Why the hell would you get married?

A a kid I was hopelessly romantic, had a moonbeams and rainbows view of the world and generally believed it was a wonderful place full of wonderful people all of whom wanted the very best for you, never told a lie and were 100% honest and truthful.

Fast forward a few years and you can imagine my surprise then when a series of relationships taught me that this was very definitely not the case. I was emotionally shredded each time, gathering the scar tissue of adulthood and the wariness that generates. By the time I was ready in my mind to get into a very serious relationship, I had the misfortune to meet a thoroughly corrupt and evil girl masquerading as a pretty young woman interested in getting into something equally serious. The warning signs were all there in hindsight. Already married once at 17 with a disastrous ending. Clearly living beyond her means and gathering funds by whatever dubious activities she could muster, I still gave her the benefit of the the doubt. We got married 6 weeks after our first date. On the evening of our wedding, she theatrically flushed her contraceptive pills down the toilet saying “she didn’t need those anymore”. 9 months later my first daughter was born. I was at university on a grant. (I should explain for my US friends that back then in Britain not only did you get tuition paid, you also got a grant from the government to live on while you attended university. Yes, I know, almost communist, but fuck you. You don’t even know the difference between socialism and communism. )

She sold insurance, had a house and relatively new car and was well dressed and spoken. Well – she spoke differently than me. How would I know that accent had the national reputation as the gold digging baby factory of the country? I’d grown up in the flatlands of Lincolnshire, where we suffered from an entirely different set of maladies as the unfortunate progeny of too proximal familial linkages did their damnedest to reduce their own and every one else’s numbers in the day to day life in the boonies. The dulcet tones of the North Eastern girl hadn’t become Cheryl Cole acceptable yet. I was absolutely clueless.

The next five years were a whirlwind of university, businesses, credit cards, living to excess, failed post graduate degrees and clandestine larceny while I bumbled along trying to make the marriage work and make something happen for our daughter. A second daughter had appeared and the marriage was in tatters. Of course, with such volatility, a dignified exit was going to be impossible. Instead we had accusations of violence, child custody battles, bankruptcy and animosity. It wasn’t pretty.

I retreated back to university and met a woman with another funny accent who helped me lick my wounds and survive. The daughter of a Scottish Presbyterian minister, she had a strict upbringing and good values. The usual whirlwind ensued but over some years this time, which resulted in us finding ourselves in the USA in jobs and agreeing to get married. The Isle of Arran was the location and it was the best wedding I’ve ever been to. Really. There’s a lot to be said for having a wedding on an island. The guests can’t leave, can drink themselves silly and the possibilities of sea related tomfoolery are endless.

Ten years later, we had moved to California and back again, bought a house and embarked on our first child. Life wasn’t bad, we seemed to be getting along fine and nothing too much and changed. She wasn’t one of these “oh I love bring pregnant” women. She would have been far happier if it had come out of a grow bag, but for nine months she carried our daughter. A difficult C section birth and we had a new little life to deal with.

This is of course where it all went to shit. The strains of adjusting to motherhood and our life in general changed her beyond belief. Turns out we had very different views on child rearing too, which is where things began to really unravel. After a few years of this, where our relationship on all its levels had deteriorated to the point of loathing, it became obvious that this was irreparable and we began the process of splitting up. Our daughter was of course devastated but she has adjusted and now splits time equally between us.

Divorce seemed like some easy process the first time around. I suppose UK legal aid and having minimal assets helped, but even so it seemed the actual process was simple. A few forms, some meetings, a court and boom – divorced. (I left out a lot for brevity – it was hell). This time around though, its the most complicated thing I’ve ever done! We can’t afford lawyers, so we’re doing it ourselves – or rather I’m doing it. As the one with “sporadic income” I was deemed to have the time to make this happen, so I set about it.

Let me tell you – there’s a reason you pay lawyers to deal with this crap! I’ve spent months – literally months – even figuring out what I need to do! What forms? How many and in what sequence? What documents are needed? Who knows? Turns out Lawyers know – and that’s why we pay them.

The point of all this is  – why the hell would anyone want to get married? I can honestly not think of one decent reason now why two sane people would want to do this. There seems to be no real upside (if you put aside the tax break and health insurance), and a whole ton of downside. It costs a fortune for one day of stress induced ritual, the traditions of which are largely made up. You have no greater bond, and in most cases a far weaker bond within marriage than if you have a live relationship unencumbered by legal trappings. In fact, the ironic part is that “common law” treats you as a bona fide legal couple anyways in almost all respects. I realize and fully accept that this is the rant of a jaded middle aged man who has made too many mistakes, but trying to figure this out is truly perplexing.

So tell me – why would anyone get married? Comments as always are welcome.

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