I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage, after announcing I was ready to tie the knot on this here blog. I feel embarrassed having to walk that back, but then that’s kind of my thing.
So, I had a conversation about it with my lover primary live-in partner person. And then like two days later I was on Marina Adshade’s podcast talking about the marriage market.
The nut of the conversation with my partner was that it’s not important to him beyond its importance to me. Which is great. I don’t have to balance his needs and desires. I don’t have to do anything to accommodate him. But it’s also… not great. Because that means I have to choose. On my own. And have no one to blame but myself. And really honestly wrestle with what I want and what marriage means to me. :/
I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. After having been married and then divorced for ten years, I do want commitment. Like, mostly from myself. I want to commit. I want partnership. I want to be a partner. I want to build a life with him. But like, none of that requires marriage. What is marriage? Is it a signal, a contract? Is it a promise?
What I’m going back and forth on is this: Marriage as a legal contract could offer me financial benefits. It could entitle me to assets we build together as a couple should we ever divorce. And the threat of the splitting of those assets could serve as a deterrent to divorce. I should probably look into California’s divorce laws before I put a lot more mental energy into this question. But bear with me.
So from that standpoint alone as someone with no assets who is unlikely to amass a lot of assets in my name it would seem like marriage would be a good deal for me. Of course anything could happen, but if past is prologue etc. etc.
What I’m struggling with is that for some reason getting married in order to entitle me to assets I wouldn’t otherwise be entitled to doesn’t feel right to me. I don’t know if it doesn’t feel right because I am holding onto some mysticism and romantic notions of marriage from childhood, or the culture at large. I mean I definitely am to an extent. There’s a reason I’ve enjoyed talking about marriage, in and out of bed, with my ex boyfriends. There’s something intensely emotional about it. Meaningful, even if that meaning isn’t at all clear.
Or perhaps I feel weird about marriage as a property contract alone because women are taught to be self-sacrificing. Or because it’s just not romantic and women are supposed to be romantic. I mean I guess I’m supposed to want the white wedding. Except I already had it and I wish it had come with some damn assets. But why, having had it, does part of me wish he wanted it?
The last possibility freaks me out the most. Maybe I feel weird about marrying him for his assets because that’s a douchey thing to do. I don’t know! Generally speaking I applaud the women who society says are douchey, who get theirs. Because society would rather see women beg and starve than claim anything for themselves and fuck that shit. I’m legit afraid I’m going to be old and alone and hungry and think, “He would have done it and you didn’t do it because you wanted to be liked. You’re an idiot.” But then I’m worried as well I’ll be old and full but lonely because I’m a calculating asshole.
I really don’t believe there’s a right or a wrong thing to do here. We were walking along and talking about salaries and he encouraged me to ask for a cost-of-living adjustment to make up for the raise in cost of living between D.C. and SF. And I told him that made me uncomfortable, because I believe people should be paid according to the value they bring to the organization, and I haven’t yet brought more value as a result of living in SF. Like, he thinks that’s a kind of quaint and naive idea and I totally agree. I see his point, and yet that’s how I feel. I don’t think either of us is right or wrong.
Similarly, I don’t feel like I’ve yet earned co-ownership of his assets. I think I will, more than, eventually if things work out. Or I guess working out could mean a lot of different things but I will if we stay together for any length of time.
I feel embarrassed about this, like to admit I think about it this way. I’m afraid people will judge me for being too calculating or something. Or for being too sentimental. I think I’m both.
Marriage in the near future will look so different, because women will out-earn men on average. But for now, the men I date out-earn me and I fucking love it. I don’t love patriarchy. I don’t love that their minds do well-compensated things and mine doesn’t. I don’t love that we as a society devalue the things women’s minds and bodies do. But I love shopping for the groceries and dropping off the laundry and keeping the dishes clean and I wonder whether this is a phase or just 20 years of southern baptist upbringing coming home to roost. But I believe in comparative advantage and there are certain things you can’t outsource and those things should be done by the person whose time is less valuable in the market economy. It’s not that I love those tasks. Those tasks are terrible and I can’t wait for them to be cheaply fully automated. It’s that I love emotionally and tactically supporting a competent man. A man whose time is more valuable than mine. That just does something for me, deep inside. I don’t know why that is, but I know that it is. And I’m afraid I’ll spend years doing dishes and having nothing to show for it but happy memories and dry hands. But really, at the same time, that’s not such a bad fate. One could do much worse.