I listed a couple of my disclaimers in yesterday’s intro into this series, but I better cover them here as well:
My writings on this topic will be based upon a mix of personal experience and my experience as an attorney.
All opinions are my own, and it is not my intent to upset anyone in any way or feed into any stereotypes or traditional prejudices that people may have.
None of us can have a full understanding of what other folks are doing, or what’s in their minds, their perspectives, what they were taught, what their intentions are, or why events in their lives may have unfolded the way they did.
Obviously, since I’m a male, you will be hearing a male perspective, but I’ve tried to balance that and be as objective as possible. For those following my blog, you may remember I did a series on being “Woke” where I discussed gender roles and patriarchy, and I tried to provide a balanced discussion in that series as well.
Also, readers may span different generations and have been taught completely different things and may approach love, sex, and marriage in completely different ways than prior generations. Or they may come from a different cultural base that treats relationships completely different than from the way they are treated in this country. One of my blogging friends just this morning introduced a different term for this discussion – the “bonded pair,” and I like that because it encompasses much more than a single concept.
I have edited parts of my articles to remove personal observations that some might find objectionable. It is not always easy for people to look in the mirror, or into the mirror I’m holding. I’m trying to respect that. But those observations may come out once comments begin.
Everyone will have their views, and I hope you will share yours with me frankly – trust me, I won’t be offended.
All that being said, let’s dive into some myths. Even at the risk of my own embarrassment. :-0
I think I was about ten years old. I was reading a book in my bedroom in our Midwestern home. A town that had grown to about 1000 people. Lots of cornfields. We’re talking 1960s here.
And my father walked in and handed me a different book. He said that he and my mom had decided I was old enough to learn about this stuff now, and then he walked out of the room.
This was sex-education, 1960s style.
My parent’s generation was embarrassed to directly talk about sex. In fact, to a certain degree, couples back then were embarrassed to even show their affection for each other openly. They would not even speak of it.
So here I was, reading along and staring at crudely drawn pictures not revealing much, thinking, well, I’ve raised rabbits now for a number of years and I have a little bit of an idea about where babies come from – disgusting. Why do animals do this?
LOL. Of course, I was too young to understand the pleasure, both physical and emotional, involved with sex, much more with actually romantically loving another person, something for which we received no training.
All that would come soon enough. Accompanied by some particular myths.
Parents of that generation stayed married. Even if they had come to hate each other. They did it for the kids. They did it because that was what people were “supposed” to do. They did it out of mutual dependence. They may have even dissected love from marriage. Love was different from compatible living. Marriage meant you stayed together, even if the love had vanished.
They regarded the decision to marry as being final.
Now my parents didn’t hate each other. I believe they truly loved each other. My parents were married until my father passed away – fifty-six years of marriage. Both of my parents were educated and had careers. That was a little out of the norm for their generation.
What I was taught, by my parent’s example, and by questioning, and through role models, and by what played out on TV, and by religions that were more popular at the time, was that intimate relations were sacred. You only had sex when you loved someone. You loved them before having sex. That you didn’t enter into loving relationships willy-nilly.
As a man, I was taught, no mistake about it, that you were to respect women. Honor them and cherish them. Never raise your voice or your hand to them. And if us kids ever did anything disrespectful of mom, well we’d be picking ourselves up off the floor once dad got there.
The other side of the placing women on a pedestal myth, was that the pedestal was where they wanted to be. That they viewed intimate relationships exactly the same way, that they were a sacred trust. And were to be ever-lasting. They involved commitment. They involved love. And that they would always respect their man.
Women were also taught to be subservient. Enter high school home economics class; also known as “domestic science.” Their identities vanished once married and their concerns were to be primarily child-rearing and homemaking. They were taught that this subservience was God-ordained, and from what I saw, they liked being in a secondary role. Of course, that’s changed, but it was a belief still alive and well when I went to nursing school and the good Catholic girls there bragged of their subservience – to God, to men, and to doctors.
Divorce was hidden when I grew up.
The extremely few adult women living on their own, or as single mothers, that were in my community, were widows. Their husbands had died or were killed. Usually a workplace accident or a military death. They usually didn’t re-marry, because marriage was supposed to be a one-time thing.
So then came our teenage and experimental years.
And even when experimenting with intimate relationships, I regarded them as sacred. But how serious can teens be? Pretty serious actually. And the myths we were taught set us up for emotional disaster.
First, I saw young men treating and speaking of women poorly. They clearly didn’t have the same upbringing as I did. Or if they did, they had found other role models to follow. Yet they always had girlfriends who were more than willing to be subservient and be badly treated. It was a trade-off, I suppose. So, they could date the captain of the football team, or whatever the status symbol was in their imaginary world.
Next, many young women were just as flippant as the men. Intimate relationships were for fun, immediate gratification, were not to be taken seriously, and they certainly didn’t involve love in any form.
And really, could kids this age really have a concept of what love was?
Certain girls had bad reputations for “putting out.” But the boys had hero status for their conquests. There were members of both sexes discarding partners as fast as the relationship began. Sex was with whomever was the soup du jour.
This was all very confusing. But I kept the moral values I was taught. I considered that to be the right way to live. It was thoroughly ingrained. I had one girlfriend in high school, and even after she moved away, I remained faithful (for a legitimate time anyway) thinking we’d be back together someday. I had made a commitment.
(Two paragraphs edited out)
So, enter adulthood. Men and women meet. With all of their learned misconceptions. Traditional gender roles ingrained, or not. Myths about what intimacy, love, and sex are, and are not. Sometimes, in fact I’d say most times, with limited ability to fully communicate.
But the sex is good, and all of society’s “shoulds” are weighing them down. The clock is ticking. It must be time to get married and have children.
That’s what everybody does, right?
Even if traditional gender roles haven’t been ingrained, most young adults enter marriage without having an adult discussion about those roles, or finances and how they are to be controlled, or career goals (especially if one career is to take precedence over another), where they might ultimately want to live, or even how to raise their children.
Why? Because they are in “love,” and love is all that matters. Except they may not really know what love is, and they may not really know what a commitment is. In fact, they enter into relationships based upon more selfish reasons. Position, money, perceived power, personal appearance, to have a child – you name it, but it’s not romantic love.
And I think this “me first” attitude is especially prevalent today. Individualism over the partnership. Individualism over the community. You could also call it a basic survival mentality if you wished. And you’ll kill the bear that threatens you, even if you consciously and willingly entered the bear’s cave. Even if you bargained for the trade. A promise for a promise. “For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health; to love, cherish, honor, and obey till death do us part . . . .” And some add, “according to God’s holy law.”
And chances are, the couple, or at least one member of the couple, doesn’t believe a discussion is necessary about any of the details surrounding marriage or a shared life because those many societal myths are still rolling around in the back of their heads and are believed to dictate the answer. Such as, you always follow the man’s career first.
And those myths also dictate an idea of “fairness” should a marriage fail. You might analogize that to an implied covenant.
Ultimately, the stressors of life become greater and greater and clash with the myths of our upbringing, and fifty-percent of these couples will split for a whole variety of reasons.* Especially that myth about long-term commitment. In fact, I would go so far as to say that marriage today has become just as disposable as plastic water bottles. Once the product inside is fully “consumed,” or has lost its fresh flavor, or has warmed to room temperature, it’s time to move on to the next one. To the next pleasing sensation, no matter how momentary it will last.
And here’s where things get dicey.
Because now it’s time for the divorce . . . and a great many of these couples, or at least one member of the couple, didn’t understand they were entering a “contract.”
They didn’t understand this because there was no written document to examine that outlined the terms and conditions. So, if they entered a marriage believing all the myths and societal shoulds that were taught or modeled, regardless of the era or culture, and regardless of what camp you ended up in with regard to how you treat others, well, it’s too late. The myths won’t help you now.
Now it’s time for the State to get involved.
Photo: A family of Canadian Geese graced our lake one year. A pair would try to nest every year, but this was the only successful couple. Usually something, probably a raccoon or a snake, managed to get the eggs and the couple would leave without a family.
Canadian Geese mate for life. One year, the varmint raiding the nest killed and ate the mom. I’m sure she was defending her eggs. The husband, and prospective dad, stayed at our lake for two full weeks searching and calling for his partner. It was a very mournful honking that went on all day. It was truly heart breaking. That’s commitment.
* Now, I do believe others enter relationships, almost blindly, because of true love. “real love.” And they may, or may not, be ready to face the challenges that await them. True love will pull them through anything. Or so they believe. BTW, I believe that too. My money is on these guys.
** My “Being Woke” Series may be found at the following links: