4.06.2013

The Futility of Commitment

I haven’t done a post like this in quite some time, but it doesn’t mean that I haven’t had anything to say in regards to women and relationships.  There’s been a lot going on, and I’ve had the misfortune to be front row and center.

Relationships are hard.  Whether one is married or committed in another way, it’s damned hard, and having kids complicates matters exponentially.  Too many women I know have experienced the dissolution of their relationships within the past year, and the SO’s modus operandi appears to be the same:

“I don’t want this relationship anymore.”

“I’m tired of being married.”

“I need to go find my happiness elsewhere.”

“I’m ready to move on.”

And with each instance, the woman is devastated by the news.  For three of them, it was out of the blue, and for the fourth one…it’s been going on for a smooth eight years; he’s just been keeping her in limbo.

Nowadays, marriage doesn’t mean a fucking thing to some.  It’s like a pair of shoes that people try on, decide they like them enough to buy, and then throw out when the soles become worn.  Marriage vows are something that is steadily becoming meaningless. That whole “for better or for worse” is nothing but a load of horseshit.  Or at least that’s my opinion.  No one else seems to take them seriously.  Noob says that it isn’t the vows; it’s the people taking them.  I agree with that as well.

Relationships scare me.  I’ve had them before, but they never lasted more than six months…and that’s because I refuse to put up with certain things.  One might even extrapolate that I ended said connections before they could get too serious…and I wouldn’t disagree with that assessment either.  The point is that I don’t really believe that anyone is worth that kind of heartache.  You have to know yourself, and I know myself very well.  Had that been me on the receiving end of such news…it wouldn’t go well for the offending party.  My emotions are too strong, too powerful…even with the meds.  I can easily see myself pulling a Bernadine or doing irreparable harm to said offender.  At the very least, I would make sure that their leaving is costly.  I’ll get all methodical and devise a plan of action that will surely cause them all kinds of discomfort, if not pain. 


This is Bernadine.

 I didn’t say this was right or even sane.  I’m just telling you what I know. 

To invest years in a relationship; to make a commitment before the eyes of God (or whomever you believe) or before the eyes of your loved ones is serious.  At least it is to me and to the people I know.  And to have your SO decide that they’re ready to move on after years and children who will clearly be affected by the dissolution is devastating, and the ripple effects go on for decades and may even be the start of generational curses.

A movie that I love, How to Make an American Quilt, deals with a flaky graduate student named Finn (played by Winona Rider) and her relationship issues.  She visits her hilarious grandmother and great aunt Hy and Glady Jo (Ellen Burstyn and Anne Bancroft) to finish her thesis and contemplate a marriage proposal.  Finn is a flighty, indecisive sort who has a hard time finishing things, and it’s frustrating but all too realistic watching her trying to figure things out with the help of her grandmother and aunt, and their friends, who are all part of a quilting bee.  A succinct summary of the film would be this: “The theme of both the movie and the quilt the ladies are making is love and marriage and the question of whether monogamous lifelong marriage is a realistic goal.” (Source: imdB).

One particular conversation that Finn has with one of the women is the realistic expectation of monogamy. She uses the term “serial monogamy,” and it was a term that always stuck with me. She says, “Why can’t we love as many people as we want in a lifetime, one at a time?” My interpretation of this term is that instead of committing to one person for a lifetime, why not have a series of long-term relationships? And when things end, the couple go their separate ways; no harm, no foul. I’m of the fluctuating belief that serial monogamy might not be a bad way to go. At least when things end, it’s mutual and you can avoid the straight-up assault on your heart when the relationship has run its course. The problem with this is that it is (1) fluctuating, and I can’t always trust my emotions, and (2) these things are never cut and dry. Love never is. Commitment for damn sure isn’t.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t want to get caught up in a relationship that’s going to end in the way I described earlier. The stupidity of this statement is twofold: (1) I don’t know what’s going to happen and (2) anything can happen at any time. I could fall in love with the person of my dreams and lose them to sudden death. I could die before ever experiencing the kind of love that hurts, which I’m told is worth it for the happiness it can produce. I’m not sure how I feel about any of this shit. I just know I’m tired of seeing my friends cry because they are completely heartbroken that their relationships failed. I’m tired of them questioning themselves because their SOs are selfish. And I’m tired of seeing this scenario play out over and over again.

So I’m left with this to ponder: Is the happiness worth the tears? Do they balance each other out? Nothing is perfect; no relationship is perfect and there are no guarantees for anything. Still, I’m one of those people who don’t need to stick my hands in the fire to know it burns.

Am I crazy? Probably. Are these the disjointed ramblings of a stressed mind? Absolutely. But are these observations legitimate? Yes. And are they worth questioning? I think so. However, I don’t think there are any real answers...at least any that will satisfy me.

22 comments:

  1. Throw in the piss-poor and downright toxic examples I've seen in my family alone? I am extra skittish. Shook. Call me Cecil, because I am deeeeep in my shell!

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    1. Throw in the piss-poor and downright toxic examples I've seen in my family alone?


      Many times people see relationships like this and think its normal. So they go out into the world with the same mentality and commit the mistakes. I hope that if you witness (not saying this is foolproof) a healthy relationship then you are more able to know when you find one yourself.

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    2. @Lor - Here's hoping. My friend got married last year, and I'm hoping/praying/begging All Unseen and In Charge that her marriage will be a long and happy one. What's I've learned from my family's various clusterfuck relationships is what not to do, and what b.s. not to tolerate in your partners. Other than that, my positive influence well is dry.

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  2. Beautifully written post! I feel you on so much of that.
    Here I am, a Black woman in her mid-40's and never been married. I've thought about it, you can be sure, because our society puts a lot of pressure on everyone to be married. I remember attending my older brother's wedding and having several aunts and various other relatives (some of whom I didn't even know) coming up to me and talmbout "you're next!". And I'm all giving them the crazy eyes and thinking I didn't even bring a date to this gig and I ducked and covered when the bouquet was thrown - so um NO. But I'm the next in line in age in our sibling lineup so "I'm next". Of the four of us, (I have three brothers) I remain the only unmarried one.

    Like I'm broken because I don't have a husband and a passel of babies at my age. So I think many people hitch up for the wrong reasons. I fell victim to that pressure in my late 20's and for about six months or so I was out there "husband hunting". I finally came to my senses, Praise Buddha.

    With all this focus on Equal Marriage these days, marriage in general is up for discussion. I forget where it was that I heard this, but someone mentioned the idea of marriage contracts with varying lengths. I'd seen that concept pop up a lot in the Sci-Fi stuff I read and watch. I always loved that idea. You decide with your SO how long you want to be hitched, and you can re-up again when the contract expires or go your separate ways. Serial monogamy but with all the benefits that marriage allows. Interesting. But I don't see our society ever getting that progressive anytime soon.

    I don't know what to say to those that are in heartbreak over the end of their relationships. Like I said, I've never been married. I'm not exactly a marriage minded person. But I have experienced that devastating kinda love. Couple of two three times over the years. I just don't think you have to actually go on and marry it. I've always gone into relationships - of whatever kind - knowing that the one thing that WILL happen is that they will end at some point. Whether a one night stand, a torrid 8 month love affair, or 50 years of marriage ending with the natural death of a spouse. So I make the most of each sort that comes my way - experience the ups and the downs with full gusto, fill up a few journals when its over and keep it stepping.

    I've been out of the dating/relationship game for years now. First on purpose - to work on myself, and later on having no choice with the libido-killing meds I have to take as my illness worsened. Still a work in progress, but I know that when I come out on the other side and am ready to jump back into things, I may have the same attitude as I had before, or I may not.

    But the one thing I know, is that I cannot and will not toy with another person's emotions, and like Amaya, I've always broken things off rather that put with and/or be a part of something not healthy or wise. That, and I don't settle. I know myself well too, and I know my worth. Maybe it comes down to that. As women we are undervalued across the board in our society, and it is hard as all get out to come to know how awesome we each individually are. So when we hitch up with another person, and they don't recognize our worth, or really see us for who we are, and treat us like some 8 year pit stop along the highway of life - WELL. We got to stop doing that.

    And we got to also realize that we can be full and complete (and NOT BROKEN) human beings Just As We Are. Then it is a matter of wanting another person in our lives - but not NEEDING. There is a difference. "You complete me". Yeah, no. I'm complete all on my own right now, but you'd make a lovely addition to this work of ART I got going on. Change of attitude and full knowledge of oneself = less heartbreak? I don't know. But I think its a great place to start.

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    1. @Jojo-I am totally stealing this joke I heard. The next time they walk up to you during a wedding and say "your next". Return the favor at the next funeral! I am also about your age, but thankfully never had anyone say that to me! Maybe because most of my cousins married later in life (mid 30s-40s).

      I agree that a lot of people go into marriage thinking they need it. Now if you want children yes marriage is ideal. I cannot have children so that took me out of the marriage circle since a lot of men want children. To be honest children was never a goal of mine so I was not hurt by this. Plus I did not grow up planning my wedding like a lot of my friends. I was more of the mind that if it happened great if not then I could live with it.

      I think many people go into marriage thinking that the other person can fix what is wrong in their life. That is a mistake. No one can fix you, but YOU. I once said I think women should live on their own, have at least a associate degree (this was a looonnngg time ago so a bachelors would be better now), and wait until after the age of 25. This way they could get to know themselves and live at least a little.

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    2. Lor, I said no one should marry before the age of 30. If I ran the world, that'd be one of my mandates. You do so much growing up and changing in your 20s. But in your 30s, you start to settle a little bit and things are less hectic (hopefully). But even this is not a guarantee.

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    3. Amaya, Its funny cause I told my sister once if I ran the world that would be one of the laws. I have to say though its not a guarantee cause I have seen people get married at an older age and it not work. In that case I think the woman thought she could change who she was married too. She wanted the traditional family life and he wanted to kick it in the club like he did in his 20s (they married when she was in her 40s and he was in his late 30s). I think most people are just lazy.

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    4. I think most people are just lazy.

      Definitely a factor.

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    5. "You decide with your SO how long you want to be hitched, and you can re-up again when the contract expires or go your separate ways. Serial monogamy but with all the benefits that marriage allows. Interesting. But I don't see our society ever getting that progressive anytime soon."

      Actually that's not a bad idea, just like pre-nups have to be re-done every couple years.

      "I think most people are just lazy."

      Yep, and most times it will be one person trying to do all the work for the relationship.

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    6. "Yep, and most times it will be one person trying to do all the work for the relationship."

      I think a lot of times in the beginning though this person (one doing all the work) this, but does not want to admit to it. They think if they just hang in there the other person will come around.

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  3. I just know I’m tired of seeing my friends cry because they are completely heartbroken that their relationships failed. I’m tired of them questioning themselves because their SOs are selfish. And I’m tired of seeing this scenario play out over and over again.

    The problem traces back to the "pressure" friends and family put on a person. I've found myself dating or husband hunting, not because I personally felt the desire for a specific or to be in a relationship, but because I figured it would shut people up. My oldest sister once actually said to me, "Marriage is something you do once, just so you can you've done it."

    Needless to say, I disagree. But it's that exact philosophy which is laying waste to relationships. Take Amaya's friends for example; those stories are nothing new to me, or most people. Over the years, I've heard it again and again. One of my best girlfriends down here in Houston was married for 10 years, had three kids, and her marriage ended basically because her husband told her one day that he simply didn't want to be married anymore.

    Guess who got stuck with the kids and all the bills?

    What alarms people like Amaya - and me, to be honest - is the frequency of these stories. This is the shit we hear and see every day, everywhere we go. And it's not a Black thing. It's not a female thing. Dysfunctional, headed-nowhere relationships are at an all-time high, and our society refuses to address this because there's money to be made off dysfunction. Your spouse may be trash, but your divorce is a lawyer's treasure.

    Not to mention your shrink's, your pharmacist's, your plastic surgeon's, your dietician's, and so on and so forth.

    Hell, my job is insurance - that's it, insurance - and yet every other call involves a divorce in some way. We actually have people calling in wanting to know if they can keep a certain benefit they're receiving in case "something were to happen" to their spouse.

    Say what????

    When I was in WV, a rebellious radio personality celebrated Valentine's Day by offering a chance to win a free divorce. Before the day was halfway over, over 1500 people had registered for a chance to win that divorce.

    We need to talk about this, because it's no longer about that dysfunctional friend with lousy taste in men. It's a bona fide social issue, it's not going to magically go away.

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    1. Don't forget; it's also not a orientation thing. One of my friends is a lesbian. People need to understand that just because you have a particular orientation, it does not exempt you from heartache.

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    2. I wrote about my woes regarding this issue in a poem I called "sorry seems to be the hardest word."

      I'm exhausted from "trying". Time for me now. Time for my meditation, my garden, my artwork, My music, my books and most importantly...doing nothing at all.

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    3. ^^And this is where I am in my life right now. I'm all about me. My betterment, my goals, my dreams, everything is ME-centered and all about me.

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  4. Out of the 3 sisters my grandma has she was the only one who didn't get married. I think I asked her one time why she never did and she just said she didn't feel the need to get married. I'm sure at one time she probably did especially since she grew up in an era when it was expected too, plus she was a single mom.

    A few years ago my grandma's older sister who just turned 100 last year, told me straight out, "I feel so sorry for you young women today, it's ruff out there for relationships." So what can I say to that.

    Can you compromise peoples dysfunctions along with the mix messages being flashed at you 24/7, as Ank said above it is a social issue. The older I get I don't know if I have the energy to be bothered sometimes, but I will say it would be nice to have some sort of companionship. I have been in love once (19 yrs old with my first love and never had that feeling with anyone else again yet.) and in lust once (Yep that good dack, where you just think about that person and have to cross your legs...U know what i'm talking about). Haven't had that feeling again either (Don't want it because that's that dicktamized hypnosis you need to stay away from).

    That said I won't be having children, so marriage isn't a necessity for me. But I do have many friends who appear to be in healthy marriages or have gone through rough patches in the marriage but have worked it out, and these are marriages over 10 yrs. So I can't say it's a bad thing.

    Unfortunately the government doesn't like to give single people benefits for being single, taxes especially, medical is another. It's called an Institution of marriage for a reason, and sometimes that contract turns out ok, but in our modern society it ain't looking good.

    A lot of people are scared of being by themselves and they don't know what they really want, they have an ideal of what they see on tv of what they think they should have for a marriage or relationship.

    I have a friend who got married early at 19, divorced by 25, then got involved with a married man that lasted 6 yrs. She finally let him go and I listen to all the dating and shenanigans that go on with these men she's dating. I tell her why don't she just chill out, but she keeps on going out or is in a relationship she doesn't need to be and I just want to shake her. Why put yourself through that.


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    1. A lot of people are scared of being by themselves and they don't know what they really want, they have an ideal of what they see on tv of what they think they should have for a marriage or relationship.

      Boom.

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    2. The majority of my relatives have been married and stayed that way until one spouse died. Now were they all happy all the time? No. I think most women (and men) go into marriage and not realize that its work. Just like your job. Just because you get the job doesn't mean you do not have to do any work to keep it.

      I had a former coworker years ago that was married three times BEFORE the age of 27! I worked with him for seven years! By the time I got used to one wife a new one came on the scene! He had one child with the middle wife and got custody (sole). I think in his case he sought out crazy women.

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    3. I think most women (and men) go into marriage and not realize that its work. Just like your job. Just because you get the job doesn't mean you do not have to do any work to keep it.

      I always say marriage is not for children. And I constantly reiterate that people need to marry someone they can be 90 years old with, not someone whom they look good with.

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    4. "A lot of people are scared of being by themselves and they don't know what they really want, they have an ideal of what they see on tv of what they think they should have for a marriage or relationship."

      Yup. That whole thing is really REAL. And especially in America, where the focus is on the WEDDING and not the MARRIAGE. Little girls planning their WEDDINGS. Fairy tales that end at the wedding with "happily ever after", and nobody ever tells anyone just how it is you are going to have to work hard to achieve that.

      Lucky for me, I had and still have my parent's example of how to make a lasting happy marriage. That isn't to say there weren't bumps along the road, but they are still together - truly partners. I used to ask them questions about it in high school, because damn near ALL my friends had divorced parents. I wanted to know why they were so different.

      If I ever do hitch up, Imma use their template and eff what tv and movies and Cinderella have to say on the subject.

      RE: That whole having kids thing. This article is a MUST READ on the subject: http://sylviadlucas.com/2012/01/12/he-says-he-wants-kids/

      and @Lor re: "you're next!" hahahahahahaha! HELL YEAH!

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    5. I don't want kids. I'm not even good at playing stepmom and ain't willing to try. If I EVER get boo'ed up, his kids (if he has them) need to be grown and on their own. I do not have time to deal with that shit.

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  5. I'm like this: what will be will be. If its meant for me to marry, be single or date, I will do. I'm in my 40s.While some of my peers have gone on to do this,I'm happy where Iam.

    Nobody should let society dictate what they should do. Supposedly, women should be married and have kids. If you're a Black woman,the rules don't apply to so we have to be miserable non marriageable beings. Call me crazy, but there seem to be a lot of miserable women today than in the past.These days people put their happiness and future on stupid things. Its like there is a track where the runners for marriage and preparing to race to get married/date and if you're in last place.. forget about it.

    It also the crowd of women around me are some of the most depressing people I've ever been around. Here is the ironic thing :they are in marriages/relationships .Where is the "I'm happy", or" "He makes me happy". This is not to say that there are men who can elevate their happiness ,but in the case of my friends, they aren't. They depress me.
    Sometimes, I also think that is the problem with society. People just think that happiness comes from age, materialism and/or physical appearances.

    Recently, I was talking with my mom about finding someone to go a local festival with. The people I know has to work or aren't interested in it.She suggested that I find a man to go with. Honestly, the thought of finding a man to attend a informal festival doesn't make any sense. I can find anybody to have fun with which in this case, this isn't about dating. If a go out with a guy who just happens to be my friend, I wouldnt mind, but I wouldn't simply find a guy because of a festival. There is a guy I see on occasion at a local park where my nephews skateboard at. I know him a little and I could ask him to go with me if I want, but I won't. I wouldn't be right and besides unless a man just happen to be a good friend of yours,I can have fun with anybody. My mom differs with this issue.

    Happiness comes from you. You can't depend on other people in giving it to. If I come across a guy who won't necessarily make me happy,but to bring out more of it in me, that's cool,but I'm determined to be happy with or without a relationship/marriage.

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    1. Where is the "I'm happy", or" "He makes me happy". Happiness comes from you. You can't depend on other people in giving it to. If I come across a guy who won't necessarily make me happy,but to bring out more of it in me, that's cool,but I'm determined to be happy with or without a relationship/marriage.

      A lot of people do not get that. Or do not WANT to get that. They believe that this other person is going to make me happy because right now I'm sad and miserable. Its a temp fix. Whatever was making you sad and miserable before you got married does not disappear afterwards. It comes right back and now two people are miserable. The problem never went away. You focus just moved to something else for the time being before it rears its head again.

      You are right. You need to be happy waaayyy before you go looking for someone else to do it for you. You should be able to say that you life is excellent all by your lonesome. When that person (if they come along) comes along you should be able to say damn my excellent life just went to outstanding. If you are sitting around talking about how lonely you are and this person some and your life is great. Chances are if they leave you will go right back to the bottom, because all of your hope was tied to this one person.

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