Where Logic Meets Love

What Marriage Means to Me: Ashley

Monday, February 13, 2012

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I'm very excited to kick off the What Marriage Means to Me series! I've had so many offers to write for the series that it's looking like it will become a regular Monday feature.

Our first post comes from the wonderful Ashley of It's Fitting. We connected during the recent SITS Girls' Blogging Challenge, and I'm happy to host her here to share with us how her thoughts on marriage changed from when she met her husband to now.

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What Marriage Means to Me: Ashley | Faith Permeating Life

Marriage.

An outdated institution? Perhaps. And while I'm not the most traditional of girls, to me there really wasn't an option...

Honestly, though, if there was ever a person who shouldn't have wanted to get married... it was him. And while his story isn't mine to tell, suffice it to say I was not the first. And the first ended very quickly and very badly. And left him wounded and gun-shy when it came to marriage.

I, however, was ready. I was in my mid 20s and thought that I had found myself. I thought that I knew who I was and what I wanted and was ready to settle down with the right guy. And after years of serial dating and in the most unlikely of places, I found him.

I of course knew the first weekend that we met... but it took him a few more years to come around and when he proposed, I was ecstatic, over the moon at the idea of marrying him, because for me this was the ultimate proof of our love.

I understand now how silly it all was to a girl in her late 20s, starry-eyed at the idea of the white dress and the rings. Of standing in front of our family and friends to commit ourselves to each other... thinking that was the way to prove that we loved one another.

But after the birth of our first child 2 years ago I realized that no ring would ever prove to anyone how much I love this man. How much I love him more and more every day. And how not having a ring wouldn't mean I love him any less.

Marriage to me is a bond, greater than a diamond on my finger. But having it means that every day, I look at my hand and recognize its symbol of eternity, and how I will love him forever.

The traditional girl in me realizes that I would have yearned for a marriage, for a symbol to represent our love, but the realist in me knows that no matter what, I will always love him, with or without the rings.

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Ashley is the mom to a 2-year-old heart breaker, and the wife to an even bigger one. When she's not taking care of her kidlet and hubby, she's chasing after 4 chickens and enjoying a (very large) glass of wine. She blogs at It's Fitting, where she talks about her adventures as an urbanite who found her very own Green Acres.

5 comments:

  1. This post is so interesting to me, because it is a mix of two similar but distinct opinions I've heard over the years, and her sureity in the...not meaninglessness of the rings and marriage, but the inadequacy of the symbols to convey the depth of love is simultaneously the same and very different from what I've read and how I personally think.

    What's the same is the belief that material items (like rings or "a sheet of paper") don't make a marriage and have no bearing on your love or personal commitment level. What's different, to me, is that I think the social validation that comes with the rings, and especially that legal sheet of paper are actually very profound and meaningful to outsiders and do, actually, prove a depth of love and commitment to others. Being engaged now, after 6 years of dating has validated my relationship to a shockingly large number of people. They're more understanding when I want a night off work because I haven't seen Alex in a few days, when a few months ago wanting to spend time with my "boyfriend" would have elicited eye rolls and less cooperation. We're suddenly being invited to things as a unit (see: him getting a wedding invitation from some good friends the first week of Jan for just himself, but two weeks later after he proposed he was informed he could bring me too).

    I'm beginning to ramble, but my point is that it's so cool to hear different perspectives on this sort of thing. What is very important to me and my community isn't for others, and it's fascinating.

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  2. @Cathi
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this! This is part of the reason I started this series, to showcase a variety of viewpoints toward marriage. I'd love to have you write a post as well :)

    Ashley can respond to this as well, but there does seem to be an element of social validation to marriage that happens regardless of what the marriage means to the individuals involved. Even though Mike and I talked about the future well before we got engaged, I didn't feel like other people took it seriously that we'd planned our future until we were actually engaged. I think it goes back to that question, "How 'serious' are you/they?" and how we don't actually have much of a language to answer that question in any sort of consistent, meaningful way. So we assign meaning to certain actions, like, "They are moving-in-together serious" or "They are engaged/married serious," and anything outside of these actions lacks an agreed-upon meaning. Not that those actions actually represent any sort of single, consistent feeling or commitment across couples... ok, now I'm rambling :) But I totally get what you're saying.

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  3. Thought I'd post since Ashley and her husband are dear friends of ours and she'll get a kick out of what I have to say...

    In today’s society, we place these archetypal monikers on the various stages in a relationship, perhaps to define our status and level of commitment. We refer to dating couples as boyfriend/girlfriend, titles that seem to suggest a notion of “commitment until further notice.” Once engaged, partners become “fiancés,” blissfully heading into marriage territory, and after the wedding, couples are bestowed the most cherished titles of “husband and wife.”

    Let me first say that I am not married. BUT (and big but…), I feel at liberty to speak on the matter because….

    When you’re over thirty, you’ve been with the same person for longer than most Hollywood marriages and you share a child, referring to your significant other as a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” doesn’t seem to fit the bill. In fact, it sounds almost juvenile. I’m fairly certain that even Angelina, in her very important circle of friends, doesn’t refer to Brad as her boyfriend. Yes, there are those often-used terms for couples in the void, like “life partners” or “domestic partners,” but we’re neither a same-sex couple in a state where gay marriage isn’t recognized, nor are we an elderly couple looking to share health benefits. Titles like that seem so clinical, so lacking in the romance of a lifelong commitment.

    We spend a lot of time in Costa Rica. After our initial visit together, our friends there started referring to us respectively as esposo/esposa (Spanish for husband and wife.) They didn’t know, nor did they care to make the distinction that we weren’t actually married. In their culture, long-time “partners” (there’s that word again) are, for all intents and purposes, husband and wife.

    I loved this. Not because I harbored some wish that my, eh…boyfriend, would pop the question, but because I felt like the idea of marriage and commitment for me had been profoundly simplified. I stopped wrestling with thoughts about what our couple “status” meant and decided that we’ve been husband and wife all along. Though we never had a ceremony, no one ever pronounced us husband and wife, we did not exchange rings or vows, we are as married as married gets. Even more so, after the birth of our daughter, which seemed not only to solidify our commitment to this little unit, but also diminish the importance of a ceremony in our definitions marriage and family.

    Back in the good ol’ US of A, where people swoon for made-for-tv marriages and teen pregnancy, I get the most odd responses when I use the term “husband.” It is most often that cursory glance to my left hand (sans a ring), the raised eyebrow, and the stutter, as if I’ve somehow blasphemed the marriage tradition by improperly referring to my boyfriend or baby daddy as my “husband.” It’s easy to brush off when I think of what really matters, that despite our legal status, we embody all that a marriage should, love, trust, commitment.

    I don’t tell this story to devalue the institution of marriage in any way. I am still a firm believer in it. While we have no intentions of ceremoniously tying the knot, we’ll continue to uphold our unspoken, and yet firmly understood vows…. for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish… until death do us part.

    And who knows, maybe sometime in the future Brad and Angelina will come up with cooler title for all the “not married but firmly committed with children” couples out there……In the meantime, I’ll be kickin’ it with my hubby.

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  4. Cynthia... I love it... and you guys. It's totally true what you say. If only there WERE a word out there that signifies to the world your commitment to each other... Mostly because some people have to be beaten over the head with the obvious to truly believe it. :-) Unless you show them a ring and tell them that you are MARRIED... they don't really believe it.
    But honestly? Who cares? It really only matters to the two of you!

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  5. @Cynthia
    Thanks for sharing your story! A couple of links you might find interesting:
    -My long-time reader 'Becca isn't married, either; she refers to her significant other, with whom she lives and has a child, as her partner.
    -Tony Jones had a sacramental marriage but NOT a legal marriage, which I find fascinating. I think it's incredibly important to the entire discussion of marriage for people to realize this is even possible.

    Regarding your point about "archetypal monikers"--Mike and I did not use the words "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" when we first started dating because I felt like they carried too many assumptions with them. I didn't want our relationship to conform to anybody else's notions about how we should act. I'd say we've carried that spirit over into our marriage :)

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