When Are You Going To Realize The Disney Fantasy You’ve Been Spoon-Fed Your Whole Life Doesn’t Exist?
It’s wedding season … again. Countless brides across the country have spent an enormous amount of time and money planning and hosting their weddings. And I say brides … because it is primarily, and traditionally, the bride (and bride’s family) that pays and hosts a wedding. And these brides are happy …. even giddy … about doing so. This will be the biggest celebration … pinnacle of accomplishment … most significant status symbol … in their lives. Nothing else will ever compare to that moment when they say “I do.”
Well, that’s not quite true.
As a divorce coach, I know that almost half of those brides will experience divorce. I know that divorce will take at least 3x – 10x more time and money than the wedding itself. I know that when women do divorce, they will be knocked back professionally and financially for at least 6 – 8 years (whereas there is no long-term financial impact on men). And I know that women carry the stigma of divorce both socially and professionally far more than men.
So, why do we do it? We do it because it is what we are “supposed” to do. We are bombarded at birth by family, friends, movies and media all force-feeding us numerous myths our society, consciously or subconsciously, has around marriage. There’s an old saying that sums it up perfectly: “We all eat lies when our hearts are hungry.” And our society is determined to make sure that women are hungry … for love, acceptance, validation and security. Unfortunately, we often find out later that what was being sold to us isn’t what we actually paid for after all.
Truth #1: Marriage Isn’t Love, It’s A Contract
Marriage is a LEGAL contract. Nothing more, nothing less. It binds two people … traditionally, a man and a women together … in terms of legal status, property, assets and debt. Historically, marriage contracts were economic transactions, designed to legally convey the assets of a woman … and the woman herself … over to the man. The bride became the legal property and responsibility of the groom … which is why the bride traditionally takes the groom’s last name as her own. By paying for the wedding and offering a dowry, the bride’s family was basically paying for her to be taken off their hands. And in most cases, they were buying lucrative business or political connections in return.
Essentially, women were bartered as property. And there wasn’t any other choice. They weren’t allowed to own property themselves AND they (and their children) needed the protection of a man in feudal societies (and some modern countries today). I know you know all this. And I also know that you don’t think it’s relevant in today’s world. It is, though, because our “traditions” are founded on women being owned … and the trappings of our current marriage ceremonies, contracts and entire society still resonate with, and reflect, those ideas.
Truth #2: Marriage Is Sold As Love
From anatomically incorrect Barbie dolls to Disney princess dresses, fashion models on the covers of Cosmopolitan and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, we are conditioned to believe that our bodies are more valuable than our minds. Entire industries make billions of dollars off of women trying to be skinny enough, fit enough, pretty enough. What about smart enough? We are taught that our inherent value is in what we do for others as wives, mothers, mistresses and even prostitutes … and never what we do for ourselves.
Sacrifice isn’t a virtue, it’s a requirement. Our entire focus as women is on others and what others think of us. All of these societal messages negate women as human beings and de-value us as individuals. To what end? Well, we have to find a man to love, marry and protect us. Why? Apparently, we are incapable of doing so for ourselves. And to some degree, that’s true. This minimization of women as just a “body” also creates and supports rape culture, unequal gender pay and legislation over female reproductive rights. We are prey … and men are the predators.
So, marriage is sold as safety in a world that is inherently unsafe. And over time, safety has been blurred with romantic love. Our husbands protect us from the unsafe environment they perpetuate. Remember Rapunzel? She was safe in her tower … but she was also locked in a prison. The tower/prison/marriage construct is ultimately just an illusion used to manipulate and control us. And now, we willingly plan and pay for it … all in the name of “love.”
Truth #3: You Need A Lot More Than Love To Make Marriage Work
The idea that “all you need is love” is a colossal trap that will doom your marriage from the start. I know. As a divorce coach, I know what makes marriage work and what doesn’t. In most cases, divorce is caused by misaligned values. The things that are most important to you are not important, or even on the same radar screen, for him … or vice versa.
When you don’t have shared values, you can’t speak the same language and you can’t move forward feeling seen and valued for your authentic self. Love is important, but the true recipe for a successful marriage is commitment, appreciation, trust, respect and attraction. Both people in a marriage need to value and demonstrate those ingredients for each other … equally … every day. Relationships are co-created … and the investment each is making to nurture and grow it is critical to its survival. When you make love the only foundation for your marriage, what happens when the butterflies fade away? And when you make marriage the greatest accomplishment of your life, what happens when it doesn’t work? It’s failure. And it must be all your fault because you get what you paid for.
The myth about love as the true basis for marriage keeps women in a black and white world of accomplishment/failure, loved/unloveable and valued/valueless. This social construct isn’t true though, so stop investing in it. Stop perpetuating it with our children.
Truth #4: There Isn’t Any 50/50 In Marriage Or Life
Ever since the Feminist movement of the 60’s, there’s been another, parallel dialogue going on in our society. This is the one that states that women are equal to men, that we can do everything a man can do and, as women, we can have it all … home, career, children and family. Wow! This idea is all well and good, but it’s a myth. It’s a nice thing to say, but it’s not how our world works. We’ve broken down the traditional gender barrier to enter the workforce and prove that we too can climb the corporate ladder. We’ve added professional and financial responsibilities to our plate that were traditionally provided by men as part of the social marriage contract. And yet, for the most part, our husbands didn’t rush forward to fill the gap at home.
While women are expected to always do more (because that is where our value is), there isn’t any equal expectation of men doing more. And there isn’t any equal opportunity. Women still face far greater challenges in the workforce than men do. Women are now expected to have a professional career (hopefully on par, but not pay, with a man’s), have children (without paid medical leave and diminished job opportunities) and raise a family (without flexible work schedules). And I’m sure we’re doing all the household chores too on top of it all.
So, why do we pretend that women are treated equally when we aren’t? Why do we allow men off the hook when it comes to sharing responsibility in this partnership known as marriage? And while there isn’t 50/50 in marriage, or life in general, the court system defaults to it in a divorce. It tries to equalize the financial situation between the husband and wife without considering that women need to work a lot harder to make the same pay as a man and still has less earning potential than him. So, it is trying to equalize a situation that is inherently unequal, which is never a recipe for success. And trying to prove how unequal the system is will only result in more debt in the form of legal fees.
So, ditch the idea of marriage as a 50/50 partnership. That idea will lead to disappointment, resentment and burnout … and accept that you need to create what you want in your life without self-limiting beliefs or expectations.
Truth #5: Commitment Is Stronger And More Important Than Marriage
Why does love need a contract? If love is what we all want … and we’re willing to pay so much to demonstrate and celebrate it … then why marriage? Why buy-in to the myths that are used to control and manipulate us? Relationships work when there are shared values and a shared commitment. And by commitment, I mean intentionally choosing the other person every day … without reliance on safety, without dependence, without legal strings outside of your control. Commitment like that is the true demonstration of love. And unfortunately, it is rarely found in marriage.
So, instead of paying for the big ceremony … and the even bigger divorce … invest in commitment. Trust me. Your sex life and bank balance will thank you for it.