Every Woman; Elizabeth Edwards

GMA – Elizabeth Edwards on Oprah

copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

She is an eloquent speaker, an expressive author.  Elizabeth Edwards is effervescent, effusive, and has an excellent mind.  She understands profound policy issues as easily as she prepares a sandwich.   Her memoir appeared on The New York Times bestseller list.  Few think of Elizabeth Edwards as every woman.  Other daughters of Eve might say Edwards is exceptional; surely, she is not as I am.  Yet, life experiences might have taught Elizabeth Edwards otherwise.  Just as other ladies, she is brilliant, beautiful, and not nearly equal to a man.

For years, millions of Americans thought Elizabeth Edwards could be a political power in her own right.  However, friends aver, Elizabeth never had an interest in that.   First and foremost, the role Elizabeth Edwards has said is most significant to her is that of Mom.  She was happy to support her husband, glad for the opportunity to speak on his behest.  However, Ms Edwards was content to be behind the scenes.

The wife and mother believed as much of the country did.   Her spouse, John, was quite superior.  Not only was he an accomplished attorney, as was she, He was a Presidential candidate in 2008 and a Vice President aspirant in 2004.  John Edwards had a following, as did Elizabeth.  Each was “stunningly” successful in their work.  Certainly, the two were characterized as a powerful pair.  Neither could be called common.  Average Americans, they were not.  Still, John was the one who could command an audience, or a country.

He was handsome.  Granted, in her youth, Elizabeth was also smashing.  However, by 1998, a woman told an Edwards pollster the lovely ‘Lizabeth looked like his [John’s] mother, or older sister.  Indeed, this casual observer said of the then future Senator’s spouse, “I like that he’s got a fat wife.”   In the new book, “Game Change,” which documents the doings within the 2008 Presidential campaign, it is revealed that the aforementioned anonymous woman remarked in relief, “I thought he’d be married to a Barbie or a cheerleader.”  Perhaps these verbalized thoughts were the first reported glimpse into the present.  Elizabeth Edwards is every woman.  Infrequently, is John Edwards spouse looked upon as a separate individual.  Ms Edwards is regarded as unequal.

Ostensibly, Elizabeth and John were thought to have an exceptional life.   In truth, they were as you and I are.  Elizabeth Edwards and her husband are never free from human emotions.

Humans, adult men, women, adolescents, and sandlot age persons tell others a tale.  People weave a yarn that helps to inform others it also instructs the storyteller.  Dan P. McAdams, a Professor of Psychology at Northwestern and Author of the 2006 book, “The Redemptive Self” states, “(T)hese narratives guide behavior in every moment, and frame not only how we see the past but how we see ourselves in the future.”  This may explain why no two persons are alike.  However, the thought might not help to explicate what is real for a woman and not necessarily for a man.

Either might think themselves a failure if a relationship is severed.  Each could characterize himself or herself as someone who is not good enough. Perchance, societal standards will cause a woman greater stress.  A female might believe herself, damaged goods.  While Americans state that they have progressed beyond such suppositions, in actuality, any or many a label can classify a divorcee as undesirable.  Some will say she could not satisfy her man. Her age might ensure that she is thought to be an unattractive asset.  Perchance, some will say, she was too forthcoming, overly friendly when in the company of other men, a flirt, a floozy, and a femme fatale.  

Then there are the financial ramifications and considerations.  Men, before a divorce and after fare far better fiscally than their counterparts do.  Interestingly, a study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology shows that men who think of women in a more traditional, some would say sexist manner earn more money than those chaps with equalitarian views.  The variance is vast.  The more old-fashioned a gent might be, the greater his rewards.

Women, on the other hand, make less on average than men do.  Parents may posture that an excellent education will nullify the gender gap.  However, the Pay Gap Persists; Women Still Make Less, than men do. Surely, most surmise, Elizabeth Edwards will be amongst the exception.  She need not worry.  Once separate, the conventional wisdom is, Elizabeth Edwards will be equal.  The accepted thought is Edwards is not every woman.

After all, Ms Edwards graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with a degree in English. She went on to study American literature and ultimately secured her degree in law. She certainly is set for life. However, her status as a “professional” person, one out in the work-world became less of a priority.  Elizabeth Edwards, as her friends will attest to, thinks of herself as the proud mother of four children: Catharine, Emma Claire, and Jack. Her first child, Wade, died in 1996.  Time away from the office takes a fiscal toll.

In truth, even if Ms Edwards had remained a fixture in a solid firm, she would have experienced as most every other woman has.  Women Earn Less Than Men, Especially at the Top.  No matter the tale Elizabeth or every other woman might tell themselves, there are some facts that females know they must face.  Emotionally we can evolve.  Economically, the road is rougher for the “fairer” sex.

Only the desire to treat someone of a different sex fairly is great.  Parity is not the reality. Be it a former spouse with whom we have feuded, a friend, male or female by nature, wives wronged, and women righted, wish to achieve equality.  This may be why many women welcomed the prospect of “no fault” divorce.

While it is fine to think that we might not wish to place the onus on one or the other partner, in truth, the notion of a “no fault” divorce has done much harm.   A blameless split severs more than a legal bond.  It presents “perverse consequences for women,” says Lenore J. Weitzman, Associate Professor of Sociology at Stanford.  Divorce for women is just different than it is for men.  Perhaps, “There are enormous financial ramifications” even if you are Elizabeth Edwards.  Potential economic woes must worry any woman who contemplates the disillusion of a marriage.  The appearance of wealth, for women, maintained while married, will not warm the cockles of a heart hurt.  Nor will the façade fill her coffers.  Frequently, females face financial ruin, realized in divorce.

That truth has power.  Does a wife such as Elizabeth Edwards weigh the practical and or parse the paradox of a deceitful philanderer.  This may depend on the missus, the mistress, the money, and more.  In a moment, the yarn spun may be sufficient.  In the next minute, the same saga may sound silly, insincere, or just more of the madness.  If a husband is All apologies and earnestly expresses remorse, a couple could come to terms with what occurred.  An admission could kindle forgiveness, or after a series of confessions, one too many might be the permission to leave that a scorned wife sought.  Elizabeth Edwards stated she was “relieved” and hoped husband John’s long delayed disclosure would end the seemingly eternal drama that had become her life.

What we do not know; nor does the soon to be footloose and fancy-free Elizabeth, is how her saga will evolve.  While Elizabeth Edwards is every woman, she is like no one else.  Her tragedy, comic relief, travel, and she are uniquely her own.  This is true whether one’s name is Ellen, Emma, Eileen, Eve, or even Rielle.  What differs is who directs our performance, the stories told.

What might matter most to someone such as Elizabeth Edwards is how the eventuality of a divorce will affect her health.  Will this woman, who loves her life as a mom, be able to help her children?  Divorce, It Seems, Can Make You Ill. Indeed, the research reveals Divorce undermines health in ways remarriage doesn’t heal.  What is a aggrieved Eve or Elizabeth to do?

A captive American audience awaits the details, the decision, or knowledge of the direction a resolute Ms Edwards will take.  For months, or perhaps years, observers asked of the screenplay that appeared often on American television screens, in tabloids, and in books.  Some wives expressed sympathy for exactly what they witnessed in their own marriages.  Singles also empathized.  Elizabeth Edward’s experience is not isolated to the institution of wedlock.  The similarities scream out.

Women pose.  They posture.  Females hide the pain, and the shame. They may shout, shriek, or calmly express distress.  “I am so determined. This time I will lose 40 pounds,” said Elizabeth Edwards as she greeted a guest at the door of her home.  Did she wish to present herself at her best for her husband?  Might Ms Edwards words “show a lack of pretense,” or, as her critics say, was the statement but another act on Elizabeth’s. part.  What role did and does Elizabeth play in this drama?  Can anyone know for sure?

Is she a caricature, stereotyped as a spouse?  What is the story Elizabeth tells herself and others? A women’s place is in the home, on the campaign trail, to pale in comparison to her husband.  

Might her yarn be the same is true if a dame is a professional person, a politician, a plumber, or a Professors wife.   A women’s work is never done, be it that of a domestic, a doctor, a lawyer, a baker, or candlestick maker.  Elizabeth Edwards, as many women can attest to the notion, when you are of the fairer sex, praise pours in sparingly.  Disparagement is distributed frequently. At times, the two are synonymous.  

The former North Carolina Senator’s erstwhile aide Andrew Young exemplifies this.  In his tome titled “The Politician” Elizabeth Edwards is described as the wife and mother could not keep her man.  She “became intoxicated by power, and sometimes looked the other way.”

The Edwards Adviser, as do most, at least in America, acquiesced to the old adage, there is a good woman, behind every man.  A gent does not act alone.  Certainly, John Edwards did not.  Mister Young, in his writings, marvels that Rielle Hunter and Elizabeth Edwards each moved John to do as he has, or perhaps the two damsels did as all people do.  

With societal standards in mind, they pen a tale that reflects their truth.  The title; This is your life (and How You Tell It.)  Men might have opportunities that allow for a more sensational, secure, and solid plot.

Woman work on a screenplay more mired in woes.  She persistently updates the plot.   Just as Elizabeth Edwards, she transforms the treatment of our own life.  She learns and finds Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers. For some, the saga was audacious, and certainly not what they expected from an authority on the law.  Others saw them selves.  Every woman might relate to the reality, Elizabeth Edwards has learned every woman is as she., effervescent, effusive, bearers of excellent minds.  We all experience hurts and heartaches, many of our own making, many more that are not.

“I am a woman.  Here me roar.”  Watch me soar.  I may occupy the planet “in numbers too big to ignore,” but will I ever realize the heights, or have rights equal to those of a man.

Every Woman; Elizabeth Edwards . . .

Nuptials Never; “I Do” Commit to Communicate


copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

I write this reflection on, what in years past; I would have considered a couple’s certain doomsday.  Within hours, Alex and Alia will walk down the aisle and take their vows.  Will May 2, 2009, be the day of deliverance for the two, one of delight, or the beginning of the end?  I know not.  I only understand that on this date, the pair will do, as I purposefully never planned to.  They will wed.  I have not met either of these individuals; yet today I can think of nothing but their lives and the effect they have had on me.  

I became aware of Alex and Alia, A2, for short, while on an airplane headed for The Toddling Town.  It was Friday, March 27, 2009.  Neither the man who will become a husband today, nor the woman, who will be declared his wife, was physically present.  Indeed, I may never see the persons who sincerely moved me to rethink whether I might say, “I do”.  Perhaps, they know nothing of what began as an innocent encounter.  The Earth did not shake, and certainly, I never expected my conviction to crumble.  Indeed essentially my belief did not evolve.  In truth, nothing actually changed.  Still, after a three-hour exchange, I began to more seriously consider what for all of my live I rejected, marriage.

I am the third child of parents who parted ten days after a twenty-year marriage.  I was eight years of age at the time.  I remember the moment of their decision as though it was but minutes ago.  I can easily relive the conversation that changed my existence.  Indeed, the entire incident never leaves my consciousness.  As my Mom disgustedly rose from the restaurant table, I knew that nuptials do not bring togetherness.  A legal commitment will not ensure quality communication.  From the second she stated she was leaving, until, well, forever, I knew I would not wed.

Then, decades later, there was a time in the month of March.  On that day, a stranger and I were in route to Chicago.  As occurs on any and many journeys, people who might never make an acquaintance sit side-by-side and chat incessantly.  The individuals may tell all and then fade from sight forever, or they may do as oddly enough my plane mate and I did, come together on the return trip and again, talk for many hours more.

For me, the travel is a frequent excursion.  It has been for years.  My most cherished confidant resides in the “Windy City.” While he and I have shared our heart and soul for decades, we had not wed.  Early on in our association the thought was far from either of our minds.  Each of us saw the other in a way that was far from physically intimate.  While our lives were deeply intertwined, a corporeal involvement would have been an abhorrent thought.  Time, much talk, realizations about what was once repugnant transformed our truths, but not my fervent reality. I would never marry.

Ela, unlike me, had happily embarked on a trek through holy matrimony.  Now, she was ready to take another extraordinary trip.  She would watch her son, Alex, follow the path she and her husband Robert had chosen.  Alex too would wed.  In prelude, on this auspicious occasion, Ela was set to attend a party in honor of her soon-to-be daughter-in-law.  Although, at the time of our first encounter I knew nothing of the imminent nuptial, had I been aware of the event it would not have changed my mind.  Marriage would not be my idea of an ideal and today it is still not!  

When I boarded the plane I had a singular notion.  Once in the air, I intended to sleep.  I could not imagine that Ela’s energy would captivate me more than my desire to nap had.  With only a few short hours of rest the evening before, and a full day on the agenda, I felt a need for some slumber

Yet, from the moment Ela asked if the chair next to me was taken, until the time she settled in, after placing her bags in the overhead bins, it was apparent, Ela and all that was within her would revise my reality.  I could see this creature loves life.  She genuinely enjoys her partner of more than forty years, Robert.  Her affection for her progeny was and is evident in her every breath.  Ela’s admiration, appreciation, and her sincere approval for Alex’s choices were, and are, palpable.  I felt Ela exuded empathy; at least for those she felt close to.  When she spoke of the man she shared her being with for two score, or their offspring, who is near thirty now, only fondness filled the air.

As I listened to her words and studied her actions I marveled.  At least for Ela, a legal commitment had not quashed her independence.  While she excitedly spoke of her family and the future event, these were not all she had on her mind.  Indeed, initially we did not discuss the May marriage other than in passing.

Ela herself was obviously independent from her husband.  Her son Alex’s accomplishments while wondrous were not more important or incredible than her own.  Ela presented no pageantry.  She was not pompous, quite the contrary.  As we talked, I became acquainted with a woman who seemed as ordinary as any other being might.  Yet, slowly it was revealed Ela is an extremely well-educated and credentialed individual.  

In her professional career, this unassuming individual rose to a very prominent position.  From the first, I experienced her eloquence, her quick mind, her sensitivity to nuances not verbalized, and her desire to learn.  Immediately, when inspired to investigate a subject further, Ela took copious notes.

The woman herself, long before she shared details of what Alex and Alia had done and would do, was wondrous to me.  Perhaps that is why her excitement for nuptials took me beyond where I had been all of my life.  Hours of conversation with this confident, compassionate, insightful being helped me to consider my long-held belief in a way I had not fully explored.

Ela was not her marriage.  She was not a wife and mother more than she was herself.  She was separate and equal; Ela was the sum of her parts, and perchance, to a certain extent a bit more.  Possibly, that was the reason I reflected on this encounter and what it might mean to me in ways I had not before when I spoke to others of a legal bond [bondage].  

For decades, I have heard excited brides gush, grateful grooms boast, prideful mothers and fathers of the betrothed flaunt.  As I listen, I wonder; what they will say far into the future.  “She is a bit**!”  “He a bas****.” “We were too young at the time.”  “I was blinded by love and should have known better.”  When asked why a couple separates, divorcees who later declare them selves happily single, offer the oft-avowed explanation, “We just grew apart.” It seems an accepted veracity that this just happens.  People evolve and chose distinct and different paths.

I believe and have observed as my Mom, ultimately, a twice-divorced damsel never in distress, admits of her escapades.  People can predict.  All one needs to know of another is apparent early on.  Even without awareness for who a person is in depth and detail, a few conversations, a day trip or two can tell us much about the person who pretends to be perfect.  What persons portend is perhaps a far truer picture of whom they are within.  As Mommy often mused, we choose to convince ourselves that what we wish to believe is correct.

Infatuation, lust, a longing to leave our current circumstances, convenience, customs, the desire for companionship, all conjure up notions of wedded bliss.  The desire for romance often rules over a rational reason.

Whilst in a state of euphoria, already anxious over what might be, people have faith.  Nuptials will bring the best into their lives.  If only that were true.  In most instances, it is not.  One need only consider the divorce and separation statistics, or the number of spouses who say they are miserable in their marriage.

I trust intendeds expect to live together ’til death do they part.  Few of the many who part in acrimony anticipate such a split.  I can only assume most are unlike me. All I ever imagined was if I entered into a marriage, the relationship would change.  A legal union would build barriers around me.  Possibly, he would feel constrained, chained, or caged as well.  Restrictions, even self-imposed, would be realized.  I feared what my spouse would sense as much as what I might experience.

When I contemplated nuptials, I could not envision a rhyme or reason for such a sacrifice.  At least, for me, matrimony seemed madness.  Did I mention the studies show a toxic marriage may literally hurt your heart?  Yikes!  I prefer good health and genuine happiness.  I totally love my own company and take pleasure in the tranquility I have created.

Too often I heard tales or saw those close to me conclude, “I need to escape for the sake of the children, his or her physical or intellectual health, and for my sanity, or ours.”  Papers would be filed.  There would be a formal dissolution.  Pain for someone, anyone, or everyone would be profound.  It was for me.  

There was no violence in my childhood home.   Physical, emotional, and, or verbal abuses were alien concepts.  In our abode life was calm, cozy, and comfortable.  Yet, not everyone, if anyone, was authentically happy.  Outwardly, it appeared that my parents and their progeny thrived.  We existed.  My family went through the motions.  Inwardly some of us died.

Before my parents decided to divorce, I was uncertain why I felt as I did when with my family.  Years of anecdotes from my parents who were no longer each other’s spouse and from my siblings helped me decide.  I would never dare do what Alex and Alia thought wise; enter into what I thought a legal lock on my life. A commitment, regardless of a formal ceremony, frightened me.  It still does.  

Before my parent’s divorce I saw too much, heard more, and understood why a legal union was not for me.  After, the split my awareness intensified.  I contemplated the home life of friends.  What seemed solid and sane, before I looked beneath the surface, was often stressful and strenuous.   No words of joy about one nuptial or another had, could, or would sway me.  People often profess happiness and hide hurts.  

Hence, it is no wonder that Ela’s deep devotion to husband and son, as well as her fervor for her future family did not transform me.  Nor did her tales touch my truth.  For all of my live, others have shared similar passions.  In a euphoric moment, people present tales of family, fiancés, and a feeling of fulfillment within the framework of matrimony.  Yet, I came to realize excitement over an individual faded fast.  At times, all that was publicly stated proved to be but a façade.  Hence, I had no reason to trust that Ela’s veracity would be different.

However, there was an aspect of her enthusiasm that varied from the usual.  Ela’s dedication to her own being brought me to a place where I could see me, myself in a relationship recognized by the law.  Indeed, Ela’s independence was the catalyst for my novel contemplation.  Though her many accounts all that I had rejected was viewed in a new light.

The sincerity my plane-mate expressed was not as easily dismissed as the superficial statements others offered all of my live.  Indeed, the profundity of my Mom’s philosophies was more apparent when delivered by a stranger.

When Mommy chose to enter a third marriage, consciously she knew not to do as she had done in the past, wed for convenience.  On the last of her plunges into partnership, my Mom made a commitment to her best friend, someone she did not simply love, which Mommy always avowed was an emotion easily expressed, but a person she genuinely liked.

My Mom stressed; individuals intent on marriage must consider invisible issues.  She embraced a lesson learned in her first marriage; shared ethical values matter.  Everyday exchanges with the object of one’s passion, if critical, cruel, combative, confrontational, or curt will ultimately cause a relationship to crumble.  Calm, caring communication, Mommy proved through practice, creates the connection most everyone craves.

Perhaps, my history had left me too badly bruised.  On the subject of marriage, I had lost my bearings.  I had easily navigated away from any commitment to closeness. Emotionally, intellectually, and even physically I could connect, deeply.  However, my heart was not open to a lengthy, legal, what felt to be as an obligatory bondage.  In friendship, I was more than fine.  I revel in real relationships.  I always have.

My friendship with Barry, the person I was off to visit, is a constant for me   it has been for decades. He and I had pondered aloud what the two of us, might want to be.  Rather than live in two distant cities as we have in recent years, could we choose to create a combined home.  If so, where would we reside.  How might we make our time together as meaningful as it has always been?  Change, while a constant, for me holds many challenges.

The question that haunted us was could we adjust the circumstances and not alter the quality of our relationship?  A relative or two thought it possible.  Alexander, a cousin of mine whom I respect, made an argument for marriage.  I considered it, for it was as practical, as I am.  However, humans, I understand are not necessarily logical.  Emotions enter into essential considerations.

Rapport, I believe, is the root to all happiness.  I wonder if that is why my time with Ela helped transform me.  While my Mom’s last and final marriage may have alleviated some of my apprehensions, just a smidgen, I could not see her strength, her independence as I might that of a stranger.  

I smile as I recall what Ela said of her husband and her son.  She was not in awe of their achievements; I was.  Closeness, when it does not breed contempt, may give rise to comfort and complacency.   This construct might explain why the tête-à-tête with Ela transformed my truth.  Communication with a person who is not an intimate can serve to enlighten in a manner the words of a loved one do not.  A sympathetic sharing with someone who is separate from ourselves can affect us in ways we would never imagine.  Certainly, Ela had that effect on me.

When we exited the plane we were so engrossed that we continued the conversation as we walked.  Ela and I had discussed what we did, do, and dream of.  The dialogue was fluid, fun, and far from shallow.  Folly, fears, failures, and feelings entered into each narrative.  We reflected on personal strengths, weaknesses, and ways we, and those familiar to us approach life.

Perchance, I was enamored with the cosmic coincidences and our similar personal histories.  With the exception of the divorce that had dictated many of my decisions I could relate to the woman whose son will wed today.

Aware that hours from now the person who changed my life will witness another transformation, I wonder if she knows, what it was about her that moved me.   I did have the opportunity to tell her that I would say, “I do.”  However, for weeks after our shared travel I did not understand why.

Ela might believe I was in awe of the her son’s arrangement, or the art Alex created to announce the event, While wonderful, the plans and powerful presentations, did not persuade me to engage in what I still believe is the myth of matrimonial felicity.  

Who Ela is, separate and with her husband Bob, her stories of all that they are separately, and have shared together transformed my perspective, at least in part.  Still, their tale alone had not shocked me out of the abyss of apprehension.  

Once able to more objectively assess the independence of one who is happily intertwined, a treasure was revealed to me.  I came to cherish the memory of my Mom and her marital experience.  I recognized that for oh so long I empathized with her earlier wedded hurts.  I had allowed these to cloud my consciousness. When change came, I discounted the difference.  I had not fully appreciated what had become Mommy’s truth in the last three decades of her life.  

When with Ela, I was able to see Mommy and marriage through a new lens.  The woman who brought me into the world did more than conceive a creature.  My Mom imagined love and an authentic fondness could exist within a legal framework.  She did not lose her heart, her soul, or her individual identity once she dedicated herself to something greater than herself.  Just as Ela and Bob had done without regret, and as Alex and Alia will do today, Mommy said, “I do: and did it well.

After much discussion over the two days in Chicago with Barry, on March 29, 2009, I told him I would.

Hence, on the afternoon of May 2, 2009, as Ela’s son, Alex, and Alia, his fiancé, wed, I solidify plans for what Barry and I recognize as a wee bit more than a “civil” union. Already, I designed and produced a “Save the Date” magnet, as Alex did.  These have been delivered to invited guests.  The webpage, an idea inspired by Ela, Alex, and Alia is my next pursuit.

A casual observer might think I changed.  People might presume I am anxious to be wed.  Perhaps, they muse, I have become the bride who anticipates marriage will bring a better bliss.  Indeed, none of these assumptions are valid.   I have not been transformed.  A “Wedding” is still not what I want. My best friend will not become my husband and I will not be his wife.  Neither of us will have a spouse other than on paper.  I will not participate in nuptials, at least not in a conventional sense.  I [and Barry] will commit to communicate.  

On this May date, separately and together, Barry and I hope that today Alex and Alia will do as we have decided to do, grow greater with the person they like just as he or she is.

References for Relationship Realities . . .

Marital Status; Do Not Ask. Do Not Tell.

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

Tonight, I am reminded of how the results of a report resonated throughout America earlier in the year; 51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse.  As the Gay and Lesbian population prepare to discuss issues important to their community, inclusive of their desire for more than a “civil union;”  I wonder.  Why, or when is marriage desirable.  Why and when is it not.  Presidential hopefuls plan to delicately touch on the subject of “same sex marriage.”  One might muse, matrimony no matter the mix, is a difficult dynamic to consider.

Weeks ago, I discovered the term “Mrs.” is a source of much angst.  Apparently, the title in the minds of many dishonors a woman, rather than reveres her.

When I used the description to discuss a Presidential candidate the label was considered degrading or dismissive.  For some, the word spelled out was more offensive.  For others the expression in either form denied the achievements and accomplishments of the Senator from New York.  It mattered not that I, a traditionalist, with a well-documented history of Progressive philosophies, long thought the usage of “Missus” a sign of respect.  Explanations of how and why, for me, in the written form, abbreviations are less honorable did little to quell the apprehensions of those anxious to argue.

Those concerned were not comforted when they realized mainstream authors and I used the same identical term to describe numerous highly professional, and esteemed woman in the past.  It seemed odd those references received no reprimands.  Nonetheless, in this exchange, the presumed perception seemed to be, if a woman is as successful as this Senator is, mere mention of her marriage negates her worth.

Dictionary definitions produced greater debate.  It seems a single word can be classified as complimentary or critical.  Perhaps, that is the problem.  As a society, we struggle with the idea of independence, interdependence, dependence, and what it means to be married or single.

Much of our identity is lost in a label, or perchance, we gain as we garner a title or two.  Women may feel a greater need to distinguish themselves as distinctive, whole, on their own, separate and strong, mentally as well as physically.  Women want to be wanted, as do men; however, the perception is a woman needs a man, is dominated by her partner.  She cannot survive on her own.

Our culture clings to the construct women require a man and ignores the fact that no matter what our gender, we welcome the support of another.  Thus, when a study shows more persons, men or women live without a mate, we wonder.  Why?

In our daily lives, talk of nuptials is omnipresent.  Is she married; is he?  If not, why not.  On most applications, we are asked of our martial status as though this explains who we are as people.  Some are embarrassed if they have yet to marry.  The four percent that state they have not engaged in physical intimacy are considered strange.

Individuals yearn for togetherness.  Yet, they run from the prospect.  Women and men, everyone searches for someone special to share their lives with.  They peek around every corner.  They stumble into intimacy.  Then, abruptly announce, “I am uncomfortable with closeness.”  Some say, it is not you; it is I.  Others ruminate; there are issues.

An acquaintance ended an engagement.  Two weeks ago, the day after her decision, this gorgeous girl expressed her distress.  She seemed to believe that if she were married, her life would be marvelous, if not, surely, the outlook would be grim.  Yesterday, this lovely lady smiled and stated, she could not be happier.  Jill thought she was too dependent on her honey.  She reflects, “I was not ready.”  Nonetheless, she is still certain she rather be married.  For Jill, family is vital.  She wants children.

Another acquaintance believes family may not be available when you crave a connection.  When you most covet a caring shoulder to cry on, or a hand to hold, blood relatives or good pals may not be there for you, for her.  Doris avows.

Having someone in your life to share all your ups and downs is imperative for a healthy heart soul and mind.  Trying to find a friend or family member who has the time to listen, or are able to help you or celebrate with you, at a specific time is sometimes very difficult to find.  A good partner is there for you when you really need them and lucky are you if you have one.

For years, Doris has had the good fortune of being with one she thinks beautiful, inside and out.  [Personally, I think providence cannot create what manifests.  Nevertheless, I trust that people are often astounded by their exquisite experiences.]  The two are not legally coupled; however, they are rarely apart.  A casual observer would know they are committed.

Perhaps, for Doris being with a person that is genuinely her partner means more than progeny or pals do.  This woman is as many; she craves a solid, strong connection with a singular someone.  Doris is connubial.  She and the individual she loves need no certificate to validate their devotion.  They are wedded.

I marvel as I assess the idea of marriage.  Why do so many women [and men] actively seek companionship, a partner, a soul mate, and yet, then say they choose to remain single.  I also wonder how many are as I am.  I love being single.  I always have.  In my own life, seeking companionship was not a thought.  Never did I feel a need for camaraderie.  I do not feel alone, or lonely.  Attending events untethered, for me, is at times, often, preferable.  I love my own company.

As others have, I realize on occasion, I also have done.  People yearn only for a physical intercourse.  They have no desire to experience authentic intimacy.  Genuine emotional closeness can be too frightening, or perhaps, too painful.  In my own life, my parents’ divorce took a toll.  Ten days after their twentieth wedding anniversary, my Mom and natural father terminated their ties.  For me, that memory is intense.  It looms large in my mind; it affected my heart.  I did not wish to chance a similar split in my life; nor did I want any child of mine to feel as I felt.

Months before the report on single women was released, I was asked to consider marriage.  Startled, frightened, and yet, able to acknowledge a closeness to an individual who is important to me, I became consumed with such a decision.  The dichotomy involved is for me, inescapable.  I devoured articlesreferring to the study.  I listened to broadcasts.  I longed to understand the reason other women decided as they did.  I inquired.  One woman wrote of her experience.  She also assessed what might be true for other feminine persons.

I am married.

I could be happy married or single.  Sometimes I’m glad I’m married and sometimes I wish I were single.  By a high percentage, I am happier married.  The longer I live the happier I am being married.  However,  I don’t necessarily think that is true for others.

Ah, this woman also observes as I do.  Many that are together, ’til death do they part, are not joyful in their union.  Perhaps the pleasure comes from within.  Mae believes it does.

I am happily, sublimely, cherished, joyfully wed.

The secret I think is to find yourself, be true to that person, make her be comfortable in her own skin . . . and sometimes someone special comes along and sometimes not.

I think being good alone is the place to be.  Being good together is then easier.

Being with someone should be a choice, not some driven necessity like breathing.  I love and adore my husband and I would be devastated should a time come when I must go on without him, however I would go forward and fill my life differently and make adjustments and find joy in other beings and doings.

For me, my journey continues all over the map with my partner and, even within our marriage, sometimes alone.  It feels good both ways.

Bliss is perchance a belief.  If you choose to believe the path will be harmonious, then you will do all that you can to ensure it will be.  Possibly, the effort is evident in your emotional balance.  Some say marriage is what you make of it; likely, life is.  After absorbing much pain in a relationship that was alien to me, I realized my own reactions and perceptions created the calm or the chaos that came.

Often, in my experience, we forget that our life does not have to be as our parents’ was.  In the present, we respond to our history.  We expect what is familiar to us.  As I mentioned, that was my fear.  Danae shared a similar story.

“I am single at 60 and have been for all my adult life.  That is in large part to my experience with my parents’ uncommunicative and extremely dysfunctional marriage.  With that as imprinting, why would I want to recreate it?!  Make no mistake about it, I would have.  Without deep and intense psychotherapy so that one can understand and clear out, as much as possible, the childhood traumas, one will recreate their past, adding to it their own innate spin of dysfunction.

After my successful experience with therapy, I still have questions and trepidation about partnering, as by this time I have my habits of living and moving in and out of activities and acquaintances at my whim.  Plus, which, as I am older, so are my partner prospects.  And even though I am in vibrant health and of youthful demeanor, by contrast, many men that would be age appropriate are not.  Add to that the all-too-common trait of men wanting female partners that are younger than they, and you have a recipe for a dearth of possibility.  I realize it only takes one to make a match, but I am also aware that I am unwilling to kiss any more frogs in order to find a prince.

So, in the face of all that, I have asked the Universe to deliver someone so delightful to me and vice versa, that will be just right for me to partner with (and again vice versa).  With that mantra and visualization, we shall see what may materialize.  I will also add that it is important for me to be with someone who wants to fashion/create a relationship based on who WE are and our desires–not what society wishes to mandate.

I think that is a thoughtful answer, practical, witty, and wondrous.  There is much to consider when choosing a life partner.  Actually, frequently we search for what we know.  If our mother or father is able to converse without anger, amicable, and approachable, then we are apt to pursue persons that have a similar demeanor.  If Dad or Mom was demanding, demeaning, and domineering, we expect that our future spouse will be as well.  That too may feel comfortable.  Characteristics such as these are normal to us.  At least we are accustomed with the dynamics that develop when with someone that debases another.

For Jenna what was common in her youth seems to be a family tradition.  She often expresses her amusement and wonderment when she evaluates the martial status of many of her relatives.  Aunts, uncles, and cousins, numerous individuals in her extended family never marry.  Those that do have children; thus, the bloodline is alive and well.  Jenna reflects.

Being the child of a single mother who was raised by a single mother, I have come to realize that I am not incomplete without a man in my life.  Sure, I always expected to get married, but it didn’t happen.  Whether it was a subconscious choice or not, I cannot say.

I can say that there are times I wish I had a man in my life (husband), but these don’t last long.  Usually, when something needs fixing or moving around the house [I think having a husband might be nice.]  Two incomes in my household would have come in handy.  But if I got married, who is to say I would have married a handy guy with a good job.

When I hear ladies I know complaining about their husbands for one reason or another, I usually am pleased that I don’t have to deal with such things.

I am happy with the life I’ve got.  To quote a song from the musical “Chicago” “Oh I’m no one’s wife, but Oh, I love my life and all that jazz.”

Jenna is a sensible soul.  Interestingly, her family is emotionally and physically closer than most.  She is only alone when in her bedroom.  Jenna is perhaps more actively involved with relations than any person I know.  Her interactions with loved ones are abundant.  Indeed, Jenna lives with another family member.  She maintains infinite lasting unions.

Jenna, admittedly is as many, if not all.  She craves a true and lasting connection.  She has them.  Her partners are labeled, mother, sister, brother-in-law, cousin, nephew, and niece.

Numerous individuals wish to establish a family of their own making.  They enter into a union or two, only to conclude there is no such thing as wedded bliss.  For a few, the endeavor was exhausting.  Others wish to do it again, and again, until they get it right.  Millions long to meet Mister or Miss Right.  Still others prefer to settle in with a friend, a lover, no legal strings attached.

Living Together [a.k.a. cohabitation, or unmarried partner households]:

According to the 2000 Census, there are currently about 11 million people living with an unmarried partner in the U.S.  This includes both same-sex and different-sex couples.  – U.S. Census Bureau, 2000  (If this number doesn’t match the number you found from another source, read How We Get Our Numbers, below). 

There are 9.7 million Americans living with an unmarried different-sex partner and 1.2 million American living with a same-sex partner.  11% of unmarried partners are same-sex couples .?- U.S. Census Bureau, 2000

41% of American women ages 15-44 have cohabited (lived with an unmarried different-sex partner) at some point.  This includes 9% of women ages 15-19, 38% of women ages 20-24, 49% of women ages 25-29, 51% of women ages 30-34, 50% of women ages 35-39, and 43% of women ages 40-44. – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  “Cohabitation, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the United States.”  Vital Health and Statistics Series 23, Number 22, Department of Health and Human Services, 2002.

The number of unmarried couples living together increased 72% between 1990 and 2000.  – U.S. Census Bureau, 2000

The number of unmarried couples living together has increased tenfold between 1960 and 2000.  – U.S. Census Bureau, 2000.

Still, living with oneself is more common in this country.  Twenty-seven [27] million American households consist of one.  Twenty-five million domestic dwellings house a mother, father, and child.  According to Pamela Smock, author of “Cohabitation in the United States,” Annual Review of Sociology, fifty-five percent [55%] of different-sex cohabitors marries within 5 years of moving in together.  Forty percent [40%] of these couples separate during these early years.  The remaining ten percent [10%] stay together; however, they no not marry for five years or longer.

There is much to consider when we enter the world of identity, particularly for women.  Females are more easily defined as a wife, a mother, a lover, or a friend.  Women do not wish to lose their identity.  Men, do not usually consider the possibility.  The male of the species is perceived as strong and secure.  However, we know men are as are we all, social animals. They too seek sanctuary in an intimate relationship.  Men are said to be happier, healthier perhaps, even more successful when married.  Studies assert this to be true.

When a “lady” looks at the life of a bride, she knows there is much to contemplate.  A proposal or the likelihood of one might prompt a girl to ask herself, how will I see myself once married.  She may posit how will others perceive me.  Questions abound; will I be caged, confined, or limited in any way.  A woman contemplating a legal bond [bondage] may feel her destiny is determined.  Nuptials are her fate.

The female of the species may feel faint as she considers the idea of marriage or divorce.  The possibility of a divorce may devastate a woman.  She might say, as I have, I do not wish to be a statistic or a fatality.  Oh, the role, the responsibility, what does it mean to be a spouse.  Diane thinks she knows all too well.  For her, the life of a wife is not to her liking.

I’ve been married/divorced twice and [I am] not planning on marrying again due to the history of my marriages.

I now have control of my own life, I can watch what I want to watch on TV and particularly like having control of my finances, – I have more wealth now than I ever did in either marriage – the men seemed to like to spend more than they had in the bank.  I like being single.

Another female, also charmingly conjugal, then deliberately divided from her spouse ponders the potential.  She approaches and avoids as she assesses the possibility.  Greta gravitates towards bliss.  For her, harmony may mean she and he are free to be similar; yet different.

Since I divorced I raised my two children alone.  I had to work 2-3 jobs to support them because I had no family close by and I tried to keep the children in the same healthy environment and good schools.  All the sacrifices were worth it.

[M]y daughter is a physician and my artist, and good looking Eddie is finishing [his studies at] the University.  My daughter has a beautiful little girl and is expecting a second one in June.  As far as my life, it has been better than most married female friends.  I consider myself lucky and with many blessings.

I am almost finished with [my schooling.  I will graduate with a] BA in Sociology.  Two years ago, I traveled to 5 countries in Europe, and studied Italian in Florence for one month.

I met many nice men but nothing concrete has happened.  It does not matter.  I live a very full life and count my blessing every day.

I don’t think I will marry again because I now think it won’t matter . . . .  [He] is free to leave when he wants to and I am free to do the same.  Life is too short to complicate things with marriage.  I already went through with that.  The main issue is respect, love and similar ideas, views of other cultures, also appreciation for traveling and having friends from all over the world.

Again, if the right man comes along, he will be most happy in my arms…guaranteed.  :)

Crystal, after two failed attempts at marriage decidedly was happy; however, she wanted more, and was apprehensive.  She pondered what that might mean.  Crystal had her children to consider, and her history.  Matrimony may not be her strong suit.

I really enjoy being married.  I think being married to the right person makes a difference.  You should really talk a great deal before marriage and discuss important issues before you say I do.  If there are a lot of red flags don’t do it.

Tom and I took a class for Blended Families at our church for a year before we got engaged.  We wanted to get educated about the issues that we would face.

Sigh; there are so many notions, emotions, questions, and answers.  No wonder individuals say they are happily single, as they continue to seek that solitary soul that will ignite a fire in their heart, mind, spirit, and loins.

Personally, I pondered all these questions.  I contemplated the conclusions others shared.  For years, I vacillated, uncertain how I feel.  I still do.  Throughout the course of decades, my own ramblings might seem confused.  I have faith that the way we feel on one day differs from what we sense on the next.

However, without fail, I have expressed a strong belief in the value of interdependence.  I hasten to add, although I welcome closeness, I want no one too near to me.  I think the institution of marriage is magnificent.  Those that do it well inspire me.  I admire any couple that cares enough to ensure their union is solid.  I trust the endeavor is not effortless.  A healthy, happy marriage is a constant and consistent labor of love.  I believe in the work and yet, I am unsure if I want to do it.

Perhaps we are all a bit torn on the issue.  The dichotomy beckons us again and again.

In this, the 2008 Presidential race nuptials are  considered an issue.  Indeed, they are in every election.  Politicians pose with their families in an attempt to remind constituents they are one of us.  People evaluate the partners.  The public speculates, will the wife [or husband] play a significant role.  Will she [or he] share the Oval Office with the person we designate President of the United States of America.

A curious crowd, the American people ponder.  What is the martial status of a candidate.  How many spouses did he or she have?  What is the nature of the relationships?  Is a husband or wife an asset or a deficit?  It seems some Presidential contenders benefit from the bond of marriage.

Running mates were the topic of discussion in a recent Cable News Network program, 360 Degrees with Anderson Copper.  Among the Republicans, Mitt Romney married his high school sweetheart.  They have been together for near four decades.  Democratic candidates also have long enduring marriages.

Bill and Hillary Clinton have seen tough times; yet, remain together.  John and Elizabeth Edwards have experienced immeasurable heartache.  The two lost a son; Elizabeth is living with cancer.  Nonetheless, with each passing day, their union grows stronger.  Michele and Barack Obama are solid, strong, and such a sweet couple.  All six of these persons as individuals are extremely accomplished.

As Hillary reminds us, having a spouse can be a great strength.  A supportive partner can be an asset in any endeavor.

Mrs. Clinton, Democrat of New York, mentioned Mr. Clinton at least eight times on Saturday – at one point talking about “Bill’s heart surgery” to illuminate her own travails with health care bureaucracy – and a few times on Sunday, most memorably when she said of Republicans, “Bill and I have beaten them before, and we will again.”

Perhaps, the Clintons will triumph.  Their relationship is certainly an advantage, or perhaps a hindrance depending on how individuals perceive the labels, husband, wife, Mister, or Missus.

Regardless of their professional titles, these two are married.  Bill and Hillary Clinton have demonstrated they are together, for better or worse.  Each has stated they evolved separately and as a couple with thanks to the other.  Yet, some wish to deny or at least not use a term that validates their union.  I think the bond is beautiful.  I have faith that the conscious choice to unite says more about the individual than their career.

As I contemplate marriage and the affect of such an accord, I realize that for me, former President William “Bill” Jefferson Clinton said it best when he spoke at the memorial service held for Coretta Scott King.  After her passing, as dignitaries eulogized the esteemed leader one by one, each spoke of the First Lady of Civil Rights as a symbol.&

Then “Bill” took the stage.  For me, President Clinton put the entire issue into perspective.  I stood in awe as I listened.  Humanitarian, Clinton addressed the audience seated in the Church, and the country watching the ceremony on television.  Mister Clinton asked us to consider the person, the woman, the wife, and the mother, the living breathing being that “got angry and got hurt and had dreams and disappointments.”

Former First Lady, now Senator Clinton followed her husband in speaking about the woman, Coretta Scott King.  Missus Clinton related, and reminded us what it means to be married to a man, to a cause, and to one’s own personal commitments.  The Senator from New York shared.

And, in fact, she waited six months to give him an answer because she had to have known in her heart that she wasn’t just marrying a young man, but she was bringing her calling to be joined with his.

As they began their marriage and their partnership, it could not have been easy.  Because there they were, young, becoming parents, starting their ministry at a moment in history that they were called to lead.

Leadership is something that many who are called refuse to accept.  But Martin and Coretta knew they had no choice, and they lived their faith and their conviction.

Hillary Clinton: I think of those nights when she was putting the children to bed and worrying about the violence, worrying about the threats, worrying even about the bombs — and knowing that she couldn’t show any of the natural fear that any of us would feel.

The pressure that must have been for her — and she would turn to the Lord, who would answer her call for support by reminding her of her redemption.

When she went to Memphis, after her husband was killed, I remember as a college student listening in amazement to the news reports of this woman taking up her husband’s struggle on behalf of the dispossessed.

She said then — and she lived for the rest of her life in fulfillment — that she was there to continue his work to make all people truly free.

Perhaps, that is what is means to be married, to be a Missus.  When, as women, we believe in ourselves, then, we trust in our choices.  We understand to our core that we can grow greater when we are part of a whole.  A strong woman or man knows that they can never know it all, be it all, or evolve with only the information contained in their own gray matter.  They have faith.  As Aesop offered, “Union gives strength.”

A woman, understands that we can share with another and still be free and fulfilled.  We decide to share our soul and to open our hearts.  We accept the spirit of another.  Females intertwined are committed to a cause greater than self.  The memory of a partner is not lost.  A woman will do all within her power to assure the legacy of her love will live on.

A Mister may suffer from the lack of a label.  He may not have the luxury a woman does.  A gentlemen, equally dedicated, devoted, and faithful to their spouse; does not have a title that speaks volumes to the world.  He is unable to declare his profound love openly without engaging in a lengthy conversation.

Granted for me, if I marry, I will do as my Mom did.  I will legally retain my maiden name and adopt the surname of my husband as my middle moniker.  Our names will be joined, as our spirit will be.  Nevertheless, I will not be disturbed if a person calls me, Missus X.  If I do not like my mate; if he [or she] is not lovable, if we are not united, and thankful that we found fulfillment in such a glorious sharing, then why did we marry.

Stamp me old-fashioned.  Brand me a traditionalist.  Perceive me as a Progressive that understands the meaning of union.  All may be true.  For me, as for former President Bill Clinton, the essence of a woman is more than her career.  Lisa reflects on what she thinks essential.

A good man [partner] that loves, that truly loves you… can empower you . . . and you can become more than you could on your own . . . and visa versa . . . love is the best when its pure and simple . . . love for the sake of love . . . not for anything else . . . is the sweetest of all.

For me, love is not the ultimate, like is.  In my own life, I learned that to like someone day in and day out is truly special.  We all wish to love and be loved.  Perhaps, that is why many enter into marriage.  Women that love a spouse and are not fond of the person may not wish to be titled Missus.  These individuals may have no desire to be recognized as interdependent.  [I laugh.  For wedded or not we are all jointly supported by others.  However, I will not quibble with those that see themselves as separate.]

I wonder; if each of us married with more than love as our mission, might we do better, feel better, and be better, no matter what our title.  I know not.  Possibly, will you marry me is a question asked and never fully answered.

To marry, or to stay single.  That is the question . . .

Procreate or Annul the Marriage. Washington Initiative

© Copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

After marrying, my Mom tried diligently for four full years to give birth to a child.  She went from specialist to specialist.  Batteries of tests were run, and then, re-run.  Although she and my father were both fertile and they were a couple that thoroughly enjoyed intercourse, they could not seem to produce a baby.  My Mom, a scientist at heart, concluded that perhaps, she was not fecund when most women were.  Perchance her cycle was different.  Once considering that possibility was enough.  From then on, she was able to plan her pregnancies.  My Mom gave birth to three children, none born in the first three years.

Apparently, if a Washington State initiative passes, couples such as my parents would be required to have their marriage annulled.  “Naturally,” gay partnerships, would not, could not be considered.  Obviously, such a union would not be classified as marriage material.  The Religious Right, may have felt embolden after the state Supreme Court upheld a ban on same-sex marriage, however they did not propose a plan to go further.  They did not restrict what constitutes marriage in a manner that might seem feasible to them.  Numerous pious persons say the bible deems the purpose of matrimony is procreation.  Thus, the Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance took action.

This organization, [WDMA] has filed papers stating

marriage would be limited to men and women who are able to have children.  Couples would be required to prove they can have children in order to get a marriage license, and if they did not have children within three years, their marriage would be subject to annulment.

All other marriages would be defined as “unrecognized” and people in those marriages would be ineligible to receive any marriage benefits.

Organizer Gregory Gadow proclaimed in a printed statement, “For many years, social conservatives have claimed that marriage exists solely for the purpose of procreation … The time has come for these conservatives to be dosed with their own medicine.  If same-sex couples should be barred from marriage because they can not have children together, it follows that all couples who cannot or will not have children together should equally be barred from marriage.”  As absurd as this measure is, it may have purpose.  Profundity is always welcome and wise, though the dynamics for introducing such depth could go awry.

I have other relatives, friends too, that though bountifully able to produce babies struggled to do so.  Many discovered they could not produce.  For one or both the machinery was not as it was meant to be.  Infertilty is common.  Some couples, when first married cannot afford to give birth to a newborn.  Times are tight.  They plan to become parents; however, for now there is a need to wait.  Many fathers and mothers want to provide a secure and stable home for their offspring.  They are building a nest egg and attempting to establish a foundation.  Furthering their family is in the plans; it will be, though in the future.  First, they need to find the funds.  Down payments on homes are steep.

Some persons purposely choose not to have children.  They may marry late.  They may fear being the best of parents; theirs were not.  There are a myriad of reasons for not bring children into a marriage.

There is much to be considered when preparing for progeny.  Customs and conventions do not always equate to wisdom. 

That being said, I am baffled.  Conservatives claim the Progressives want too much government in their lives.  Yet, when it comes to “privacy” issues, it seems the traditionalists want greater restrictions, even, or especially, in the bedroom.  They actively wish to stamp out sex, unless the intent is to procreate.  The Right seeks to further scrutinize what goes on in the boudoir.

Supporters must gather more than 224,000 valid signatures by July 6 to put the initiative on the November ballot.

Opponents say the measure is another attack on traditional marriage, but supporters say the move is needed to have a discussion on the high court ruling.

Perhaps, enthusiast are not working to change the law.  Perchance they are only wishing to discuss how ridiculous the people in America are.  When, we as a nation, determine the definition for family we forget circumstances within our own.  I understand the logic; I fear unexpected results.

Please peruse the Initiative . . .

Initiative 957
If passed by Washington voters, the Defense of Marriage Initiative would:

  • add the phrase, “who are capable of having children with one another” to the legal definition of marriage;
  • require that couples married in Washington file proof of procreation within three years of the date of marriage or have their marriage automatically annulled;
  • require that couples married out of state file proof of procreation within three years of the date of marriage or have their marriage classed as “unrecognized”;
  • establish a process for filing proof of procreation; and
  • make it a criminal act for people in an unrecognized marriage to receive marriage benefits.
  • Consider this assessment.  Fewer Americans married with children – Census Bureau statistics show that married people with children account for 25% of American households.  USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education),  Then, make your own.  What does “marriage” mean to you.

    Contemplate the references . . .

  • Wash. initiative would require married couples to have kids.  NorthWest Cable News.  Associated Press.  Tuesday, February 6, 2007
  • Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance.
  • Statement by Gregory Gadow, Sponsor of I-957 (the Defense of Marriage Initiative).  Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance
  • Defense of Marriage Initiative Accepted by Secretary of State  Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance
  • Married Without Children Marriage Partnership.  Christianity Today International  Fall 2003
  • The State of Our Unions, The Social Health of Marriage in America 2006.  Essay: Life Without Children.  By Barbara Dafoe Whitehead Dav.  2006
  • Childless: Some by Chance, Some by Choice,  By Nancy Rome.  Special to The Washington Post. Tuesday, November 28, 2006; Page HE01
  • pdf Childless: Some by Chance, Some by Choice,  By Nancy Rome.  Special to The Washington Post. Tuesday, November 28, 2006; Page HE01
  • Couples, Communication and Caring ©

    In a nation where forty plus, fifty, or sixty percent of marriages end in divorce, [depending who whose statistics you trust] the topic of companionship and connections is a must.  In a country where many are separated, where children are left alone, and families are not intact, the quality of relationships is a necessary consideration.  This week, the New York Times addressed this concern in two articles, Marriage Is Not Built on Surprises and Questions Couples Should Ask (Or Wish They Had) Before Marrying.  I, as many do, have an active interest in this matter.

    Yesterday, I spoke with an acquaintance.  She seems to be happy in her current relationship; she says she is.  I remember when her beau was a source of great stress.  Jess was involved in his work and Lisa wanted him to be concerned with her.  She tried and tried to change what was.  Lisa turned to other men; Jess was upset.  Still, transformation was slow in coming.  The relationship came and went, repeatedly.  Now the two are one, or are they? 

    In my conversation with Lisa last evening, I learned Jess is planning to move in to Lisa’s home.  She is elated.  They spend their night’s together daily.  I was told, “All is well.”  Yet, Lisa is distressed.  Work is her worry.  When with Jess, she does not mention her personal struggles.  She pretends everything is just fine.  Lisa labors long hours.  She is miserable in her job.  Lisa took this position for money was a problem.  It still is though she is surviving.  When with Jess, this lovely lady does not let on. 

    Every night, Lisa dashes to the grocery store immediately after she clocks out.  All within a single hour, she drives home quickly, cooks, showers, dresses for dinner and then awaits her love.  He arrives promptly; they dine together and “talk.”  He knows not; her life is a whirlwind.  She says nothing.  She is content to share his company.

    I wonder; will his “caring” companionship be enough as time goes on. I acknowledge that life is made up of so much more than the little things.  My own experience tells me that what might seem small when left unattended swells.

    I know this for I too have stayed silent when I needed or wanted to speak.  I did not, do not wish to be known by those I was or am most intimate with.  The gentlemen I yearned to share my life with are or were the ones I feared most.  There was nothing frightening about these men.  Actually, they were each sensitive souls.  The reason for my apprehension, I am not fully comfortable when in a warm personal male/female relationship.  I am anxious, thinking of the inevitable separations.  I am concerned.  Will I lose myself? 

    There seem to be so many expectations and obligations.  Additionally, on perhaps above all, I recall my parents’ divorce.  It occurred ten days after their twentieth anniversary.  I was eight at the time of their initial separation.  The memory lives large.  I can recount the conversation that seemingly caused my Mom to leave.  I remember it as though it took place minutes ago.  My Mom attests to my account. Divorce, that reality runs deep.

    Among the 221.1 million people aged 15 and over in the United States in 2000:

  • 120.2 million, or 54.4 percent, were now married;
  • 41.0 million, or 18.5 percent, were widowed, divorced or separated; and
  • 59.9 million, or 27.1 percent, were never married. 
    Marital Status From Census 2000. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 questionnaire.

  • Nevertheless, much as it confuses me, hard as I worked to stay safe and far away from entangling emotional connections, my relationships were and are close.  I was and am fortunate.  The men in my life are extremely communicative and desirous of knowing who I am, what I think, feel, do, and want.  They asked.  They listened to my answers.  They accepted my thinking, and most of all they appreciated me.  In the present, the same is true.  Caring, calm, complete communication; what a concept!  It is a strange construct to many; perchance alien to most.

    I recognize that when a problem exists it is because, I [or they] do not speak directly.  I or we hide what hurts or what we fear will prompt rejection.  Consistently I am reminded that if I speak faithfully with sensitivity there is empathy and understanding.  I have ample reason to believe communication and authentic care make a huge difference in the quality of what comes.  Still, I struggle, [as does Lisa.]

    Much as I resist, the gents I have known encouraged me to speak of everything.  The one in my life now does the same.  Typically, this is what I do; I tell all, unless the threat of a fully intimate rapport grabs me.  Then I run, or at least I close my mouth. 

    For whatever reason, there are those that wish to be part of my daily life, just as I believe Jess wishes to be part of Lisa’s life.  They accept me as I am, though I do not often truly appreciate myself.  Might this be true in Lisa’s relationship?

    Recently, I was told I could be myself fully, be free to do as I already do.  I would not need to cater to the other and sacrifice my own time and efforts.  Could this possibly be?  Will the prospect last?  Conceivably, Lisa heard similar statements.

    Might I again review what is truth for most and was for me?  I recall Lisa was married once before.  She was braver than I.  Lisa may be hesitant now.  As an adult, she lived what I avoided.  I felt what she did as a child.  We both suffered through our divorces,

    The Effects of Divorce on America,

    By Patrick Fagan and Robert Rector

    More and more social scientists are concluding that divorce is hurting American society and devastating the lives of children.

    American society may have erased the stigma that once accompanied divorce, but it can no longer ignore divorce’s massive effects. As social scientists track successive generations of American children whose parents have ended their marriages, the data are leading even some once-staunch supporters to conclude that divorce is hurting American society and devastating children’s lives. Its effects are obvious in family life, educational attainment, job stability, income potential, physical, and emotional health, drug use, and crime.

    Each year, over one million American children suffer as their parents divorce. Moreover, half of all children born in wedlock this year will see their parents divorce before reaching their eighteenth birthday. This fact alone should give policymakers and those whose careers focus on children reason for pause.

    Social science research is showing that the effects of divorce continue into adulthood and affect the next generation of children as well. If the effects are indeed demonstrable, grave, and long lasting, then something must be done to protect children and the nation from these consequences. Reversing the effects of divorce will entail nothing less than a cultural shift in attitude, if not a cultural revolution, because society still embraces divorce in its laws and popular culture, sending out myriad messages that “it’s okay.”

    It is not.  Mounting evidence in the annals of scientific journals details the plight of the children of divorce. It clearly indicates that divorce has lasting effects which spill over into every aspect of life.

    I sigh as I read, reflect, and relate.  Some say counseling is the cure for what may ail a couple.  Premarital therapy will quell the rising trend.  Others think prenuptial agreements will counter that oft expressed quandary of financial concerns.  Many think sex before the wedding will indicate whether or not a couple is compatible.

    I believe what is a concern does not occur only during matrimony.  I observe that numerous individuals do as I sometimes do.  They speak indirectly, if at all.  What causes people the greatest pain is not knowing, not feeling understood, being ignored, or ignorance of feelings.  Those we are fond of are frequently the last to know what is within us.  For me, caring, calm, casual, clear, and complete communication is the only treatment for what troubles today’s couples.

    I recall an essay I read in Psychology Today as a child.  The authors focused on how well we truly know the ones we claim to love.  They noted how little was said, how much went unspoken.  I never forgot the treatise.  However, it seems obvious, many failed to memorize the authors’ message, or they never read it.  Since my youth, the permanency of partnerships plummets.  People physically unite; yet, they do not allow themselves to be together.  They talk and never say much.

    The New York Times realizes that this topic is no less a concern than it was decades ago.  This periodical appeals to its readers.  Please peruse this short and sweet article. Those that need this offering most may have missed it.  I share it here for your assessment, Questions Couples Should Ask (Or Wish They Had) Before Marrying.

    I invite you to comment, to tell your story, and express your experience.  We all have much to learn.

    Questions Couples Should Ask (Or Wish They Had) Before Marrying

    Relationship experts report that too many couples fail to ask each other critical questions before marrying. Here are a few key ones that couples should consider asking:
    1) Have we discussed whether to have children, and if the answer is yes, who is going to be the primary care giver?
    2) Do we have a clear idea of each other’s financial obligations and goals, and do our ideas about spending and saving mesh?
    3) Have we discussed our expectations for how the household will be maintained, and are we in agreement, on who will manage the chores?
    4) Have we fully disclosed our health histories, both physical and mental?
    5) Is my partner affectionate to the degree that I expect?
    6) Can we comfortably and openly discuss our sexual needs, preferences, and fears?
    7) Will there be a television in the bedroom?
    8) Do we truly listen to each other and fairly consider one another’s ideas and complaints?
    9) Have we reached a clear understanding of each other’s spiritual beliefs and needs, and have we discussed when and how our children will be exposed to religious/moral education?
    10) Do we like and respect each other’s friends?
    11) Do we value and respect each other’s parents, and is either of us concerned about whether the parents will interfere with the relationship?
    12) What does my family do that annoys you?
    13) Are there some things that you and I are NOT prepared to give up in the marriage?
    14) If one of us were to be offered a career opportunity in a location far from the other’s family, are we prepared to move?
    15) Do each of us feel fully confident in the other’s commitment to the marriage and believe that the bond can survive whatever challenges we may face?

    Hmmm?  Have you discussed these issues with your mate, your partner, the person you call your pal.  Do you dare?  What will happen if you communicate authentically?  Might the dynamics of your relationship change?  Oh no, could divorce be on the horizon!?

    I wonder, why do so few of us share sincerely with those we sleep with?

    Meeting of the Minds, Bodies, Heart and Soul, Sources . . .

  • pdf Marriage Is Not Built on Surprises, By Eric V. Copage.  New York Times. December 17, 2006
  • Marriage Is Not Built on Surprises, By Eric V. Copage.  New York Times. December 17, 2006
  • pdf Questions Couples Should Ask (Or Wish They Had) Before Marrying. New York Times. December 17, 2006
  • Questions Couples Should Ask (Or Wish They Had) Before Marrying. New York Times. December 17, 2006
  • Marital Status: 2000. Census Bureau Brief
  • Marriage and Divorce Census Bureau Facts for Features. From Census 2000. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 questionnaire.
  • The Effects of Divorce on America, By Patrick Fagan and Robert Rector. The World & I October 2000
  • pdf To Avoid Divorce, By Pam Belluck. New York Times. November 14, 2004
  • Just Whom Is This Divorce ‘Good’ For? By Elizabeth Marquardt. Washington Post. Sunday, November 6, 2005
  • Couples Communication. BBC News
  • Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss what Matters Most. By Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen
  • Marital Status. Single. Married. Satisfactory or Searching?

    copyright © 2006 Betsy L. Angert

    Early morning television viewing can stimulate a mind.  Today, while preparing breakfast, I was watching the CBS Sunday Morning Show.  They announced this is National USA Singles’ Week.  On the screen statistics were flowing.

    • Ninety-six [96] million Americans are single.
    • Fifty-four [54] percent of singles are women.
    • Sixty-three [63] percent of singles have never been married.
    • Fourteen [14] percent of singles are widowed.
    • Twelve and two-tenths [12.2] percent are single parents.
        [Ten [10] million women, two and two-tenths [2.2] percent men]
    • In New York State alone, fifty [50] percent of the population is single!
    • One third of all births in 2002 were born to single mothers.

    I thought; how fascinating, so many singles celebrating their marital status; yet, from my observations many are actively searching for a spouse, a soul mate, a sense of security, a sex partner, or something else.

    I wonder how many of these people have any idea what they are seeking; do they understand what they might find.  It seems for some marriage is the mission.  For others, staying single is their intent.  Though in either case, there is often an unspoken reluctance, an apprehension, or merely an overwhelming state of confusion.

    Social scientists stress human beings are gregarious in nature.  They crave a meaningful connection.  I observe they do and they do not.  Often they unknowingly create chaos, controversy, conflict, and counter all that they value.  “Til death do we part” often becomes divorce or worse living in a relationship that is dead or destructive.  Still, individuals hunt for bonds; they gather a throng of relationships.  People want to unearth that profound liaison.

    Many are looking for the love of their life, or at least a quality companion, a supportive soul who would be special friend, an intimate.  We all want a shoulder to cry on or so “they” say.  Perchance, a person to share our space would be nice.  We want so much or so little.  Some are certain of their needs and they say so openly.  They ask and they receive.

    The day before, while listening to Cable News Network, a reporter introduced a news story.  With whimsy in her voice, this journalist avowed, “Every young person dreams of the day.”  In a fanciful tone, she went on to explain, “Even in our youth we look forward to such an auspicious occasion.”  The Make-A-Wish Foundation was granting a young girl, Nicole Hastings, her dying wish.

    Hastings, a cancer victim, wanted to “wed” her beau.  In a union ceremony, the two were joined.  As I listened, I found the overture more dramatic than the tale.  I thought and said aloud, a wedding is not the fantasy of every youth; “It was never mine.”

    That thought coupled with the two narratives caused me to ponder further.  My assessment became personal.  I am intentionally among the millions of singles.  As I observe the raw statistics and contrast these with the notion of every child’s dream, I wonder.  Are the raw emotions that led me to my choices similar to those others experience?

    Days earlier, before reviewing the aforementioned anecdotes, I was discussing my own familiarity with marriage.  The topic arose because I had expressed my disdain for the “three try rule.”  Apparently, for some, when people disagree, neither “should” try to “sway” the other more than three times.  For me, this notion is silly.

    I do not consider a sincere sharing an attempt to convince another that they are in error.  To illustrate my belief in consistent, caring, and calm dialogues I shared a personal story with an acquaintance.  I recounted the tale of my former mate and I.

    Considering the divorce rate, the longevity of relationships, the frequent disputes among couples, and the fact that Eric is my former, one might think this will be a tale of woe.  My words will be expressions of wrath, rage, and fury.  We all know there nothing comparable to a woman’s scorn.  That said; let the saga begin.

    Eric and I knew each other for about a year before we spoke of “moving in together.”  There was no hesitation on my part or on his.  During the twelve months of our acquaintance, we spent most every waking hour together.  When we purchased books, we would buy two of the same and then read and discuss them together.  We could and did talk for hours.  Friends commented, “If you saw one of us, it was likely the other was nearby.”  We were best friends.

    Our courtship was not formal.  We never actually “dated.”  At home, in restaurants, on street corners, and in moving vehicles Eric and I chatted endlessly.  We were together in public places and in private sanctuaries.  We sat, or walked together for hours; we talked the entire time.  Religion, philosophy, psychology, and politics were our favorite subjects.  We spoke of the personal, professional, and the profound.  No topic was taboo for us.  Yes, physical intimacy was part of our repertoire.  Eric and I exchanged passionately and with pleasure.

    Eventually, we decided to share a home.  There too, we worked well together.  We never had a dispute about the toothpaste.  We each squeeze the tube from the bottom.  Eric and I are each extremely tidy.  We love to decorate; aesthetics is important to each of us.  I love to cook; he loves to eat.  Shopping is our shared entertainment.  Gardening warms our hearts.  Most of all, we like each other’s company.  Disagreements were few and far between.

    If the car needed repair, this was distressing.  Dollars were tight.  During summer, our incomes were reduced.  At the beginning of this season, there was a period of adjustment.  In those early days of summer, there was usually one disagreement.  Again, financial pressure was the catalyst for our quarrel.

    If Eric loaned our one and only vehicle to his badly crippled Dad, I was not happy and said so.  Mr. Smyth had rheumatoid arthritis; he could barely maneuver his feet or let alone hold a steering wheel.  This worried me.  I felt if his Dad needed transportation, one of us could drive him.  I usually did.  That was fine with me, for I enjoyed the father of my beau.

    Over the years it was evident, Eric and I had few struggles and much joy.  While we did not have problems between us, being human, there was a need to grow, individually and together.

    I always thought Eric knew me better than I understood myself.  However, that did not negate the fact that his opinion of what might be best for me, was not always identical to my own.  When he would voice his viewpoints, particularly if it differed from mine or caused me to question my lack of ego strength, I would, initially become defensive.  That reactive stance did not stop me from reflecting upon what he said, for I knew he truly had my best interests at heart.  His expressions were consistently delivered with love.

    In the moments, days, weeks, months, and even years later I was thankful that we always shared openly and that he told me of his truth.  I needed to hear these views so that they were in my mind, available when I was ready.  There was so much I wanted to learn; there still is.  I felt a need to be in better balance, to blend more pleasurably with the world around me.  I loved my life; however, then and now, I feel there is always a need to grow.

    Eric also wanted to evolve; mostly he wanted our relationship to go forward.  He wanted to marry me.  I was not ready for marriage.  Eric genuinely wanted us to be legally committed.  I know to my core that Eric would not have changed my mind or me after three futile attempts to influence my way of thinking.  An enduring and meaningful transformation would not occur if the dialogue ended permanently at that point.

    If Eric had worked to persuade me on only three occasions I would have never learned, let alone truly heard to the wisdom he shared.  I believe it highly unlikely someone will change after another states an opinion three times.  The chances are less likely if the exchanges are volatile.  I think change is a process; it evolves, as do we all.  Saying that and contrasting it with my thoughts on marriage, I question.  Did I develop as much as I thought I had?

    Please allow me to continue the pondering.  Perhaps you will join me.  Are you reflecting on your own relationships as a married person or a single?

    Eric words were consistently kind, calm, caring, and loving.  He was not critical of me; nor did he condemn my choices or me.  He came to me with love and though he left our abode, or I did, it was not because we no longer cared.  I feared marriage!

    Patient as he was for oh so many years, he tired of waiting for me to change my mind.  He felt he could not go on as we had.  He wanted us to marry.  I was certain I could not.

    Eric and I parted ways physically, though not fully.  We never parted emotionally.  To this day, decades later we are still deeply connected.  I marvel at this.  Intellectually I know much; I have grown infinitely, even my emotional realities evolved far beyond where they were.  However, as I evaluate my essence, I wonder how much of the past still permeates the present.  It seems, when I am placed in a position to truly do as I had not done with Eric, I freak.

    I recall reading a study long ago reporting that children of divorce, long into adulthood, struggle with the prospect of marriage.  Many wed; however, even the elderly that were once children of divorced parents show evidence of scarring.  The wound formed in youth does not truly disappear.  It may be modified, still it lingers.

    After parents drop the bomb of divorce on their kids, and many believe the impact is immediate and brutal, but gradually fades over time.

    That is not at all the case, contends clinical psychologist and divorce expert Judith S. Wallerstein.  In her new book, “The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce,” she writes that the effects of divorce on children are less like a bomb than a time bomb, carrying lasting ramifications well into adulthood.

    When I was young, eight years old, ten days after my natural parents twentieth wedding anniversary, my Mom walked out.  This shocked me.  My family seemed so stable!

    Though my Mom re-married, as did my birth father, and all was perhaps more wonderful than it was before, I grew skeptical.  The scar swelled up in me.  It was invisible; yet, imposing.

    I had serious relationships; I chose well.  However, when I feel or felt as though the other person was getting too close, or at times, even before this realization, I would subtlety sabotage the relationship.  The departure was never bitter, for I never chose an explosive man.  Nevertheless, these break-ups were painful.

    I would always conclude of the men in my life, excluding Eric, “They never really knew me.”  Then I would realize, “Of course they did not; I never allowed such an intimate connection.”  Sex was always good; however, an individual can sustain a separated self even when co-mingling.

    Then, I had a liaison where the other did as I had always done.  He pushed away any closeness, I thought that I had evaluated anew.  I truly believed that I had worked through my anxieties.  I surmised that this situation helped me to see myself as I really was.  In being with the man that rejected familiarity, friendship, and a deeper intimacy; I saw myself through him, my mirror reflection.  I essentially established the fallacies of my fears; yet, now I wonder.  I am uncertain.

    As I watched the statistics roll by, as I assess my current circumstances, I am thinking; I may not have evolved as I thought I had.

    Granted, for years the divorce of my natural parents impacted my decisions.  Their deep division influenced me infinitely.  They had been together for twenty-plus years, then poof!

    My Mom remarried and chose a man I love.  However, after twelve years, this nuptial also died.  There was reason to think it might.  After a two-year courtship, the two married.  My Mom attested to the notion, once the vows were taken, everything changed.’  Her new husband was not the man she thought she knew.

    I later learned, my Mom felt that she entered her first two marriages for the arrangement seemed convenient.  True love had not been her motivation.  Knowing this, when involving herself again, she consciously chose to look for a deeper, more meaningful, love.  She married an amazing man.  The two intertwined as one.  Their union was glorious to observe.  Being part of it was even better.

    Having experienced the delightful thirty-plus year legal joining of my Mom and my newer father, I realized that what happened to my natural parents marriage need not be life, that of others or my own.  Not every one feels a need to separate or divorce.

    Still, I now acknowledge that I struggle with the idea of cohabitating.  It is a fine construct and wonderful for others.  However, when I consider the possibility, I still say “No.”  I am not alone or lonely.  I may be single, but not sullen.  I experience no sorrow.  In truth, I love my life.  Still, I muse; do I truly wish to be without a significant other?

    My Grandfather always wisely claimed, “No one does anything that they really do not want to do.”  I flash back on Eric.  I acknowledge, at times our fears stop us from recognizing what would bring us greater pleasure.  I have often mused of the Rolling Stones song, “You can’t always get what you want; we get what you need;” What we need is more than we ever allow ourselves to knowingly want!

    I am so very confused.  I feel that I cannot talk to others of this for I experience that we all justify our emotions.  I feel lost.  Single and sensationally happy, or married in wedded bliss.  What is real and what is fantasy, or is the more accurate term self-fabrication.

    Thus, I ask myself, is it habit and the pleasure of my own company that keeps me from joining with another?  Are my earlier experiences still within me and looming large?

    I can still belt out a Carly Simon favorite, “That is the way I always heard it should be.”  The line, “Soon you will cage me on your shelf; I need to be me first by myself” resonates for me now, as strongly as it did in my youth.

    As I listen to all the discussion of weddings, marriages, and single-dom, I cannot help consider, what is true for all of these people.  Do humans desire a connection, thus wed?  Do marriages meet expectations, good, and the converse?  What of being single?  How many truly enjoy the prospect, as I definitely do; and do they also feel great anxiety at the thought of genuinely being alone in the world?

    Oh dear reader, I invite you to share your story, to probe your mind and your heart.  Whether you are married, single, or strolling the streets with another, though there are no legal documents to bind you, what do you think of commitment and closeness?  Are you as I, do you acknowledge that one does not necessarily lead to another.  There is no direct correlation.

    For me, the question is, what feeds our souls?  What do we need, want, crave, and create?  Sigh, I have no answers, only curiosity.  I do not celebrate my singleness; nor do I embrace marriage.  I only feel great confusion and ask for your sharing.  What have you discovered, discerned, and what deliberations were most helpful to you?

    I invite you to open your heart, your mind, and to join with me in seeking a truer understanding of coupling.

    What Do You Want, Need, Deeply Desire?  Perchance it is here . . .