Modern Love

I often read the Modern Love column in The New York Times, and decided that I had my voice on a lot of issues that I was going to share. I'm curious to see if they publish my piece.


There have been a ridiculous amount of weddings in my social circle recently . Now I do know a lot of people...but the ratio of people I know to weddings being held still seems very high. In our modern world, there is happiness shadowed by a touch of cynicism for the couple I think, on behalf of a lot of the guests going to these weddings, because statistically, 50% will stay married until one of them dies, 50% won’t and the marriage will end in divorce and of the 50% that stay many stay truly in love and content in their partnership and choice until the end? So, one starts to think about the choices.Should couples not bother getting married, get married anyway and hope for the best? or should they get married with the knowledge that..”Oh well, if it doesn’t work, we can get divorced.”?

An infamous example to our modern society was when Brad Pitt left Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie. We should have said..”He pulled a Henry the Eighth.” The point of that reference goes back to the beginning of what we now see as commonplace in our modern society: you get married..... you divorce. But that first divorce between Catherine of Aragon and Henry the Eighth set a precedent because Henry the Eighth changed his mind. For many reasons- the first being lust- he wanted to replace who he was married to with a different choice, and so he , being king, changed the law to make that possible. He actually made that possible an ridiculous amount of times even by modern standards, and thus changed the rules for the rest of the world. Marriage wasn’t until “death do you part” anymore...marriage was until you changed your mind. Even many cultures and especially for those of Catholic faith, divorce was hugely taboo, and the consequences often pretty dark for the wife (statistically speaking, the consequence of divorce to a woman's and children’s financial status are still categorically dark), the husband and the children. Even now, the relic of that time is re-introduced when you go in for an office visit and need to fill in the blanks with the designation of, “ single, married, divorced.”That dates back to times when divorce was taboo and had a social stigma attached to it.People had to make public, and specify, a failed relationship, which if they had lived together for ever and ever but never married, almost nobody would have known.

The point is, “What does it mean?” Marriage? What do the promises mean and how do you keep them as a personal, or moral commitment when an outside governing body, be it a church or state, now has authority over your relationship? How do the laws of a society govern a moral commitment and make it something about property instead of about love and good intentions? Henry the Eighth changed the law to suit himself..because by making himself head of the church, he could make the laws governing marriage suit himself. He married for political alliance, property and to have progeny. He was establishing a new status quo where no one would have any authority over him- which is not what happens to the rest of the world . For the rest of the world, divorce can be a trip to Tijuana and a quick signature; “I divorce you”, said three times; or years of bloody battle over assets- and when we say assets, that means, house, cars, plants, china, pets and children.

It gets a little murky.There seems to be a lot of grey, when the laws give us black and white. In print.

If marriage is a contract, then everyone is entitled to a ‘frikin’ AMAZING contract going in. What savvy business person would sign a business contract that was ambiguous and didn’t offer any protection? Contracts are written to protect both parties.That’s the point, not, “Let’s go into this partnership Brent, and let’s roll with the know? If one of us gets sick and can’t hold up their end, the other covers... forever. There’s no ‘out’ clause. If you or I cheat one another...that would suck, but, we have made a deal that there’s no ‘out’ clause for that either. And if we go bankrupt- we’re clear- we keep going -there’s no ‘out’ because we are lifers in this deal.” I mean it is ubiquitous in our world to know by rote the standard fare marital vows...”For better and for worse, For richer for poorer, In sickness and in health, Till death do us part.” For better of worse means if someone takes all of your savings out of the bank account and skips off to Rio with their new found love, you’re still locked in? Does it mean that if they cheated on you with someone else and gave you aids, you’re still in? Does it mean that if they’re embezzling from all of their business partners, and you can’t support that, you’re still in? Does that mean that if they have virtually abandoned parental support for the children which are a result of this partnership, or abuse them in any way, you’re still in? That you aren’t attracted to them anymore; can’t think of having sex, ever again with’re locked in? For life? How can a church or state fail to cover those contingencies if they are writing the contract for you? They certainly aren’t there to pick up the pieces-even as the lawyers take their share and human lives are shredded by the shrapnel of consequences.

Is it a question of “How many have what it takes?”if things go wrong as though there's a morality marathon, or is the question, “Is it fair to commit to life long sacrifice?” To stick to a commitment through thick and thin? Sickness and health, for richer or poorer, etc, etc. etc. Because the list could get pretty long. Does society have the right, government the right to demand, ‘extract’ support for the partner who is morally, physically or intellectually the weaker? Why should it be that the one who is abused, married to a drug addict, wastrel or liar- be locked in? How many ‘have what it takes’ to be a partner to the one who is the stronger without fear, dependancy or resentment? How many are so well matched, that “to the end of their days” doesn’t seem long enough to be together? There is the “why” people get married..which comes from the heart, and there is the “what” in the marriage..the property, assets...the legal ‘stuff’ where even children, pets and plants are possessions to be shared and nurtured together, or divided between the two when their comittment ends and ‘the deal ’ is over.

But in our modern day world...marriage as a contract should set out the agreements both consent to so that a couple who do marry, are promising to be together until the end of their lives with a document that is also saying that they have given permission, to the church, rabbi, religious institution or governmental body, to say that they are, officially, legally, together; “knotted” together... with a document that covers EVERYTHING, clarifies EVERYTHING. That document should be better than the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence or The Bill of Human Rights all rolled into one...because all of them should be built in. The myriad and astronomical amount of angles, and repercussions involved in the partnerships which are the future of our, and every society, need to be given a great deal more importance by those that have exercised authority over them, or else those governing bodies need to step aside and let it be a moral commitment between two consenting, aware adults, where no one interferes. That second option, doesn’t cover those who waver,who are unclear ,and those with trouble defining or adhering to their own , or any, moral code.

So... modern marriage is a balance between moral commitment, which is Part A, and legal commitment which is Part B. Both need to be clear, because both are part and parcel of modern day love. The ephemeral things of the heart, and the practical, material, nuts and bolts of a relationship that aren’t covered in, ‘...till death do us part,” today, need to be covered. We are not living in a world where we are contained in a castle, a farm or a village, in a very simple life, with very few possessions until the end of our days. The rules and regulations governing marriage have not been changed to protect us or to begin to adapt to our new world - they are relics of a time long gone when life was much simpler on a multitude of levels. Our modern lives and partnerships, our marriages, need laws to protect and govern our reality . Those that choose to stick their heads in the sand with, “...till death do us part” as the end all and be all....are not helping.
Boldly Feminine1 Comment