On Marriage

When Arnold Schwartzenegger and Maria Shriver announced that they were separating after 25 years of marriage, my mother commented that Maria was probably unclenching her teeth for the first time in 25 years. Arnold, based on the rumors of philandering and allegations of unwanted groping, didn’t seem like any great prize in the husband lottery. That suspicion was confirmed this morning when I heard that Arnold fathered a child with one of his household staff ten years ago and Maria just found out recently.

Well. Ain’t he a class act?

Everything about this story is basically gross. I can’t conceive of wanting to sleep with Arnold, first of all. I’ve never found him all that attractive so that alone is puzzling to me. Then there’s the shady bit about the woman being an employee. Employer/employee affairs are frequently not a good combo act. Was she 100% down with getting busy with the Terminator? Or was she worried about getting terminated? And how the hell did she go to work every day and deal with Maria? What did she say about the pregnancy? It’s all just so sordid.

But the bigger question here is the same question I asked about Tiger Wood, Jesse James, Bill Clinton, John Ensign, hell, even JFK: why did these guys get married at all?

What is the personality disorder that drives a man whose apparent principal pleasure in life is fucking the multitudes down the aisle with promises to fuck one, and only one, woman for the rest of his time on earth? Do these men just have a staggering lack of self-awareness and don’t realize that 15 minutes in a tux in front of a clergyman isn’t going to wipe away their lifetime desire to stick it in, to borrow a phrase from Maragaret Cho? Or do they know that their dick is going to keep making guest appearances all over town but they assume that they’re smart enough to not get caught?

Or do we have a screwed up fetish about marriage in this country that causes people to enter into the institution regardless of whether or not it’s a good idea?

I’m probably not the first person to draw some bright lines between philandering husbands – especially those in public life – the bridal-industrial complex that peddles fairy-tale weddings, and everyone whose ever said that marriage is the foundation for civilization. It’s all part and parcel of the same thing.

Hear me out here. I’m not totally nuts. See, marriage is treated like the finish line of life. If you get down the aisle and across that line, you’ve won! Yay you! Friends could end after Monica married Chandler and Rachel got back with Ross.  Carrie Bradshaw’s wedding got its own movie. Television shows profiling weddings are rampant.  Wedding dress shopping is an activity worthy of reality tv. Hell, wedding cakes have their own reality show.  Fictional tv is about relationships – the single pursue them and the attached work to preserve them. There is very little in our popular culture that glorifies the unattached. You never see a reality show about a single 30 year old happily pursuing a graduate degree and not thinking about her love life. No, instead we are presented with the married or the wanting-to-be-married. There are not a lot of other categories to pick from.

Aside from the Hollywood image of life in pursuit of a trip to matrimony, we have the religious right feeding us messaging about marriage as the bedrock of society. They want to withhold sex from those who do not marry. They talk about programs to encourage and strengthen marriage. I’m not sure what those programs actually do, for the most part. The only evidence I’ve seen of them is some signs that appeared on bus shelters a couple years ago giving some statistic about married couples earning more money. They deny the rights of gay people to marry on the grounds that their unions are not holy enough whereas straight marriages are all that is good and right under heaven.

Even the state gets in on the act of making marriage special by creating a contract between two people that includes myriad protections and rights not otherwise granted to unrelated adults. Saying “I do” is the quickest path to a ratified contract that I know of. Just ask any gay couple who’s had to spend hours online or with a lawyer trying to create backdoor access to all the rights and privileges straight married people get just by virtue of being married.

All in all, we do a good job of glorifying marriage and encouraging everyone to dive right in – unless they’re gay, of course. Straight people are expected to marry, are assumed to be interestested in marrying, and are pitied if they do not marry.

But is marriage always a good idea? Are there some people who would be better off never being married? Are there some people who cannot handle the commitment and should be discouraged from trying?

Why did Tiger Woods get married? No one would have been upset if he was a single guy playing the field. Did his agent say he needed a wife for image sake? Did his friends say he needed to settle down? Did Elin want a dream wedding and picket-fence life and he capitulated?

Why did Bill Clinton marry? Was it true love? A strange agreement between two ambitious people to partner up? Or did he feel that being single was a political liability that would thwart his dreams because Americans trust married politicians more than unmarried ones?

Why did Newt Gingrich marry over and over again? Why did an ex-boyfriend of mine who cheated on every girlfriend he ever had marry, not once but a Newt-like three times? Why did people who have proved that marriage is the wrong path for them keep marrying? What pressure was brought to bear that drove them into an institution that was so fundamentally antithetical to their nature?

Not everyone is meant to marry. Just ask George Clooney. Maybe it’s time we stopped pretending that marriage is a one size fits all proposition and stop treating it as the culmination of personal achievment. We need to withdraw pity from those who do not marry. We need to stop regarding being unmarried or exiting marriage when it doesn’t work as failure, We need to set people free to not marry so that they are not in the position of making promises that they, as individuals, cannot keep.

I’m sure Arnold and Maria don’t regret their years together or their children and I would never expect them to say otherwise. But would each of them have been happier in an alternate reality where Maria found a man suited to marriage and Arnold had been free to pursue his preferred type of relationship? I don’t know and neither will they. But maybe someone else will take their example to heart and make their marriage decisions not based on what Hollywood, church, or state say they should do but on what their own heart tells them is their own right path.


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12 comments for “On Marriage

  1. May 17, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    I ask myself this question every day lately.


  2. May 17, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    Not to go all “Bible-y” on you (but, you know, it’s kinda my thing), but even the Apostle Paul that marriage isn’t meant for everybody—some people are meant to stay single. In his explanation, it’s mostly for the sake of your personal ministry and how you can best do that, but I think it holds true just in what your life goals are. But having a bunch of random sex and notbeing married isn’t the goal, either.

    I think celebs have higher instances of all this stuff because someone has said, “Wow, you’re great. People want to be you! People want to be with you!” So now they believe it and want to cash in on it.

    But Arnold is so far from my top 1 million dudes. For reals. Gary Busey may place higher on the list. I don’t understand the draw.

  3. May 17, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    This is the best post I’ve read in a long time. I absolutely agree that, just like college, marriage isn’t for everyone.

    Very well said.

  4. Erica Snipes
    May 17, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    No edits required, per your facebook message. Great post, and very true words here. Thanks for the insights! 🙂

  5. abc
    May 17, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    ummmm…..it’s not just MEN. WOMEN can be just as guilty.

  6. May 17, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    I think that it’s somewhat about projecting a wholesome image, but I also think that people often fool themselves about who they really are. We are made up of who we are and who we want to be (and maybe who we were?)… and sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which.

    But I agree… marriage should not be a life goal. Or something that enhances one’s image.

  7. May 17, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    Not gonna touch on the marriage part right now because it kind of opened a raw wound for me and I’m not sure what my reply would be.

    I will say I find this whole thing VERY douchey.

    First, he didn’t acknowledge his kid for 10 years, that kid is probably super stable.

    Second, he waits until he’s out of the Governor’s mansion before he comes clean. Nice! That shows really good judgment on his part and if I was a Californian I would be 100% comfortable with every decision he ever made.

    Third, he has kids from 13-21 that now have to deal with this.

    I think infidelity is always douchey, but this just seems SO much dirtier. To hide it for 10 years and then come clean? For what? I bet he didn’t have a choice or he’d have continued to lie. We’ll probably see the mother come out now and say the kid needs an organ and he’s the only match or something. I just can NOT fathom why you would keep something like this a secret for 10 years, deny it, etc… and then all of the sudden come clean. The mom needs or wants something I think.

  8. Amy
    May 18, 2011 at 6:16 am

    Another great post!
    What gets me..how did they keep it a secret from the press and everyone that it affected for 10 years…
    Heart goes out to Maria Shriver and the kids and now I will burn my DVDs of “Eraser”, “Total Recall” and “True Lies”.

  9. May 18, 2011 at 8:21 am

    very sad. In my personal opinion I think these cheaters are just unbelievably selfish. We all have desires, it is human nature to be attracted to the opposite sex, and probably more than just one. The difference with cheaters and not cheaters is moral integrity. I think cheaters are so self indulgant that they can’t think of anyone but themselves, so “he sticks it in” whenever he wants. ugh, makes me sick. I think regardless he would have been a cheater, married or not. When involved with the opposite sex you become attracted, you become emotionally attached, you fall in love with that person and for 2 people to feel emotionally connected even with no marriage. The one not cheating will still get hurt/upset if the other one sleeps with another woman, regardless of single or married.

    My heart goes out to Maria and her family, and that poor child that Arnold fathered 10 years ago.

  10. May 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    In the case of politicians or people with political ambitions, I strongly believe the people who can’t keep it in their pants get married because they think it “looks better” to voters even if it’s a total farce.

    In the case of someone like Tiger Woods though I have no idea why he got married. I asked the same question about him – I mean really, he’s young, wealthy, and attractive, did anyone really expect him to need or to want to marry and settle down any time soon? Where was the pressure to marry someone when he so clearly was not cut out for marriage? I fall back on self-delusion or something.

  11. J
    May 18, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    I have to agree with every word that you said!!! I love reading your blog and it keeps me sane (half of the time).

    My question for you and any reader/blogger is, do we keep the”sisters before misters” at hand? Meaning, if you know of a man that is cheating and you do not know his wife personally (know of her and who she is but have never met her), do you still tell her? I seriously would like to know everyones thought on this.

  12. Emma S
    May 20, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    There is one time-frame I would totally do Arnold. And only one.
    Predator. Arnold in Predator was smokin’…..Arnold any other time makes my skin crawl just thinking about it.
    I agree with everything else though 😉

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