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  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 . . .
- Democratic Candidates Discuss Gay Rights Tonight. Washington Post. Thursday, August 9, 2007; Page A04
- 51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse, By Sam Roberts. New York Times. January 16, 2007
- pdf 51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse, By Sam Roberts. New York Times. January 16, 2007
- Single Women Take the Lead in America. Talk of the Nation. National Public Broadcasting. January 18, 2007
- Watch out, men! More women opt to live alone, Majority of U.S. women live without a spouse, Census says. By Dawn Fratangelo. MSNBC News. January 16, 2007
- The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better off Financially. By Richard Niolon, Ph.D. Parent and Couples. March 2002
- Health, Marriage, and Longer Life for Men. Rand Corporation. 1998
- Former Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton Speak at Coretta Scott King’s Funeral, CQ Transcripts Wire. Washington Post. Tuesday, February 7, 2006; 5:06 PM
- pdf Former Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton Speak at Coretta Scott King’s Funeral, CQ Transcripts Wire. Washington Post. Tuesday, February 7, 2006; 5:06 PM
- Coretta Scott King Biography, Pioneer of Civil Rights