Is being married better than not being married? Apparently so – or not – at least to the thousands of gay men and women who have jumped on the bandwagon to marital bliss. At a time when divorce is at it’s highest, 93% of all Americans still long for a walk down the isle and a happy union with just one partner. In 2000, 56.1% of women and 52.3% of men, older than 15, were married. Now let’s add gay unions to the mix. Are we a country addicted that that little piece of paper? The current national discussion of gay marriage, in the midst of what I call a revolution, or shall we say an evolution of marriage, will surely be credited with pushing some other issues to the forefront as well.
Clearly there are legal benefits to gay marriage. But there are also pitfalls to marriage in a country that has no idea about the meaning of commitment. In an MSNBC survey of 7000 people in 2002, 60% of those surveyed did not consider cyber-sex with another person as infidelity. Emotional affairs between people are not seen as necessarily detrimental to many even though real love requires fidelity on every level. We are a country so afraid of intimacy and rejection, that we would prefer to have our relationships on the obscurity of the Internet. Roughly half of all heterosexual men and a quarter of women, have had affairs. Twenty-five years of counseling experience tells me a higher number of gay men and women are in the same sinking boat, given that society does not legitimize gay relationships and the majority of the gay community doesn’t either. Many have not yet learned to treat relationships as sacred contracts to be respected and honored.
Before any of us rush to the alter should we not first be capable of communicating at meaningful levels; resolving differences without arguing, moving out into the ocean of intimacy with boundaries that make real connection a possibility? Should we not have already discussed finances, shared responsibilities around the home, children and parenting,, shared visions and goals? Should we not know our partner’s vulnerable places and how to avoid the land mines that trigger them? Should we not know how to do soul work together and empower each other to grow? Should we be interested in our partner’s level of spiritual awareness and commitment to consciousness or the planet, or humanity? Should we get the tools for what constitutes a good marriage and how to keep it alive and well? I think good marriages are simply good for people but, not all, in fact, most marriages, are, unfortunately, simply not good.
Too often we lead with our bodies, we jump into bed with each other and in the morning, – or perhaps years later – we long to meet the person’s soul. Often we can’t find it or discover it isn’t exactly as our illusion had imagined. We design the invitations, we pack the garage with toys, we decorate the house, we fill up the bank accounts and then looking through vacant eyes and empty hearts, at some point after about 3 years, we ask, “Is this all there is.” We’ve got the cart before the horse, if the horse ever arrives at all. Is marriage the answer to the questions most of us are not yet aware enough to ask?
If we stop and look at these bleak realities, how could the end result be any different, given the foundation on which most relationships are based? Today we are selling relationships, gay and straight alike, in much the same way we sell used cars. You simply tell the customer what he or she wants to hear and let them deal with the truth later.
Something is terribly wrong with the way in which we all do marriage and commitment. It’s limited and superficial. We keep trying to fix all the externals. There is a huge error in our thinking. We have always thought if we could just get a partner who loved us, and many of us think we have found that several times a month, life would then be fulfilling and complete. Most of us have already found out that is not true. Big surprise! What good is there in finding partners if once we have them, we don’t know how to keep them? The bottom line is that we have not yet realized that the work to be done in relationships is work on our self. The real work of relationship is on the inside of us – not at the alter! It’s not about getting a mate, insurance, a house, money in the bank or kids. It’s about our own personal, spiritual, individual ability to be a loving, supportive, present partner. Without this capacity we cannot truly create what we say we want: long-term committed marriages that work – soul deep love and commitment. This is our spiritual work – and it’s well past time to begin doing it.
© Dr. Dina Bachelor Evan 2013