The Practice Marriage

The Practice Marriage

Last week I watched Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday featuring author and “relationship expert,” Tracy McMillan. Author of I Love You and I’m Leaving You Anyway is perhaps best known for her controversial article in the Huffington Post entitled, Why You’re Not Married.

After watching the show, I read the article, which highlights the six reasons why women (who want to be married) are not married. It got me thinking.

The reasons why women who want to be married aren’t married are the same reasons (with the exception of reason number three) why I am divorced. Twice. And why Ms. McMillian herself is thrice divorced.

As a woman, I can honestly say that I was totally unprepared for marriage the first time around. It boils down to this:

The Practice Marriage Princess Fantasy

The Princess Fantasy and Why Men Take So Long to Commit:
With the proliferation of Disney princesses, today more than ever our daughters are growing up with an unrealistic expectation of what marriage is and what it can do for them. They grow up believing—with every fiber of their being—that marriage will make them happy.

It won’t because, as McMillan points out,once the initial high wears off, you’ll just be you, except with twice as much laundry.

Most girls, by the time they grow up, have a pretty clear picture of what their wedding dress will look like, who their brides maids will be, and the song that will play during the first dance with their (still faceless and nameless) groom. Many even know what they’ll name their first child (I was going to have a daughter named Sarah). Unfortunately, girls are taught to look forward to the wedding, not the marriage and all that it entails. It’s why we are so quick to say yes!

Men, on the other hand, have a more realistic expectation of marriage. Most couldn’t care less about the actual wedding. They understand one thing. Their single days are over. Or, as McMillan puts it, marriage for men involves sacrificing their most treasured possession—a free-agent penis. It’s why they wait so long to propose.

The Practice Marriage Prince Charming

Prince Charming and the White Stallion:
What would a princess fantasy be without Prince Charming? Every girl wants to marry a tall, broad shouldered, good looking man with a good job and a steady income. What she should want is a man of character.

Instead we fall for men who are emotionally unavailable and end up broken hearted when our attempts to convince him that he can’t live without us have surprisingly failed. Again. We fall for men who aren’t our intellectual, spiritual or emotional equals. Who don’t share the same life goals and values that we do.

We do this because we don’t know ourselves well enough. Don’t love ourselves fully. Don’t yet understand our own worth. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn these things before my first marriage. Or my second. Truth be told, I didn’t learn them before my current marriage either. But this time, because I married a man of substance, I’ve come to know and love myself in ways that (in my opinion) only come with age. And maturity.

And until we reach this point, most of us are unprepared for what comes after the wedding. After the honeymoon. Marriage is hard work. It’s compromising, even when you don’t want to compromise. It’s apologizing, even when you know you’re right because his feelings are more important than your pride. It’s loving someone even when they don’t deserve it because there will be days when you don’t deserve it either.

I love me

If there was one piece of advice I could pass along to my daughter (and wish my mother had passed along to me), it would be this. Before you marry, wait until you know yourself fully, love yourself completely. And then, choose your partner wisely.

What about you? Did you marry young? Looking back, do you think you were fully prepared for marriage in your twenties? What about your thirties?


10 comments on… “The Practice Marriage”

  1. I married young (20 – about 4 months before I’d turn 21). Although I have family, at the time he and I were living on the opposite side of the country from them, so it was just him and me to figure out married life – no advice, no shoulder to cry on when something went wrong. And then his father moved in with us (after about three months of marriage) and he slept on our couch in our one-bedroom apartment for about three months before we moved to a two-bedroom apartment with him. He moved after about three months, and then we moved as well. After some time in Las Vegas, we moved back to my parents’ house. In the first three years of our marriage, we spent half of that time either totally on our own or living with an in-law. I firmly believe the reason we have made it through so far (24 years on June 16) – other than pure stubbornness – is because we both had to rely only one each other but had to both accommodate our partner’s family in our life as well.
    We had actually eloped to Las Vegas for our wedding (it’s too long a story!) and when I told my mother I was married, she told me that it wasn’t the wedding that mattered, but the marriage. And my mother-in-law told me just last year that she was relieved we had eloped!!

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Faith. One of the few people I know who married young and stayed together. Congrats on 24 years!! Your mother had it right, about the marriage that matters. My parents had a shotgun wedding in 1949 and stayed married until my mom passed in 2001. But then, those were different times.

  2. Brett Hawks

    Twice divorced in my early twenties, I was most certainly not prepared. Following my second divorce, I was committing a slow suicide–Baby Ruths, root beer, and cigarettes were my only sustenance–because my second marriage was a misguided attempt to prove that I could have made the first work.

    By my late twenties, I had lost interest, and then I met the woman who I wanted to live the rest of my life. We were as ready as any two twenty-somethings could be, though neither of us was looking at the time. Through ups and downs, sickness and health, we’ve been together, and we celebrated our 35th anniversary this spring.

  3. I married young because that’s what my parents told me I should do. It was a religious thing for me. Women were not to have careers or educations, they were to be wives and mothers. Needless to say, that didn’t work out so well for me. I waited 13 years before I remarried, this time to a guy I didn’t need but a guy I wanted. I didn’t need anybody when I married the second time around. I was self-sufficient and emotionally confident. I (finally) agreed to marry my current husband (he asked me 3 times before I said yes) because I decided that I could still be me and have him too. It’s been eleven years now, so I guess I did okay.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • Oh – and by the way – not all of the Disney princesses have that attitude. Merida (Brave) and Tiana (The Princess and the Frog) were strong, independent women who were not waiting around for a prince on a white horse. Those gals rocked.

      Just sayin’. (Don’t be messing with my Disney.)


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