Is Your Marriage an Accomplishment?

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(their heads are wedding rings and it’s really cute to me!!!)

Wifeys & Gentlemen,

I hope everyone had an awesome Valentine’s/President’s Day weekend! If you’re anything like me, you had at least 3 days off from work, and regardless of your relationship status, that fact alone, dear friends, is a good thing! I find that Valentine’s Day always makes me want to dig deep and say something truly profound about love and all that it represents, but, I think you guys already get it (or are at least on your way). This year, as compared to the last, we’ve seen and increase in funny meme-reminders about discounted chocolate available post V-Day, the emergence of #GalentinesDay celebrated on 2/13, and more singles-positive rhetoric from the masses that remind us that it’s okay to be unattached or unromantic on this silly, hallmark holiday!

I, for one, really like this newfound sense of empowerment. As much as I enjoy getting candies and flowers from my love, I’d like to think that I celebrate and appreciate love (almost) every day. It’s in the little things, you know? The love that I have for my friends and family, the belly rubs I give to my dog, the restraint I show clients and colleagues when feeling burned out at work, and the time I get to spend getting to know my beautiful fiancée.  More than that, I think it is in the way I chose to treat myself; remembering that it is harder to give love to others without first being able to give love to myself. Celebrating ourselves and patting ourselves on the back is one of the most important, loving gifts you can give to you. It’s free, it’s genuine, and it’s damn inspiring! (To be perfectly honest)

I guess that’s why I found today’s topic to be so interesting. The day before V-Day, I read an article that a former friend posted onto her Facebook page in regards to marriage. It’s called Getting Married is Not an Accomplishment (2016) by Natalie Brooke. In it, Brooke explains that we have constructed a society that places more value whether a woman is “spoken for” than her academic success or career achievements. Brooke argues that we should begin to challenge and re-evaluate our value system for women, noting that “you don’t have to have a brain, dive, or special skill set to get married. You just have to have a willing partner”.

In the broadest sense, I completely understand and agree with where Brooke is coming from. For as far as we’ve come as a society, there is still a long way to go in accepting and understanding that not all women aspire to become the same things. For some of us, we truly do want to “have it all”; the relationship, the kids, the career, the “good life”, etc. But we all know that what is true for one is definitely not true for all.  We all know that everyone has choices, and those choices do not always neatly align with the majority or represent the ‘norm’. In fact, more women are beginning to come forward and speak openly about their unique aspirations and what it truly means to be a feminist and empower women, in this world. For me, feminism has always been and always will be about choices!

Most of the time, what I hate about these types of articles is the hint of arrogance associated with the ideas. While supporting and advocating for a woman’s right to remain single or abstain from having children, there is a tendency to belittle the women (and men) who truly desire to make these milestones a priority. There is a pervasive “us vs. them” mentality that aims to make marriage and family oriented people seem like brainless idiots for wanting to get married, make homes, and have babies. Brooke does a wonderful job of avoiding this issue, for the most part, by giving credit where it is due. She writes:

[…]However, getting into X school, graduating with Y degree, and landing Z job does require actual hard work. That’s not to say that there is no accomplishment related to being married. I believe success comes into play not when the man gets down on one knee or when the couple stands at the altar and says “I do”, but rather when the husband and wife are able to weather through financial woes, illnesses, having kids, and the general stresses of everyday life. Staying together in an era when over 50 percent of marriages end in divorce is certainly an achievement. Once again, I must reiterate that getting married is absolutely a huge event, and it’s so very exciting to find your “other half.” However, the ring is no longer what defines a woman. So, I urge you to be excited when your sisters, female co-workers, and best friends announce their marriage, but please be just as excited (if not more)when they land the management position, get their Master’s degree, or open their own business.

Still, I can’t help but take issue with the idea that one milestone deserves to be celebrated over another based on the perception of hard work and achievement. Our histories and backgrounds are so rich and diverse that it is virtually impossible to assume that the “standard” applies to everyone; 99.9% of the time, you’d be incorrect, as there is always a variable worthy of exploration that accommodates for deviations from the norm.

You might think I’m over criticizing, but go with me for a moment. By Brooke’s logic, we are to assume that, like her, every woman simply meets a guy (or girl) who she gets along with, dates them for a number of years, and after determining that this love could truly last, they decide to spend their lives together. For her, finding this better ½ might not have taken much effort, but we cannot say that for everyone. Some couples suffer years of trials, tribulations, and break ups before learning and growing enough to be ready to take that step. Some couples take a long time to come around to the idea that marriage is right for them. Some of us date the wrong men/women for decades before finding that special someone to settle down with.  The bottom line is, if getting married or engaged is an accomplishment to you, then it should be celebrated as an accomplishment!

I wear my engagement ring with pride and celebrate this milestone in my life as one that took hard work and commitment, not just on my own, but with the help of someone else! I’ll be damned if someone tries to tell me that it didn’t take effort, brain power, or critical thinking for my fiancée and I to have what we have. Perhaps the reason for the high divorce rate has something to do with the misguided idea that all it takes to get married is to have a willing partner? Ignoring the time, dedication, care, and emotional sacrifice that comes from building a healthy and sustainable partnership.  Still, I’d like to think that I am wise enough to understand that my story/experience is unique and does not apply to everyone. Some people might genuinely feel that it takes no effort to get married, and that’s perfectly fine!

Now, ask me what I really think…go ahead, ask! 😉

I think, instead of nitpicking what does and does not deserve praise or celebration, we can be united in our collective respect for the (presumably) positive life choices the people in our lives are making. Let’s assume that if a friend of ours is posting about their engagement, wedding, or new baby, that they feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in these milestones, and want to share in that pride with everyone. Let’s assume that if someone shares news about their upcoming graduation, landing a new job, or finishing a dissertation that they also feel pride in their achievements and hope that the people they love (or are acquainted with in some way) can be happy for them as they begin a new chapter in their lives. Let’s try harder to not be so judgmental or harshly critical of those whose life experiences and expectations might be different from our own.

When you really break it down, if the average person in this day and age lives to be 75 years old, then that means there are a number of seemingly meaningless or “brainless” achievements that can be celebrated for a number of reasons. Ask yourself, how much effort does it take to take your first steps? Learn your first words? What about nailing your first audition? Surviving your first break up? Winning a battle with cancer?  From first kisses to first communions, accomplishments are what we make them and what meaning we choose to assign to them is based on nothing more or less than personal perception. Whatever you are proud of today, whatever achievements you are striving for or celebrating, congratulations! You did what it took to earn this moment, soak it up!

Until next time,

Carry on wifeys!

Love,

Ms. Renai

🙂 ❤

Read the full article here!

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