling down with a ring on the finger—but my dad gets sweaty palms easily too, so maybe it’s genetic? Nonetheless, if you too are scared of marriage, I hope that this article can help you realize what marriage should be about (and even if you don’t want to ever get married, we live in a time that doesn’t condemn a person for that—just look at George Clooney). So as long as you are happy and healthy, that is all that really matters. And if you want “the one” he (or she) is out there – waiting for you, on horse back, backlit by the most beautiful sunset in the entire history of the world, with a bouquet of a thousand thorn-less red roses (Just kidding, kind of).

Yours truly,

Charlotte

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  1. I never really dreamt or thought about getting married, wasn’t really in my plans. So maybe that’s why I’m so content in my current path towards planning a wedding. If you hype it up into this big fairytale then of course there will be pressure and sweaty palms because if you don’t meet the ideal then what’s the point? The point in my book is finding the right life partner, and I have. Yeah I wanted that companion, but I was searching for “the one” and didn’t even know it was possible, until one day, he just showed up. Well, I was lucky enough that we were friends before, so he was kind of in the picture for a while, just under a different label.

  2. I got engaged at the tender age of 17, married at 18 and now I’m 19, and my husband is a vital 4 years older than me. I always hoped to get married young and to have a young family, but never quite expected to be a married women at 19!!
    Marriage is a delicate thing, and it is a commitment, but for me i think of the commitment less like a binding contract and more like a living plant (excuse the worlds cheesiest metaphor). but marriage will grow as you care for it, if you give it time and love and attention then it will flower each year, and the times when it flowers will keep you going through the times when its dry and twiggy. But its just about giving to the relationship and feeding it. I feel so jammy that I’m lucky enough to have already found my best friend who understands me completely, who I’m honest with and who i get to spend the rest of my life with, i can’t wait! and part of me thinks, i’ve been married a year and a half, i should just be being married not thinking about how to care and feed my marriage, but the truth is i think it’s a constant thing that you have to be aware of and work on. and i think as long as you are prepared to keep consciously giving to it, you have nothing to be afraid of because a marriage that is looked after so carefully isn’t going to fall apart.
    These are somethings, kind of ‘rules’ that my husband and I keep to:
    -never go to bed angry
    -never say never or always
    -always make time to laugh
    -always be honest
    -always lots of sex, hugs and kisses

    I love these ‘rules’ and they are really important to me and my husband and i hope they can be helpful and special to others too!

    • I love your rules! Everyone should live by those!

      Charlotte Townsend | 1/18/2012 05:01 pm
  3. I never wanted to get married, my plan was to die at 25…then when i was 24 i met someone special and now I am 26 and we are engaged and i can’t wait to spend my (long?) life with her.

    • Congratulations Heather! I’m glad you’ve found someone that is worth living for. I wish you both all the best.

      Charlotte Townsend | 1/18/2012 05:01 pm
  4. So speaking from a guy’s point of view and being some who is actually EXTREMELY looking forward to getting married, I still understand what you mean. I’m actually studying to be a Marriage and Family Therapist and you start to understand what people think truly about with both sides. I grew up watching romantic/romantic comedy movies and they’re actually my favorite but the couples are hugely dramatized. Though I laugh at the people that use Twilight for an example lol. I think though sometimes your family upbringing can actually impact how you feel. I came from a family where it ended with divorce (was a good thing though) and it wasn’t a great childhood so I want to have a nice happy family with legitimately happy children. I’m glad to see that people on here actually thought about and took time to think about it before getting married :). You ladies are really smart! By the way don’t think about finding “the one” think about finding someone that’s right FOR YOU. Just find the person that’s your best friend as well as the person you love. Sex and passion doesn’t mean anything if you have nothing in common and can’t stand to bearound the person. Just food for thought :).

    • Such a beautiful comment Michael. I think you’re right that one’s upbringing has a lot to do with their views on how they want to raise their family.

      Charlotte Townsend | 1/18/2012 05:01 pm
  5. Marriage is scary, but the best and biggest things in life usually are, on some level. My husband and I took 6 years to feel ready to get engaged. Now 2 years after the wedding we feel like marriage is the best thing we ever did, and we’re expecting our first baby – NOW TALK ABOUT SCARY!! You can’t divorce a baby :) Anyone who is engaged/nearly engaged/thinking of getting engaged, and is legitimately nervous/anxious should read “The Conscious Bride” – it quite literally changed my life and I’m not sure I’d be here today without it.

  6. Marriage is intimidating, but these comments are honestly a little sad.
    Having the opinion that the new “traditional” family is a broken one is incredibly pessimistic, and simply not true.
    Most of my friends have parents who have stayed together.
    And even though all of you people who have commented know people who’s marriages didn’t work out, and ended in bad ways, does not mean that yours would.
    Some people make terrible choices in who they decide to marry.
    That does not mean that you will.
    A lot of people also get divorced at the first sign of any relationship issue. No relationship is perfect. They are all difficult at times, and EVERYONE will go through a rough patch.
    If you’re too weak a person to get through that rough patch, then you obviously are not cut out for marriage.

    Think of it this way;
    If there was a movie you wanted to see, but every critic said it was bad, wouldn’t you still want to see it for yourself? Maybe you have a different taste in movies than they do.

    Just because someone tells you their marriage didn’t work out, and you should never get married, does not mean that you shouldn’t. That is simply their experience, and their opinion.

    Even if you try, and fail, at least you tried, and you won’t have to wonder anymore what could’ve been.

  7. I’ve found that this book: http://www.freedomainradio.com/free/books/FDR_3_PDF_Real_Time_Relationships.pdf

    has really helped me with many typical relationship anxieties. It sounds too simple, but being honest through every step of your relationship is so important. There’s an example in this book of a typical relationship and why we always seem to have the same problem at the end of a relationship. I really recommend it to anyone that is married, practically married, or wants to have a good relationship with another human being.

  8. I think it’s perfectly Ok to find marriage scary. Declaring your intention to stay with someone, through thick and thin for all eternity… why would you not be scared of that?! We girls have so many more options now, we can have careers and be independent without eyebrows being raised, we no longer see marriage as an eventuality in our lives but instead as something we can choose to do as and when it feels right, and indeed ‘if’ it feels right. If it scares you don’t do it. You can still be a partner to someone, you can still be a mother to someone, you can still wear pretty dresses, you can still have a song that feels like it was written just for you and your boy/girl, you don’t need a wedding to make it suddenly OK.

    We all get stuff wrong, we all choose wrong partners at various points in our life, we all have bad relationships and we all make mistakes. What we do all need to do is make sure we learn, we grow, we move on and we allow ourselves to live our lives without that fear, or at the very least with an acceptance of it and the person it makes us, when you have that you’ll find a partner who accepts it too, and then things won’t seem as scary….

    • You are so right when you talk about women’s options today. I loved how you articulated “we no longer see marriage as an eventuality in our lives but instead as something we can choose to do as and when it feels right, and indeed ‘if’ it feels right” It’s great that women have gotten to this point.

      Charlotte Townsend | 1/18/2012 04:01 pm
  9. Thank you for this article, I really enjoyed it! I think about this topic probably more than I should. I have trouble understanding how someone could ever trust another person enough to want to spend the rest of the life with them. I guess I just don’t trust easily, and I see so many couples who are so in love end up breaking up. Sometimes people marry and it ends in infidelity or physical or emotional abuse. I just don’t understand how someone could love someone so much and then end up hurting them so badly. I guess that just means that I haven’t found “the one” yet.

    Although I am pessimistic about this kind of thing, I do hold on to some hope that one day I will find someone who I love and trust enough to want to spend the rest of my life with. Thanks for letting me know I’m not the only girl who thinks about this kind of thing!

    • You don’t sound pessimistic at all! I feel very similarly to you. Thank you for reading the article. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Charlotte Townsend | 1/18/2012 04:01 pm
  10. I’m 25 years old, and have been married for a little over a year to my best friend in the entire world. To be honest with you, marriage still scares me. It’s a scary thing. Some days I wake up and think “Oh my god, I’m so young! This is supposed to be FOREVER”, but mostly I wake up and am so extremely overwhelmed with happiness. Regardless of whether this will last forever, the love and memories I’ve gotten out of this so far will never be anything I regret.

  11. plenty of women before us had to go through hell when getting into bad marriages. nowadays marriage is much easier for women to get out of since we are so much more financially stable. It’s ok to be afraid, I think it’s pretty healthy. I told myself (as a single mom who was a terrible previous relationship, no marriages tho) that I would never get married. I have wonderful friends and family and was just happy being me and being mommy, wasn’t ready to be wife. But then I met someone who loved me in a way that felt so safe. He even makes me feel like I’d love to have another child. He went at my pace and waited for me to feel ready and loved and supported me the whole way and now I am having a wedding with him this weekend! :) Nobody has to do nothin! But never say never, I suppose ;)

    • Wow congratulations! I wish you two all the best!

      Charlotte Townsend | 1/18/2012 04:01 pm
  12. I think in our generation it is fair to be concerned about marriage, I think a lot of people before us have been married for a lot of the wrong reasons, a lot of people do it to fix a problem, or because they think they should – that it is just the next step. I think that you have a pretty great grasp on what is required in a marriage to actually make it successful, and the biggest thing to understand is that, no matter how great you are together, marriage takes work and commitment, if you are not willing to do what it takes to work through things, then there is no point in getting married. A lot of people think it will be this easy rom com, but you’re human and you grow and change and have bad days, life will test the both of you, together and separately, but those that go into marriage prepared for that, and prepared to make it work with their partner are the ones who will be celebrating their 50th. It’s not just about being in love with the person, it’s about respecting them too. And as cheesy as it sounds, when you meet the right person “you’ll know”. I knew when I met my husband, and I love him more everyday.

    • Jena thank you so much for your extremely insightful comment! I think you hit it right on the head with everything you said especially with “biggest thing to understand is that, no matter how great you are together, marriage takes work and commitment, if you are not willing to do what it takes to work through things, then there is no point in getting married”

      Charlotte Townsend | 1/18/2012 04:01 pm
  13. I’ve been married since I was 20 and my husband was 19. It’s been three years of marriage and I love him more and more each day. Growing up, I was extremely cynical about love and marriage. My parents divorced at the pinnacle teenage angst season of my life. So what does it take to marry? You. Your “one” could be right in front of you all day long but first, you have to know what love really is and where it comes from; secondly, you have to allow yourself to love instead of making your parents past mistakes your own; Third, you have to realize that your “one” isn’t going to create a romance novel life for you! He or she is a real person, with their own problems/defects… There are many things that love is, and one of the main parts I’ve found is loving a person for their good attributes and choosing to look past the bad. No one’s perfect but someone might be perfect for you. Meaning: They might be just as much of a dork (possibly more) than you and it keeps you laughing all day long… like my hubster and I ;P

  14. …and thank you Charlotte!

  15. marraige is scary, children are scary! I’m 23 and the older i get the more scared I get! I have a great guy and it’s coming up to the 6 year mark but neither of us want to ‘grow up’. So many people where I live, my age, already have kids! I guess when you have less fear about these things then you’re ready and it will happen when it happens.

    • 6 years! Wow! Congrats, you both seem very happy. If neither of you want to get married then there is no need. Xo

      Charlotte Townsend | 1/18/2012 04:01 pm
  16. Thanks Charlotte, I feel like you had great insight as to a budding feeling that lots of females feel these days about matrimony!

    I feel like the traditional family is divorced. I rarely ever hear of people my own age or younger with parents still married.

    I’m a child of divorce and through my parents blunders, I have always been hesitant about the idea of getting married. I’m rather picky now about men I date and I never grew up with dreams of an ideal wedding. I feel its rather gregarious and a waste of money. Plus I have a strange idea of marriage and engagements in general.

    Thanks again! I can’t wait to read more articles from you!

    • Hannah, I’m glad you enjoyed the article! I’ve never dreamed of my ideal wedding either, I always dreamt of my sweet 16 instead! Now thats far out of sight and I’ve found that I am focused on the future instead of certain events. People should dream about whatever makes them happy!

      Charlotte Townsend | 1/18/2012 04:01 pm
  17. Great article… marriage really is a scary thing these days. I love what you said about similar outlooks on life… I think that is so important! And equal affection. I would also add that it’s important to find someone who is committed to the marriage “til death do us part.” Feelings come and go and then come back and then go, etc. in even the best marriages among best friends… but when you have two people who are committed to each other and to the marriage no matter what happens and no matter what their feelings/annoyances… I think that is how love lasts for decades.

    • I agree with you! All of the marriages I have witnessed where both people seem extremely happy are when they are best friends. I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

      Charlotte Townsend | 1/18/2012 04:01 pm
  18. I have to say I’m a 20 yr old female and I have been saying for the past 6 yrs I am not getting married! Marriage does scare me alot I feel like you can’t really trust men or you want a perfect marriage and you end up divorced or cheated on. I mean if it happens maybe it’s meant to be but until then I am sticking to my guns and Im not getting married!

    • I used to say I never wanted kids. I was 100% serious about it, and even went as far as to say I wished my ovaries would stop working.
      Now, every time I see a baby, or baby clothes, or anything even remotely baby related, I sigh heavily and make sad eyes at my boyfriend, who gets mad and says “We can’t have a baby right now!”

      My point is…One day you will probably want to get married, when you find THE one. Haha