You know what they say about assuming...

This morning when I logged in to twitter, someone had sent me a DM with the following question (edited to remove potentially identifying details and broaden the scope of my thoughts):

If I write a post about <insert life choice> and all the pressure as a <insert stage of life> to <re-insert life choice>, will <insert all those people at previous stated life stage pursuing previously stated choice> get mad at me?

Oy…what a question to start the day with. My first instinct? I was annoyed that this individual felt they had to ask. NOT annoyed that they asked, because I was happy to share my thoughts. What bothered me about the question was that they knew there was a possibility - okay, probability - that there would be negative (judgmental) reactions to their choices.

You see, we have this idea that life should go a certain “ideal” way. Here’s the general order in my experience:

  1. You’re born.
  2. You have a childhood.
  3. You go to university or college.
  4. You date.
  5. You start your career.
  6. You get married.
  7. You buy a house.
  8. You have kids.
  9. You have a career.
  10. You retire.
  11. You travel/downsize/become a snowbird (for Canadians).
  12. You die.

But darn it all if humans - who made these rules - don’t bother to follow them! (I know…shocking!)

Some people don’t get a degree, including me.
Some people don’t get legally married.
Some people don’t buy a house.
Some people don’t have kids.
Some people don’t establish a career.
Some people don’t retire.

Despite all these exceptions to “the rules”, people still push these narrow and highly unimaginitive expectations on the people in their lives at the stages when they get there, disregarding entirely any possible reasons that someone might not want to follow this path.

Every time a high school graduate crosses a stage to pick up a diploma, there is someone waiting on the other side to ask them where they’re going to go to school and what they’re going to study. 

Couples who date for more than six months or so fend off questions about when they’re going to get engaged. Then, they get engaged and you’d think people would be happy, but NO! That merely starts the round of wedding date inquiries.

The wedding should satisfy people, but it really doesn’t. How many weddings have you been to where the question of kids hasn’t come up? Not many, eh? Didn’t think so. Seriously? Give them AT LEAST a day before you start asking, people.

I think the time from high school graduation to probably late thirties/early forties have to be the most intense period of life changes and busybody interference and questioning. 

I know people mostly mean well, but I personally found it really difficult - emotionally - when I was asked when I was going to have children. This went on for years, because I’d already lost a baby and you don’t just share that information with everyone you meet. That decision was intensely personal for me and Matt; it wasn’t something that was anyone else’s business. After one particularly awkward conversation with someone who was barely an acquaintance, I vowed that I would not ask anyone else when or if they were going to have kids. If we are meant to have that discussion, it would come up naturally in a way that the other person is comfortable with.

Then I watched a co-worker get relentlessly nosey questions (practically interrogations) about when she was going to get married to her long-time boyfriend for over three years. She handled it with grace and dignity, but it got to the point that even I was uncomfortable when it happened. So, I extended my rule to other life stages as well.

Why?

Because I don’t want to make assumptions about choices that others are making. We’re all different. We all have different experiences and backgrounds that affect our choices. The road I take is right for me to the best of my knowledge. It isn’t necessarily right for anyone else and it’s better that I build a relationship with someone to talk about these things than unknowingly creating a potentially awkward situation for them or me. Ultimately, I’ve found that I develop more sustainable and deep relationships with people when I don’t dig too deep too soon.

Have you ever felt the pressure to make certain decisions about life choices from people around you? How did you handle it?

The Just-In-Case Agreement

I have conflicted feelings about prenuptial agreements.

My first, black-and-white, unflinchingly rigid view is that they are an unnecessary agreement designed to give either or both parties an out while protecting their interests.

If two people are serious about marriage, shouldn’t there be a commitment to work hard to make it work rather than creating an opt-out arrangement before the vows are said? 

But…

People make mistakes. People misjudge character. People make hasty decisions they regret. People change in ways that are not acceptable. 

Divorce is an unfortunate reality in many of these cases.

But…

Should many of those relationships have ever evolved to the point of marriage? I once asked my mom why she married her first husband. She said simply, “Love is blind.” From that, I made one very significant assumption - that there were clues to his nature that she missed or ignored.

Could it be that at least a percentage of those 50% of marriages that end shouldn’t have ever begun?

The choice to marry (or become a life partner) is a monumental decision that can’t be entered into lightly. But I sometimes feel that “being committed” these days is too often about waiting until a better offer comes along. Or boredom strikes. Or something goes wrong.

But…

It really isn’t black-and-white, is it? Personally, I can’t imagine the heartache involved in going through a divorce. I’m fortunate to be married to a man that I believe with all my heart I’ll spend the rest of my life with. I believe he’s as committed to me as I am to him.

But…

I bet there are women and men who felt that way about their partners and ended up on the other side of a divorce anyway.

I sincerely hope my words don’t come across as judgmental - that’s truly not my intent. My conclusion? Yay or Nay? I guess this is the question I would ask myself if a prenup came up:

Do I really want to marry this person if I/they need a document that “protects” my/their interests in the event of a divorce?

It’s not a yay or a nay, but a urging to look seriously at the relationship. Perhaps the relationship is so good that the prenup is just a piece of paper with words that will never matter. In the end, I think it’s much like the decision of whether to change your name - personal and nobody else’s business.

For me it was a nay. When you’ve got no interests to protect, there’s no need to bother. ;)

*****

This post was based on the prompt “Prenuptial Agreement…Yay or Nay? Explain.” from Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop.

December 14 - Appreciate (#reverb10)

December 14 – Appreciate. What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it? (Author: Victoria Klein)

This prompt came up 9 days after I celebrated my 10th wedding anniversary. On December 5th, 2000, in the den of a complete stranger with two friends present, I married my best friend. To this day, he is still my best friend.

I appreciate my husband.

I appreciate our marriage. 

We’ve had our share of hard times and we’ve had a lion’s share of good times. Through it all, we’ve stuck together. Faithfully sharing our lives and loving each other no matter what came across our path.

We laugh and cry together. We encourage and support each other. We take care of each other through illness or emotional times.

One of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received is when a good friend told me (more than once) this year that Matt and I seem like a unified front. A team.

It’s not an act. It’s real through and through.

If I had been asked to describe the ideal marriage, I don’t think it would have been as good as what I got. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s perfect for me. 

I hope I never take for granted what I’ve found with Matt.

Nine Years

On November 24, 2000, I drove across the US-Canadian border as an official permanent resident for the first time. Two weeks later, on December 5, 2000, Matt and I stood before a JOP type, who talked about "love" a lot, along with two of our friends as we committed to spend our lives to each other. Actually, if you remember the episode of Friends when Monica and Chandler picked Joey to be their officiant, his practice speech was really similar to this guys' real thing. When I think about it, I can hardly believe it's been nine years. I don't feel nine years older, but a lot has happened in that time.

We did actually have a big wedding in August 2001 and we acknowledge that date as well. But we're pretty low-key about anniversaries and birthdays in general. Today we decided to celebrate by going to breakfast with our son. We had a good time giving him some really unhealthy food - greasy eggs, home fries, sausage and pancakes. Fortunately for him, he'd already had a breakfast at home, so he didn't eat much of the junk.

It's hard to believe that this is the last single-digit anniversary for us. It feels like such a long time, but it's mostly been fun. Hard times are bound to happen to everyone but if you are fortunate to share them with someone who can make you laugh, then they seem to go by a little bit easier and perhaps end a little bit quicker. I couldn't have asked for a better husband.

Who am I?

Recently I found out that by taking my husband’s name when I got married, I gave up my own identity.

Wow! I had no idea. So, how do I get it back? I mean, I’m pretty sure my husband is equally as annoyed with me now as he was before we were married – he’d probably say I haven’t changed too much at all. Okay, maybe I’m even more annoying, but that tends to happen when you go from living 1,500 miles apart to living 15 inches apart. Not that we stand that close all the time – I’m being a tad facetious. (Don’t you love that word? It has every vowel in the order they appear in the alphabet!)

So, if I’m basically the same person I was before we got married, how does changing my name mean that I’ve given up my identity? I found this quote from David McKay – I am pretty sure he’s a late somewhat high up member of the LDS church, which is completely irrelevant to the quote.

 

“Some people think that if they change the names of things, the things themselves will have changed, too.”


Of course, Shakespeare said it even more eloquently in Romeo and Juliet:

 

 

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.

I don’t think you can put it anymore succinctly than that. One argument for not taking a husband’s name is sentimentality about the loss of self. Is this just a cover for being afraid of change perhaps? Marriage – with or without a name change – is life altering and can certainly be challenging to your personal perspective of self. You have a partner and life filters through that partnership, for the most part, instead of filtering through your individual side. That’s a HARD adjustment to make and the divorce rate proves it.

 

Another argument that was just pointed out to me is a little more practical, and filled with a dash of bitterness and a touch of disdain. This particular woman’s case against taking your husband’s name is coming from a more practical perspective. When you take his name, you have to change everything – passport, health card, driver’s license, etc. It affects your credit rating and when you divorce, you have to rebuild all of that.

Give me a break! No, seriously – that’s your case for not taking your husband’s name? Because it’s inconvenient when you divorce?

Perhaps it’s naïve of me, but it seems as if there is an assumption going in to the marriage that it will be disposed of eventually. I actually see that as more of a problem than changing the name. Granted, I was raised in a conservative Christian home where my parents stayed married to each other until my mom’s death, but I think it’s really, really sad that so many people start married life with the notion that, if they find they’ve made a mistake, there’s an out. To me, it seems like a good idea to take more time and just be sure. But I digress.

I decided to do a little research and found a couple of sites that give details about name-change practices in various parts of the world and other sites that attempt to give some of the history of why women change their names. Of course, some of the history is based on Biblical customs, though I’m not sure why since the article actually specifically mentions that surnames didn’t become the norm until many centuries later. The whole Biblical argument is one that seems pretty thin to me, but I’m not a Bible scholar! Personally, just like with the legal institution of marriage, which is based on Biblical principles, but not necessarily Biblical itself, I think name changes fall into the same category. It became a practice based on an interpretation of scripture. We’ll skip the discussion of dodgy scripture interpretations for now – that’s definitely a topic best left for another day.

I’m sure there are people out there who think that if a woman doesn’t take her husband’s name she doesn’t actually love him – or she’s a raging feminist. That type of conclusion isn’t going to stand up any better than saying that taking your husband’s name will cause you to lose your identity. In writing about this, I tried to think of all the women I know who married and didn’t take their husband’s name in any form. I was only able to come up with a handful. The majority of my acquaintances/friends seem to change or hyphenate their names. That surprised me since I have a fairly diverse group of friends from all different types of backgrounds.

Personally, I’m not for or against women changing their names upon marriage. It’s a personal decision that can be based on a multitude of reasons. I have never heard of any valid moral argument for or against the practice. Some women can’t wait to change their last name to something simpler. Some don’t want to change to something more complex. High profile women may keep their maiden name for use in their profession. Sometimes a woman is fine with changing her name, but just can’t be bothered with doing the paperwork. For some, they want to avoid confusion when they have children – so they choose to have the same last name as their husband/children. Some women really feel attached to their name; others feel a strong inclination to take their husband’s name.

Whatever the decision, whatever the reason, whoever the person – does it really have to be such a big deal? My name is not my identity outside of legal identification. My name does not define me, whether I assume my husband’s name or not. It’s just a name; it isn’t who I am.