Another Open Thread

Because I am fat and lazy. And still kind of sick, and only just finished with editing the book. Posting will resume eventually.

In the meantime, here’s a quote from a Rilke letter, which was one of the readings at FJ’s wedding. A few years ago, a friend of mine asked me to do a reading at her wedding — and asked me to choose what to read, since I had the English degree and all. I pored over my Nortons and poetry books and a gazillion websites for days, and I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t nauseating. Then I ran across this passage, and I decided it was perfect — none of this “two become one” shit, but a genuine insight into how a long-term relationship actually works:

The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.

So I read that. And it went over like a lead balloon. Granted, we were outdoors with planes flying overhead, so it’s entirely possible that no one heard anything but “merging of two people is an impossibility,” “hemming-in,” and “robs… both parties of their fullest freedom and development.” Still, I felt I’d chosen poorly. Especially since, right after I finished, the justice of the peace said, “Today, L & J become one!” Oops!

But I still loved the reading, dammit, so I was tickled to see it come up again at a wedding where the couple had chosen it. What do y’all think of that sentiment, Shapelings? Are two people supposed to “become one” when they get married? Or is it better to always see “each other as a whole and before an immense sky”? Obviously, you know where I stand on that question.

Talk amongst yourselves.

115 thoughts on “Another Open Thread”

  1. I love it because it’s true. I don’t want someone to be my “other half.” I’m already a whole person, thank you very much. I want someone to be the other half of a pair–like two trees whose roots grow together, or something like that. Definitely not alone, but individual nonetheless. I think in over-romanticizing & idealizing marriage/relationships in general, we only set ourselves up for disappointment. I don’t mean that in a pessimistic if-you-never-hope-for-anything-you’ll-never-be-let-down kind of way–I mean that reality, even with someone by your side, is infinitely more difficult and confusing and complex and scary than living “happily ever after.” And hopefully richer, which is what it seems to me this quote conveys…

    Hardly a typical wedding reading, I guess, but wayyyyy more interesting!

  2. I wrote a poem with a similar sentiment for a friend’s wedding a few years ago, because I, too, am sick of the whole “And you’ll be ONE” bullshit.

    No, you’re still the same two people you were before you got married. He’ll still leave his underwear on the floor and she’ll still have the counter cluttered up with make and crap, and you’ll both still be irritated by those things. It bothers me when people seem to think that marriage is going to magically erase all of life’s little tensions.

  3. IMO a relationship cannot survive without both parties retaining some boundaries. Personal space. Me Time. Walking around joined at the hip is fun for about a month, after that it gets inconvenient and annoying.

    But I’m jaded, and on my third (and so far, most successful) marriage.

  4. I adore that sentiment. In fact, I am planning on using a Gibran passage if my partner and I ever tie the knot. It’s a bit overused and cheesy, but it basically says the same thing in a way that I think his parents will be more willing to accept.

    “On Marriage:
    Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
    Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
    Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
    Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
    Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
    Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
    For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
    And stand together yet not too near together:
    For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
    And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow. “

  5. I am a big fan of the self sacrifice on the part of both parties plan. If each person wants the best for the other there will be a mutual respect, love, and concern.

  6. Oh, what a nice topic, it’s our second anniversay today!

    That’s a great reading. My husband gets told often by his friends that he has an awesome relationship with me because I ‘get’ guy time. We both completely agree that if you don’t get away from each other and have your own interests and friends, you can’t bring as much into the relationship. We both like to have alone time to just be…alone. It’s not that we don’t like the other, but that we still like ourselves. We’re partners, ya know?

    Buttercup, I couldn’t do joined at the hip for a week, let alone a month. I get twitchy.

    Our wedding quote: “The most beautiful things in life cannot be explained by logic or reason; they must be felt by the heart.” Love you Jeff!

  7. Successfully married for 8 years on the “not joined at the hip” program. We are a great pair because we have our own space. Because we understand that we are not always “WE”. Although I have to admit I am mightily pissed off at the husband for a fat-phobic remark yesterday when he should really fucking know better. Grrr.

  8. I want to be the peanut butter in a Reese peanut butter cup. And I want my husband to be the chocolate. Two great things that, when combined, make something amazing. =)

  9. I am DEFINITELY NOT of the you-complete-me mindset. I myself struggled for a long time with feeling like I was not enough on my own, that I needed something more to be worthy of…anything. And I was late to the dating game, and every year that went by without some guy paying attention to me made me feel like a pathetic excuse for a person.

    Now, thankfully, that’s over. I know who I am, and what I’m worth, and I will never be made to feel like I need someone else to be worthwhile again. And whatsmore, I wouldn’t want to be with anyone who wasn’t in that frame of mind or at least working towards it.

    Though, I wonder how many (straight) men actually feel like they need a relationship to complete them anyway?

  10. Kate, I read that exact same passage from Rilke at my younger brother’s wedding last year. I felt it was a realistic depiction of marriage, yet still pretty romantic, living side by side, etc. I went through several literary wedding anthologies when I was searching for the readings, and the vast majority of poems riff on that two soulmates joining as one theme. That theme seems a bit overly precious and sentimental to me – especially since my brother and his wife married kind of late – early 30s and both are very much their own individuals – professionally (both work as surgeons) and personally.

    I forwarded the Rilke text to my brother and sister in law a couple of months before the wedding and they both liked it enough to have me read it at the wedding. We were on a beach in Belize, and the reading was a bit on the long side, so I’m not sure how well it went over. One of the bride’s in laws stopped me at the reception to tell me how much she loved my reading, so that was good. And, the bride’s aunt did a more traditional reading from the Bible – the one about Love being patient, gentle kind and good. So, both bases were covered – the egghead rationalist side and the traditionalist side.

  11. I like to think I am pretty freakin’ awesome on my own. And Ed is also awesome on his own. Together, we have even more freedom to be our awesome selves. None of this “two becoming one” crap. Sure, we stand together. But if we were the same person, we’d be hugely bored.

    For us, wedded bliss is just as much about what we do when we aren’t together and I love that.

  12. Several years ago, I went to a wedding of an ex-coworker. The ceremony was the typical wedding stuff, but the preacher who officiated was a woman (I believe the couple attended an Episcopal church, so she had to have been a deacon). Anyway, my mom and I were tickled with her speech before they exchanged rings. She talked about how marriage is not going to be easy, you will fight, and there will be other influences (re: nosy family members) trying to make it even more complicated. This was the first time I heard such realism at a wedding. Usually it’s the ultra-romanticized stuff that you find on Hallmark cards.

    I had made up a saying for an imaginary wedding. At the time, I was going through my love of anything celestial phase, so it had something to do with how the sun and the moon were opposites, but one cannot exist without the other and when people talk about either, they usually end up mentioning the other. I’d have to actually sit down and remember all the words, but I thought it would be good for a non-traditonal, non-Christian or Catholic wedding.

  13. This makes me think of one of my favorite books, Shel Silverstein’s “The Missing Piece Meets the Big O.” In it, a wedge-shaped “missing piece” spends most of the story looking for a pacman-shaped piece that will fit with him/her so they can become complete and roll along as one. It doesn’t ever work out until the piece meets the Big O who shows that it can be better to be complete in oneself, and then possibly find someone to roll along with, side by side. Hard to explain without the pictures, but I love that story. I also giggle a little at the name “Big O.”

  14. So since this is an open thread, and i agree with kate(2 people cannot become 1, just reality there), i wanted to bring up something i read….

    it’s from More, the 40+ magazine, an article about healthy breasts after 40. one of the points to avoid breast cancer is keep your weight steady. the article quotes, “women who get signficantly heavier in midlife are more likely to develop breast cancer after meopause then those whose weight remains the same, according to a study in the archives of internal medicine last fall.” my question. isn’t it possible that weight is a symptom, a side effect of the high risk of breast cancer due to hormones and such, not that weight in and of itself is causing the cancer?
    how can doctors and the media make all medical conditions so simplistic, ie. FAT KILLS???

  15. I believe, since the current paradigm is total enmeshment, that it may be best to try to err on the side of independence.

    That said, I have issues with Rilke and anything he writes about relationships. He was notorious for being unable to sustain a committed relationship throughout his life, prefering, in the end, his “solitude” to a deeper intimacy that results in getting beyond the initial infatuation.

    This may seem somewhat harsh of a criticism of him, but (being in the midst of a coming to terms that this is what my own partner struggles with) I am frustrated by this. No, we should not become “one”, but there should be a shared understanding of how it is that two are together.

  16. Well my first marriage didn’t work (of the many reasons) because we both have VERY different ideas about how much individual space we each needed/wanted. I think having a good relationship means that you are both able to communicate a need for personal space (be it physical or emotional) now and then.

    My current and second marriage is, by contrast, such a fabulous turn around. I happen to be a very touchy person and so does my hubby. I’m usually fine with walking around with one or the other of us rubbing the other’s back or holding hands, etc. It is rare that I want my own physical space but since we’re both lucky enough to usually want the same amount of contact, it works for us (thought I certainly know it WON’T be the same at all for other people!)

    I don’t like the 2 become 1 thing much since usually the assumption is that the man is the 1 and the woman is absorbed into HIS 1. I much more prefer a partnership. I like the imagery above of the two trees growing roots together. People should think about how they can complement each other, not how both can be merged into one so I really like the reading you chose Kate. What a fun pleasure to have that reading show up again later in another wedding! :)

  17. I used to buy into the 2 become 1 thing, but over time I have grown to appreciate that I need to by my own, whole, complete person, and he does as well. That’s why I think my relationship with my BF works so well, because I feel like I am able to be my most complete, un-edited version of myself when I’m with him.

    This gets me to thinking, as well, about the divorce rate, and how so many are raised with this 2 becoming 1 ideal. That maybe, when someone marries another person with that thinking, they eventually realize that they weren’t yet complete when they got married, and that now that they are a complete person there isn’t enough room for them in the relationship.

    Not sure if that makes sense, but in my head, and in relation to my mother’s two (and nearly three) divorces, it totally works. Also, I’m not married yet so I can’t relate it to myself.

  18. My best friend is getting married next weekend, and she’s chosen the same reading. I think it’s brilliant.

  19. I have to say, I think the wording of that passage is clunky (which is probably close to unavoidable in a translation). But I certainly agree about its meaning. Wanting either your own, or your loved one’s, uniqueness and separate identity to be erased is really creepy to me.

    I’m probably being terribly prejudiced, though. Maybe some couples really do choose and prefer the “becoming one” route? It wouldn’t suit me in the slightest, but then neither do open relationships or celibacy – and I wouldn’t say anything so condemnatory about those choices.

  20. I tend to think of marriage as a team effort. We work together toward common goals, but each has to be able to carry the ball solo, at least when the other is sick or otherwise not up to it.

    For me, one of the biggest arguments for self-sufficiency is that marriage means you are sometimes responsible for two adults instead of one! Yes, it goes both ways – the man of the house took care of me when I was falling apart over my mother’s death, and I took care of him when h broke his arm. It’s mutual – but it’s mutual tag-teaming, too. ;)

  21. Academically speaking, I agree with the passage. Especially as I reflect on my last relationship. Suffocation City!

    Emotionally, though, I am having a very hard time connecting with the passage right now. As my Beloved is far away in Afghanistan, and we’ve been rockin’ the long distance from the start anyway, I am perpetually wanting to be always with him.

    I keep hoping that once we start living together for real that I will eventually be in a place where I no longer want to be “attached at the hip” for fear of having to leave in a week.

  22. As for the image of two trees whose roots entangle themselves below ground, I have always loved the following quote (from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin):

    “Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being “in love” which any of us can convince ourselves we are.

    Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.”

  23. The “two become one” thing reminds me of nothing so much as The Fly. The “guardian of his solitude” idea though is wonderful, especially because I am very protective of mine.

  24. spinsterwitch, Mr Machine and I joked a lot about that passage (which I love) because the rest of Letters to a Young Poet is so freakin’ sexist. Maybe it goes to show that artists and thinkers can imagine a better world than the one they know how to inhabit.

    That said, I can’t let any Rilke-dissing (even my own) stand without noting that he wrote one of the greatest poems of all time. IMHO!

    For poetry fans, at FJ’s wedding I read an excerpt from Auden’s “In Sickness and Health,” which sadly does not yet seem to be online but which is brilliant.

  25. Just wondering – what readings did other people have? Geekgirlsrule, is your poem online anywhere?

    My best friend had ‘The Owl and the Pussycat,” which is a bit soppy, but I liked it.

  26. I think it depends. Two people can’t become one, but on the other hand, my spouse (for instance) would read this and see it as an unhealthy out. His strategy in all relationships is to fly under the radar; to stay self-contained so that nobody has anything on him; to use emotional distance to make sure nobody sees the bits of him that aren’t pre-screened for acceptability and invulnerability. I might show this quotation (and it is lovely) to a lot of people, but not to him.

    Also, on a broader level… it kind of seems like, in many white hetero marriages (and maybe marriages of other configurations; I’m just acknowledging the poverty of my experience) it so often ends up that the wife is assumed to be the Feelings Monitor — taking everyone’s emotional temperature all the time, because, after all, she’s been raised to please so she’s GOOD at it, right? (Like housework… Dudes just magically don’t care about housework, right, Caitlin Flanagan? What’s the problem? Grrr.)

    Well, one problem is that, while she may have had to become very good at it, she may not ENJOY it. She may in fact find it friggin’ STRESSFUL. So, that’s one thing.

    Another thing, though, that I’ve seen happen is that this emotional *work* of internalizing emotionally-stunted family members’ feelings — and presenting those feelings *back* to them in a form that they find palatable — is trivialized. It’s not recognized as work, in other words. It’s seen as something that wives just DO, so not deserving of thanks or appreciation; and more than that, since it’s something WIVES tend to do/are coerced into doing (and therefore is, you know, woman-y) it’s really sort of silly and stupid and ridiculous. Because the REALLY SERIOUS GROWNUP PEOPLE are self-contained, emotionally-inexpressive independent (masculine) sorts.

    So this gendered work — like any number of other time-consuming efforts that are at least partly designed to please men (e.g. fretting about one’s appearance) — is kind of dismissed as something that only shallow silly she-children do.

    That’s why I’m hesitant to say “Oh yes! Word! Totally!” to this quote. I see the point; and yet I can totally imagine it being invoked – not by you, Kate, obvs. – as part of an elbow-nudging amirite exchange about how silly it is for people (read: women) to go slopping their feelings all over people and probing into the emotional states of everyone around them.

    I think Carol Tavris writes really intelligently about this in _The Mismeasure of Woman_, in the chapter entitled “Love’s Experts, Love’s Victims.” It’s about how women are carefully schooled to be the caretakers and minutiae-obsessors-over w/r/t relationships, and then ridiculed for same.

    And I’ve gone on too long, as always.

  27. I like that, though Rilke in general seems over-represented in the “poets people choose for weddings” category. I hesitate to post my readings, because I like to think they were pretty unique and thus would identify me on the internets, but they were all about equal partnership and freedom and so on. We were not at all interested in becoming one — we each have our strengths and weaknesses that complement each other. We got surprisingly positive responses from both my husband’s liberal academic family and my conservative Catholic one about our decidedly not religious and not particularly sentimental choices.

  28. This is a timely thread, because I’m getting married in just over 6 weeks (goth Halloween wedding, whee!). I’ve been thinking a lot about this stuff (by which I mean “the point of marriage and relationships in general”) since I’m in charge of writing the ceremony and my own vows. I’m not writing the ceremony entirely from scratch, but I’m adapting it from ceremonies I’ve read and liked; my vows are the only part that’s completely out of my head. In the tone of the ceremony and my half of our vows, I’ve been aiming for something in between the traditional “two become one” codependency and what you’re talking about with the Rilke quote. I definitely believe in maintaining a good amount of independence and personal space; at the same time, though, I love the idea that a marriage between two individuals is a new and unique thing, a melding of two personalities and lives. I love the idea that your lives and single people are (in theory) over the moment you are married, and you’re beginning work on a partnership that has never existed before and is unique to the two of you. Does that mean you need to sacrifice your sense of self, your personal boundaries and beliefs and needs? No. But you are saying, “I love you enough that I want to share my life with you, and I recognize that I’ll need to make some compromises and maybe even some sacrifices to make this work. And I expect you to do the same.”

    My future husband and I have been together 7 1/2 years, so in real terms, our marriage changes nothing except our legal status (and takes a weight off the minds of some of our relatives who quietly tsk about us living in sin). And yet, we both agree it feels different. It feels like we’re starting something new, even though we’re just continuing something we started years ago. Maybe it’s because marriage is a religious and cultural tradition that makes us something new and different in everyone else’s eyes, so we can’t help but feel the weight of that. It’s not like we haven’t been committed to each other all along, so I’m not sure why it should feel different. But the fact that it does is why I feel like we’re combining to form something new, not just arriving at the altar as two individuals and leaving as two unchanged individuals. I guess I’m still more of a romantic than a cynic. ;)

  29. I adore this piece, Kate. In fact, if the Other Human and I ever take our 11 years of unwedded bliss legal, I think this will be the centerpiece of our ceremony.

    Thank you for this breath of fresh air and sunshine.

  30. Neither one makes much sense to me, but I tend toward the overly practical rather than the romantic (despite my infatuation with romance novels).

    You neither leave each other alone and whole, nor do you merge and become one. You each influence the other to become different people than you otherwise would be, and the best partnerships provide a safe and steady place to take the risks involved in growth and becoming what you want to be. I think it is easier to jump in the deep end with something if you know you have someone who’ll toss you a lifering if you start to drown, and who’ll also be cheering and giving advice on exactly what you need to do to improve. That is the point of marriage, really, someone who’ll be there for you, even if you annoy them sometimes or disagree sometimes, or if one gets really sick.

    I also think that different people/couples have different needs for that blending, some need constant contact, others need more alone time. Neither style is wrong for them, even if it would be for other couples. I’m an introvert, and I go a bit buggy if I don’t get my alone time. We have to balance that with my husband’s need for a lot of contact and time together, and each respect the other’s needs.

    It also annoys me considerably when people on TV break up over stupid things. I like Bones and in the last episode a couple that was about to marry went through a perfectly normal bout of insecurity about an ex-spouse; and decided (oh, the drama!) that there wasn’t sufficient trust in the relationship, so they broke up. Idiots. While I agree the marriage should have been postponed, trust develops over time and with mutual experience of trustworthiness; it isn’t instantly granted nor do we have instincts such that we can instantly determine trustworthiness. It takes WORK. Such babies, they should have agreed to continue dating and discussing rather than break up.

  31. Miss Prism, there were no readings at my wedding – my husband and I eloped after planning it in secret for a while. *grin* My husband, who is an unrepentant geek, did toss out the idea of using the two different oaths of fealty sworn by Merry and Pippen in Lord of the Rings, though.

  32. Piffle: Yes, exactly.

    Also, Bones! I was so “WTF?!” over that episode. What are they thinking?? Angela got all angsty because she said Hodgins obviously didn’t trust her, but she was jealous of Cam with her ex, so who is she to throw stones? I think what she really meant is she doesn’t trust herself, but she doesn’t want to admit it. ARGH. /end rant

  33. re: MissPrism’s comment: I can recite “The Owl and the Pussycat” by rote, to the endless amusement of my kid.

    As for the passage, I guess I’ll be the voice of dissent. I hate it. Not the idea expressed, exactly, but I agree with the other comment that the wording is clunky. It’s just not something I would want read at my wedding.

  34. As literary inspiration for relationships go, I am holding out for a Spencer/Susan type match from Robert Parker’s novels.

    But then it seems I need a lot more space to be comfortable than most of the people I know.

  35. @bellacoker, I too love the Spenser / Susan match. I discovered those books as I was beginning college and they went to my head like a sledgehammer. Spenser’s autonomy – and Susan’s – were amazingly unlike my parents, and much more to my way of thinking.

    How the two of them work out their boundaries in Crimson Joy seriously affected my views on what a “healthy relationship” is…


  36. I think it was in Das Energi where I read something like this: “When two people become one, the end result is two half people.”

    My husband and I always say that we are each other’s backup drive.

  37. MissPrism, elopement was totally the way to go – our wedding was about us, not about putting on a show for friends and relatives. And much more cost effective! *laugh*

  38. I’ve only read the first couple of comments and have just enough time in my lunch break to write my own. (In case the intervening comments make me look like an idiot.)

    We started dating about two months after I moved away from home and have ben married for seven years. I’ve done the joined-at-the-hip program and the two-become-one program, and the best advice I can give is this: DON’T. It’s romantic and lovely not to know where you end and he begins. But it’s not healthy. One morning you wake up and you can’t remember whether you only like Star Wars because he does. You get asked what your favorite meal is and you have to go look in a cookbook. And I can futher tell you from experience that the process of regaining yourself, of separating yourself from him while not totally ruining the relationship, is a helluva lot of work and is not for the faint of heart, on both sides. I just made two long (f-locked) posts in my LJ about the work I’m doing now, and I could probably write a book about what I’ve done in the past three years.

    Rilke is spot on. Cherish that expanse between yourselves and take joy in your differences. (Femmeknitzi, that Gibran passage is excellent too.)

    I put together our wedding ceremony, and at the end the judge tacked on a reading from Ruth: “Your people will be my people and your gods will be my gods.” I get more infuriated by that as time goes on, because that sentiment is fucking damaging to real people.

  39. @maewyn –

    I always get a creeping feeling on the back of my neck when the Bible reading is one of the “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” variants.

    Funny how those marriages often don’t last. One in particular had 2 variants of “Wives, obey your husbands” during the wedding; the divorce included restraining orders.

  40. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and. A couple does become one, and retains separateness. There are three entities in the marriage, the two spouses, and the marriage itself. All three need individual nurturance.

  41. Awww, Rilke. Sigh:

    Understand, I’ll slip quietly
    Away from the noisy crowd
    When I see the pale stars rising above the oaks.
    I’ll pursue solitary pathways
    Through the pale twilit meadows,
    With only this one dream:
    You come too.

    …is exactly how I see my marriage. In fact, I copied that from a painting I made of that poem when we decided to get married.

    I guess I just don’t think too much about it. I mean, whenever I hear about two hearts entwined, becoming one, etc., I sort of want to gag a lot, but I don’t have the most sentimental character, and I chafe at the notion that we’re supposed to be each other’s everything.

    Guarding one another’s solitude? Is perfect.

  42. Also, we eloped too! And I have very few friends, and the married ones were married when I met them, so I’ve been to exactly zero weddings in my entire life, and have really little frame of reference for what goes on at them. I can’t think of anything more nightmarish for someone with the sort of anxiety I carry around, hence the courthouse!

  43. We had a lovely Neruda sonnet read, as well as the speech that Ashley Judd as Tina Modotti gave at Frida and Diego’s wedding in “Frida”. It’s all about marriage being an ancient institution for small-minded men to keep women in the house, and ends with saying marriage is radical if you go into it knowing all of its pitfalls. I’m so glad my husband thought it was funny, too.

  44. I think that when you’ve been with someone you love for a few years, you do begin to sort of absorb each other and evolve together. My partner and I often know what the other is thinking without asking; we’ve grown to have the same taste in movies and food; we sometimes feel like a part of ourselves is missing when the other is away. I mean, none of us are individuals, essentially; we’re all connected to each other. Marriage is a more obvious and immediate form of that connectedness.

    I do agree, though, that each partner must enjoy alone time and pursue interests outside of the other or risk boredom and suffocation. Not to mention that it’d be a very sad thing to focus your life entirely on someone else only to have the partnership end. I really feel for evangelical housewives who believe that they were created to be men’s “helpmeets” and thus must devote every aspect of their existence to pleasing their man and becoming an extension of him. To have literally nothing of your own….that can’t be healthy.

  45. That was a great reading, and really so true. The two-become-one thing is just setting yourself up for disappointment, i think. The worst time in my marriage was the period right after the wedding where i was all panicked about not liking Every Single Thing about living with my husband–and for a while it felt like a huge personal failure if we fought. Now we know we need an apartment where we can be in two separate rooms when we need some down time!

    I like the way my mom puts it best. You’re a team in marriage, and you work together. It’s the partnership that’s powerful, not necessarily a union of souls or whatever.

  46. I like Bones and in the last episode a couple that was about to marry went through a perfectly normal bout of insecurity about an ex-spouse; and decided (oh, the drama!) that there wasn’t sufficient trust in the relationship, so they broke up. Idiots.

    Piffle, I think it’s been fairly well established that the writers only care about one relationship on that show, and they’ve been throwing other characters under the bus left and right. Starting with my favorite character in last spring’s season finale. (Ever since the beginning of season 3, truth be told, I’ve felt like the show started to go off the rails. Sigh.)/rant.

    Mr. Feasance and I plan on eloping…maybe even on our lunch break one day.

  47. I think “becoming one” is way overkill, but there is an element of it in what I think makes a healthy relationship.

    Not joined at the hip, no, but maybe attached by a reasonably short tether?

    Some of the best marital advice ever given to me was given by someone (else, I was 23) who got married very young. She said that at 23, you aren’t yet who you’re going to be. You have growing and changing to do yet. If you’re going to get married that young, you have to be aware of that and take care that your growing and changing is in the same direction as your partner’s. There are crossroads in life, and you need to make the decisions together about which path to take, or you might wind up in very different places. That’s served me well.

    I love this poem, and we had it at our wedding:


    I love you,
    Not only for what you are,
    But for what I am
    When I am with you.

    I love you,
    Not only for what
    You have made of yourself,
    But for what
    You are making of me.

    I love you
    For the part of me
    That you bring out;
    I love you
    For putting your hand
    Into my heaped-up heart
    And passing over
    All the foolish, weak things
    That you can’t help
    Dimly seeing there,
    And for drawing out
    Into the light
    All the beautiful belongings
    That no one else had looked
    Quite far enough to find.

    I love you because you
    Are helping me to make
    Of the lumber of my life
    Not a tavern
    But a temple;
    Out of the works
    Of my every day
    Not a reproach
    But a song.

    I Love you
    Because you have done
    More than any creed
    Could have done
    To make me good,
    And more than any fate
    Could have done
    To make me happy.

    You have done it
    Without a touch,
    Without a word,
    Without a sign.
    You have done it
    By being yourself.
    Perhaps that is what
    Being a friend means,
    After all.

    And there’s a country song that I didn’t discover until too late, but that I wish we’d had for our wedding:

    Pam Tillis – Love is only human

    Tonight I am the hero that you dream
    Tonight I am the angel that you see
    Tonight We shine with love so new
    But time alone will tell us what is true

    Cause time can bring an angel down to earth
    And time stands every hero ‘gainst the world
    In time All lover’s dreams touch down
    And love must live much closer to the ground

    When I’m just a man
    When I’m just a woman
    Will you love me then
    Will you love me when
    Love is only human

    Cause love can give a man the strength to fight
    And love can make a woman’s burdens light
    And love in time forgives us all
    When heroes fail, when the angels fall

    When I’m just a man
    When I’m just a woman
    Will you love me then
    Will you love me when
    Love is only human

    When we know each other through and through
    With all our imperfections
    If we fall short of heaven
    I’ll still love you
    I’ll love you

    When I’m just a man
    When I’m just a woman
    I will love you then
    Somewhere under heaven
    When I’m just a man
    When I’m just a woman
    I will love you then
    I will love you when
    Love is only human

    OK, so it’s not exactly a feminist manifesto, but I love the sentiment that it’s not always going to be bright and shiny and new, that you’re both going to make mistakes.

  48. Actually, having read far too muchGeorgette Heyer, I wouldn’t feel it was a proper elopement unless I was dressed as a pageboy, the journey was undertaken in a barouche-landau, we were waylaid by a highwayman who turned out to be a fleeing Jacobite duke, and then a complicated misunderstanding about an inheritance prompted a duel. Sigh.

  49. This is my first time commenting, after reading and perusing (I prefer the word to lurking as it seems less ominous) SP for several months now. The honesty and genuine longing expressed in this quote has stayed with me and I return to it every so often. If memory serves, the quote goes on the equate marriage to day labor, in that, like anything truly worthwhile it requires hard work. And, who wants to work hard?? IMHO the “two become one” statement concerning marriage–well, that reads like another poisonous fairy tale. With any luck and hard work, at some point during life, one becomes one, and after becoming one finds another one to share their individual oneness with. Not too overshadow the individual oneness of either one, but to be open to the “expansive”possibilities of sharing all that contributed to act of their becoming one. As someone who was one, genetically speaking, and became two–I am an identical twin, Rilke’s statement, not solely in terms of a good marriage, but within the context of any important relationship, resonates. I share a genetic code with another human being, and have shared a womb and subsequently a lifetime of experiences with this same person, and yet there are times when I look at my twin and wonder “Who are you? Have we met?” Being considered half of one whole, to the population at large, presents its own struggles. How does anyone relinquish the responsibility of “becoming” to just any one ? Just a thought.

  50. *laugh* Miss Prism, I don’t think my black capris and tshirt count much in Heyer’s world. *grin*

    Seriously, though, eloping was the best possible wedding for the two of us.

    MsFeasance, I don’t have tv at all, so I was watching episodes of Bones via iTunes – the first two seasons were good enough that I bought the DVDs. I haven’t seen the end of the 3rd season but I know what you’re talking about and I think the show is definitely suffering from Ran Out of Story. Which is such a damn shame!

  51. We had the Kahlil Gibran passage read at our wedding because I’ve always loved the imagery of each of us being a pillar unto ourselves, but also supporting a roof over both of us – something bigger than either of us indivdually, something neither of us could support alone, but something absolutely dependent on both of us being strong and complete individuals.

    We also had “The Road Less Traveled” as another reading, not only because we both like the poem, but also as sort of a sly dig at my traditional family that no, our marriage was NOT going to be particularly traditional, and they might as well give that up right now. (They didn’t get it. Their loss.)

    Our 14th anniversary is coming up in November, and the only thing I’m sure of about marriage is that it’s one of the most intensely personal and individual journeys anyone will ever undertake. It’s between you and your spouse, and while others can make suggestions, you are the only ones who can make the decisions. So while “joined at the hip” would make me crazy, I know other folks for whom it works. It’s their marriage, not mine.

    @MsFeasance: a former supervisor of mine did just that, they eloped at lunch hour on a Tuesday. They already had a kid and had been together for many years, and pretty much just decided and made it happen.

  52. I’ve never been married nor ever particularly want to be (to the minor chagrin of my boyfriend), so I would lean towards the two people who support each other but don’t become one person.

    On the other hand, I have an identical twin sister and we really do complete each other. I’m fairly (to very) introverted, but being with her is the same as being by myself–time with my twin is “me time.” The benefits are awesome–we were able to get each other through the tough high school years, we have so much fun together, we totally understand each other–but the dangers are there, too. She’s married now, what happens when we don’t live near each other? When we don’t work together? It’s scary for me.

  53. Chiming in again to note that this is our four year anniversary. Four years ago, Matt and I were having drinks with Inga Muscio, author of Cunt who I had brought to my university for a speech. I was thinking that any man who would show up to listen to a speech by Inga is the right man for me. We’ve been together ever since that night. :)

    Also, to add RE: Bones, OMGWTFBBQ!!! Angela, what the hell?? I hated that whole scene. And I also felt like they threw the smart kid under the bus at the end of last season. I liked him.

    I love that this thread includes Bones critiques! :)

  54. I definitely agree with this. And actually had my MIL read the end of the Wife of Bath’s tale in the original, which I feel has a similar realistic (and feminist!) view of marriage.

    Also, because I’m a big medievalist nerd, and so’s my MIL, so we get along grand.

  55. Back when I had a warmer attitude to religion, I vaguely planned to get my brother to perform an excerpt from this Dario Fo monologue about the wedding at Cana.

    The same actor plays an angel and a drunkard, and actually has to chase himself offstage at one point! But my brother ROCKS so it would have been fantastic.

  56. I remember my younger sister swooning over that line from Jerry Maguire about “you complete me”, thinking it was truly the most romantic thing she had ever heard. I thought it was sickening. My sister called me a spoilsport, and apparently thought I was just a hardcore non-romantic proud-to-be-an-outcast misanthropist. She didn’t bother to listen to my explanation, which was that each person in a relationship should already be a whole person.

    If you are not a whole person, all by yourself, then there is no way you should be considering getting married. I am a whole person, all by myself, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the companionship of someone else who is also already a whole person.

    After telling me at one point that her husband is her missing half and makes her whole, my younger sister confided later that marriage is a lot harder than she thought it would be, and asked if I agreed. I told her, “No, marriage is exactly as hard as I thought it would be.” And I think the key to that is the difference in our attitudes about marriage prior to even meeting our husbands.

    I love the reading; it was a lovely choice, even if it clashed with the justice of the peace’s homily. It would have fit in very well at my wedding, in fact, although my goofy sister may not have appreciated it!

  57. well darn, I think I got caught in the spam filter. Just wanted to say that I LOVED that Shel Silverstein book and read it in my early thirties, whereupon my life changed as a result. Seriously.

    and at our wedding, we read Ogden Nash’s “tin wedding whistle” in a tongue in cheek fashion. It’s cute-you can find it on google.

  58. I have never really been able to get in to Bones, the books or the series. It just seems like Kathy Reichs giant ego kept getting in the way. But other people seem to like them both, so that is obviously just me.

  59. I’m definitely on the side of acknowledging that you’re two separate people. I mean, we are, and as was mentioned above, “two becomes one” generally means “woman, give up your individuality”.

    One of the readings at our secular wedding was by Wendell Berry. I later found out that he did not have a particularly egalitarian marriage, but the passage is still nice:

    The meaning of marriage begins in the giving of words. We cannot join ourselves to one another without giving our word. And this must be an unconditional giving, for in joining ourselves to another we join ourselves to the unknown. We can join one another only by joining the unknown. We must not be misled by the procedures of experimental thought: in life, in the world, we are never given two known results to choose between, but only one result that we choose without knowing what it is.

    Marriage rests upon the immutable givens that compose it: words, bodies, characters, histories, places. Some wishes cannot succeed; some victories cannot be won; some loneliness is incorrigible. But there is relief and freedom in knowing what is real; these givens come to us out of the perennial reality of the world, like the terrain we live on. One does not care for this ground to make it a different place, or to make it perfect, but to make it inhabitable and to make it better. To flee from its realities is only to arrive at them unprepared.

    Because the condition of marriage is worldly and its meaning communal, no one party to it can be solely in charge. What you alone think it ought to be, it is not going to be. Where you alone think you want it to go, it is not going to go. It is going where the two of you – and marriage, time, life, history, and the world – will take it. You do not know the road; you have committed your life to a way.

  60. Let me preface this by saying, I am a total romantic, and married; nevertheless, I think it is helpful at times to think of marriage in terms of a partnership, specifically a BUSINESS PARTNERSHIP. One spends, of course, a great deal of time with one’s business partner, but one doesn’t intend to spend EVERY WAKING MINUTE with them!

    Gosh I sound anything BUT romantic! It is a good rule of thumb, though.

  61. I read that Rilke at a friend’s wedding. And something quite nice by Anne Morrow Lindbergh about dancers coming together and apart within the course of the dance at another friend’s wedding. And “The Owl and the Pussycat” at yet another friend’s wedding. And something by Carlyle at a fourth friend’s wedding.

  62. Bellacoker, it might help that I have no knowledge of her or her ego and have never read her books (which is kind of a surprise given how popular she is and how much I like thrillers of that sort). *grin* I just like forensic procedure shows. I also have started buying the DVDs of Dexter and I may break down and get Numb3rs at some point as well. Of the 3 shows, I think I like Dexter best because it isn’t structured the way a show with commercial breaks is – I get really angry at the obvious emotional manipulation that most network tv shows have to engage in to keep an audience. Argh for mini cliffhangers every 4-7 minutes!

  63. Although my partner and I have moments (him: “I want some ice cream” me: “omg, I was *just* thinking that *I* want some ice cream!”) that cause us to laughingly say that we’re the “same person,” in truth we value the fact that we are two very different people. If we were only one entity, that would mean we had nothing new to discover about each other, nothing to teach each other. We would no longer have the healthy disagreements that encourage us to think and grow. We agree that we could live independent of each other – but that it is much, much better to be together.

  64. Marianne (please forgive me if I’ve mangled your name here…I can haz spellingz skilz?), I am obliged to speak up every time someone mentions Dexter. I agree with you about its awesome way of drawing the viewer in without creating the artifical-drama-stopping-points.

    Now artifical-drama in the teasers for the next episode…there I am afraid the producers are guilty. But I forgive them ;)

  65. We had a little piece off an engagement congratulations card, about work and fighting fair and being honest, which my mother in law translated into Swedish. And we had the Blessing of the Apaches which my pretendy-father translated into Irish. And we had a bit cobbled together out of books and my head and things my Mormor-in-law said in English.

    All our readings were, in some way, about being separate people working together.

    That’s what our lives are like now, too.

  66. You know, the more I think about it, the more I just can’t get behind either total enmeshment or guardians-of-each-other’s-solitude.

    At the risk of hemorrhaging all of my emotional business over all y’all, here’s an excerpt from a journal entry I wrote entitled “What I Wish Someone Would Say To Me,” that I think gets at how I see love and why neither of the options currently on the table sits well with me. (Obviously not EVERYONE had to understand love the same way I do. I’m just thinking through this. Currently I think my marriage is suffering from too much separateness that’s really one-way, and yet I hear the good points being raised about becoming one.)

    Anyway, here’s what I wrote I wished someone would say to me:

    “I get that ALL of that — the restlessness, the loneliness, the vulnerability, the complex inner world that seems to lack any public access point, the joy that so often overspills other people’s standard-sized containers — is you. And, I basically like that person. No, honestly. I happily accept your invitation to join you in your inner world; I think it’s probably an interesting place with lots to see that I haven’t seen before. I’d love to have you show me around. As time passes, I’d love to see more and more of it: the tourist traps, the residential areas, the wilderness, the frontier, the new developments, the downtown, the outskirts.

    You’re invited to visit my inner world as well. As time passes, I’ll invite you into more and more of it. You’ll discover the tourist traps, the residential areas, the wilderness, the frontier, the new developments, the downtown, the outskirts. I expect you to tread respectfully, and I’ll do the same.”

  67. That reading helped me more than I can say in my last relationship (which terminated peacefully from other issues; we’re still good friends). Seriously, I discovered it in the middle of my worst doubts and it didn’t entirely brush them aside, but returning to it helped me so, so much. If I ever got married and had a wedding, that might be a text I pick as a reading.

  68. I found a poem (as y’all have inspired me to seek them out), that I really like as far as encompassing my ideas of marriage – and it doesn’t have an author:

    I cannot promise you a life of sunshine;
    I cannot promise riches, wealth, or gold;
    I cannot promise you an easy pathway
    That leads away from change or growing old.

    But I can promise all my heart’s devotion;
    A smile to chase away your tears of sorrow;
    A love that’s ever true and ever growing;
    A hand to hold in yours through each tomorrow.

    I think these are things my boyfriend and I have come to appreciate in our year and a half together…that through the poverty and moving and mistakes and the good times, the only thing we can promise each other is smiles, love and a hand to hold when times are tough.

  69. I’ve been thinking about this (marriage and what it means) while working this afternoon and I just don’t know what I think. I am certain my husband and I aren’t “enmeshed,” and I also don’t feel that we’re working towards some awesome common goal or that we make each other better people. We just sort of exist. I guess that’s what happens when two emotionally bankrupt and mildly depressed people decide that two incomes and joint health insurance make life easier.

    Honestly, though, it really works because neither of us has ever been able to stand being around another person for much more than a couple hours. We both really like doing everything alone.

  70. I’ve never been married and my relationship history isn’t the best, so I’m not sure how much my thoughts are worth, but I love the Rilke passage a good deal. I express a lot of those thoughts about the kind of relationship I’d like, and people always roll their eyes and say, “But if you found the right person, you wouldn’t care about independence or balance!” Um, no. So it’s nice to hear folks in successful relationships echoing the idea.

    Also another English major who always gets asked to read. I was given something dreaky once I had to stumble through. Once I chose that I love is Whitman’s “When I Heard at the Close of Day,” – Whitman and Neruda I think give you a lot to pick from – not too cheesy or too sexual. On the program at the wedding was a quote from Tolstoy I also loved (from memory, probably not exactly right:

  71. Whoops! The Tolstoy is:

    “The purpose of life is not to find happiness in marriage but to bring more love and justice into the world. We marry to assist each other in that task.”

  72. Yorke, I think I’ve just decided your comment would make a perfect wedding poem:

    We just sort of exist.
    I guess that’s what happens
    when two emotionally bankrupt
    and mildly depressed people
    decide that two incomes
    and joint health insurance
    make life easier.

    Honestly, though,
    it really works
    because neither of us has ever been able to stand
    being around another person
    for much more than a couple hours.

    (wipes away tear)

  73. eep, I’ve just realised that could look nasty and sarcastic without the benefit of tone of voice – hope it comes across that I didn’t mean it that way.

  74. Well…many people get married for the wrong reasons. Marriage is work and much of the time people are looking for that other half to fill up the holes in their soul. I do believe to a point 2 can become one and I don’t think it is about being whole before you marry. I think it is about understanding that even with that other person at your side you are still yourself. With or with out them you will still have challenges that are all your own. No matter how much you talk yourself blue in the face about issues to your partner..some they cannot help with. Some they cannot even begin to understand. It is not unfair..it is not mean..it is true. Your spouse can support you and love you, but they cannot fix your problems. That is yours cross to bear.

  75. “I believe, since the current paradigm is total enmeshment, that it may be best to try to err on the side of independence.”

    You mean “current paradigm” since about the year 1000 in the West?

    No, seriously, this actually my biggest gripe with the Twilight series. Talk about true love meaning enmeshment. It represents a child’s view of what it means to love…it might be the only version of love that a child can understand.

    I’ve now been with my partner for 17 years (which is one year shy of _half of our lives_). We have each changed utterly over those years…multiple times. When we met, it was that child’s approach to love. Now, we are parents and I cannot even describe the difference both within each of us and between us.

    When one of us changes, the other one must accomodate (and vice versa). Being married is probably the hardest thing that I have ever had to do, not because I don’t love him…but because the work never ends.

  76. Oh, I should amend…I don’t think that being married, per se, is a necessary precondition to all those things I just said. I was just trying to express my opinions about being in a committed, long-term relationship.

  77. I actually considered that passage for my wedding to Mr. Twistie (he left the writing of the ceremony entirely up to me because he thinks I have a way with words) because I loved the fact that it respected the two individuals. I also considered the Kalil Gibran one mentioned earlier.

    In the end, though, the laurel went to a passage written by Wendell Berry. I can’t seem to find a copy of it online, though I’m going to keep looking.

    What I loved was that it not only accepted that two people can’t – and shouldn’t try to – become one, it also spoke of marriage as a beginning rather than an end. It described the decision to marry not as an end in itself, but as a choice to walk a path together. I loved the idea of marriage as another journey, and a life partner as someone to take the journey with.

    When I saw that passage of Wendell Berry’s, I felt like someone had been inside my head, looked at everything I thought about marriage, and written it down better than I could have.

    Fifteen years later, we’re still walking the path together. When one stumbles, the other holds out a helping hand. When one needs to check something at the side of the road, the other chooses whether to join in or wait patiently…or to learn about another curiosity to share when we’re in the same spot again. Each of us is a complete person. Together, we are greater than the sum of our parts. With all the hills we’ve had to climb, all the rocky valleys we’ve stumbled through, we’ve had one another to make the journey bearable. With the pleasant flatlands we’ve discovered, there has always been someone to share the joy.

    Mr. Twistie and I are together after all this time because our paths crossed, and we finally chose one both of us could walk. We keep to the same path together because neither of us can imagine a better companion for the journey of life. We will walk together as long as possible because true companionship makes the road so much nicer.

    Besides, one of us is always finding something at the side of the road the other wouldn’t have seen, and is glad not to have missed.

  78. There’s also a lovely bit of Rilke prose about love being the point at which two circles intersect. It was read, at the bride’s request, at my boyfriend’s sister’s gorgeous and wonderful wedding last year. I love Rilke, and I love that sentiment–that two people are most equipped to love each other when they are already whole unto itself–so I thought it was great.

  79. I suspect I would struggle mightily with the “joined at the hip” approach. I’ve spent so much of my life doing my own thing that I can easily imagine getting really, really irritated if my Imaginary Boyfriend started getting up in my shit 24/7. I’ve always “joked” that if Hell should freeze over and I sucker somebody into a long-term relationship/marriage that we’d have to have enormous amounts of personal space.

    Like, separate housing-personal space. Perhaps separate zip codes. I’m still working on my theory.

  80. Jane:

    I have joked with my BF that we could get married or we could live together, but there was no way that we could do both.

  81. Jane, Bellacoker-

    Sounds like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. They lived in next door houses, at one point. Close, but not together.

  82. My beau and I are sometimes so insane as to toss around the M word. If it’s to be, though, it won’t be for some time. I wanna do JET first (everybody, cross your fingers that I make it in!).

    Warning: completely unrelated and blatant journal pimping ahead! Just wanted to mention that I wrote something in the ol’ blogjournal last night in the throes of another bout of insomnia that I looked at again today and actually still liked. And I was kind of proud of that, so, I thought I’d mention it.

    Continued blessings to FJ and hers. And to Kate. And her bra.

    Heck, to all people in any kind of love relationship. And to people in general, trees, hamsters, and this carrot (CRUNCH).


  83. I think that when you make a commitment to someone, you create a common identity. That doesn’t mean that you lose your individual identity – it means that you add to it. However, marriage is about celebrating that common identity, and not about minimizing it. So, I find readings that emphasize the continued independence of each member of the couple sort of strange and defensive. Personally, I’m fond of this reading:

    From The “Irrational Season,” by Madeleine L’Engle

    “But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take. It is indeed a fearful gamble. Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we become a new creature.

    To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take.If we commit ourselves to one person for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation. It takes a lifetime to learn another person. When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling, and which implies such risk that it is often rejected.”

  84. Congrats Fillyjonk!

    Ok, this doesn’t really fit with the wedding theme, but Open Thread right?

    I just saw this today and I’m sort of upset. There’s a hallmark ornament entitled “Pound Pondering.” Winnie the Pooh is looking at his behind in a mirror because it’s split open and is showing his stuffing. At his feet, is a honey pot labeled “lo-fat honey.” On the back of the box is a *lovely* little poem that goes something like: there are a lot of snacks to be eaten at this time of the year, but who would have guessed they’d all end up *there.* I kid you not. And my favorite part of the whole thing, on their website, this gem is found classified in the “Babies & Kids” section. I sure would want my kid to spend the holiday season frowning at their body in a mirror, just like Pooh Bear. Yuck!!! Has anyone else seen this thing?

    An Image

  85. We really tried hard in our wedding ceremony to completely do away with references to two becoming one, “romance”, or even the idea of “this day forward”. We also really didn’t want it to be about us as a couple in isolation; we figured we’d long since committed to one another, and the point of a wedding was to make that commitment public and ask for the support of our friends and family. Our vows were all about change and growth, “as individuals, in our life together, and in the communities of which we are a part”.

    We thought it was the best wedding ever, but I’m not sure anyone else agrees, and frankly, I couldn’t care less!

    All of that is a long way of saying that I’d have been delighted to hear your reading at a wedding, Kate. I’d have far preferred that to what I’ve heard at most weddings!

  86. PS – we didn’t like the “this day forward” bit simply because as far as we were concerned, we’d been in a permanent relationship since very early on, and wanted to celebrate that, not somehow change the nature of our relationship. Or something.

  87. I tend to see the becoming one/ ‘seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky’ as a false dichotomy, but this is because I cannot imagine giving myself away so fully that I am no longer this prickly contentious self (who once got famously told that I ought to pretend for five minutes that I wasn’t me and stop disagreeing automatically with everything my interlocutor said*). Surely if someone wanted to sign on for the long haul, it would be because I’m me, not in spite of it (with reciprocity on my part). And yet people do give themselves away to the point of bankruptcy.

    But at the same time, the marriage I have seen the most fully is my parents’. When I was younger I thought they had a horrible marriage, because they bickered, and my friend’s parents never did where I could hear them. When I got older I decided that they were just weirdly codependent, because they still bickered but seemed happy. Older still, I realized that they bickered because they are two intelligent people who care passionately about almost everything, and are both pigheaded stubborn and basically incapable of life without each other. The bickering is the product of the stubbornness, and the love that will not walk away.

    When I was younger, I thought that their relative independence and differing interests, were one more sign that my parents were doomed. Mom is tough-minded, humorous, artistic, and tends towards solitude. Dad is more emotional, serious, academic, and social. I used to wonder what they would talk about if my brother and I weren’t around. My mother and I were recently traveling together. Every day half a dozen, a dozen, times a day, they would call each other. Sometimes they had minor skirmishes. They even argued about how much they called each other. Mostly they described their varying worlds to each other. They could not go for more than three hours without talking (to my periodic exasperation).

    They’ve had thirty-eight years of practice. One flesh, and yet whole selves before an immense sky — I know Dad would say both are true. Mom would say that they are whole selves before an immense sky, and yet one flesh. And then they would start arguing about emphasis and word order (and who left his pants on their bedroom floor, etc). And I would tell them to knock it off, and Mom would say that after all this time Dad probably has a few complaints to get off his chest. And Dad would look over has glasses and say mildly, that his only complaint is that it hasn’t been long enough.

    But that’s not what I tell my friends when they announce precipitous things like engagements or commencements of partnerships. Then I quote Robert Louis Stevenson’s “On Marriage” at them, partly because I think he’s sensible, and partly because I love the way his sentences roll on:

    “In one temper [Hope, here equated with youthful longing], a man is indignant that he cannot spring up in a clap to heights of elegance and virtue; in the other [Faith, equated with a mature optimism], out of
    a sense of his infirmities, he is filled with confidence because a
    year has come and gone and he has still preserved some rags of honor.
    In the first, he expects an angel for a wife; in the last, he knows
    that she is like himself — erring, thoughtless, and untrue; but like
    himself also, filled with a struggling radiancy of better things, and
    adorned with ineffective qualities. You may safely go to school with
    hope; but ere you marry, should have learned the mingled lesson of the
    world: that dolls are stuffed with sawdust, and yet are excellent
    playthings; that hope and love address themselves to a perfection
    never realized, and yet, firmly held becomes the salt and staff of
    life; that you yourself are compacted of infirmities, perfect, you
    might say, in imperfection, and yet you have something in you lovable
    and worth preserving; and that while the mass of mankind lies under
    this scurvy condemnation, you will scarce find one but, by some
    generous reading, will become to you a lesson, a model, and a noble
    spouse through life. So thinking you will constantly support your
    own unworthiness, and easily forgive the failings of your friend.
    Nay, you will be wisely glad that you retain the sense of blemishes;
    for the faults of married people continually spur up each of them,
    hour by hour, to do better, and to meet and love upon a higher

    *Eventually I ended up disagreeing with his contention that we should be in a relationship, though that took a couple more months. Silly me, I thought marshalling a good fact based argument was a sign of essential respect for another human. The things I learned from my parents.

  88. Hm, considering the great love of Rilke’s life was married to someone else, he might not be the best guy to ask about living side-by-side. But it’s not a bad sentiment, “always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.” I rather like it.

    As for the relationship-healthfulness of “you complete me,” I think it really depends on just how much you really think you need fron your partner in order to be “completed.” If you feel like you need the other person to fill you up because you are basically empty, then that sucks. Take it from someone who had a disastrous marriage but still likes her ex as a person — it REALLY blows if that’s what you’re (maybe secretly?) hoping for. (The therapist I had in my 20s actually said to me once, “What you’re looking for in a relationship does not happen between men and women.” OUCH. But I had to go and marry the wrong guy to prove her right, didn’t I?)

    If, on the other hand, you feel like you have all the missing puzzle pieces except the one that’s shaped like your partner, then that’s great. Or, in cooking terms, it’s like having everything you need for a great dish except a head of garlic, and your partner is the garlic…yum, garlic.

  89. I got married just over a year ago at the confluence of two wild rivers. I hate the 2 become 1 metaphor and I really should have foreseen, given the location, that the pastor would use this. However, I didn’t and I didn’t have time to really go over the ceremony with her beforehand (and my husband frankly didn’t care what was said as long as it was short, didn’t have too much god in it and he didn’t have to memorize anything) The ceremony actually was quite nice with a lot about honesty and growth and the challenges of marriage (though I was still unprepared for how much work is involved), but there was a long passage comparing our separate lives merging into one as these two river merged into one, blah, blah, blah. Flowing towards one destiny and all that crap. Which makes me laugh now since my husband and I haven’t even lived together since the wedding. He works in one town and I’m getting my grad degree in another. We see each other once a month if we’re lucky.
    Our invitations had the phrase ‘Love, like a river, will overcome any obstacle’ or something similar which I thought was a nice way to incorporate the location without falling into the ‘now we are one’ phrasing.
    What I really wanted, though my husband thought I was crazy and my family would’ve shit a brick, was Margaret Atwood’s love poem.

    You fit into me
    Like a hook into an eye,
    A fishhook,
    An open eye.

    It’s so graphic and disturbing and, to me, really gets to the heart of how graphic and disturbing love can be. But that’s just me.
    So, yeah. I like the Rilke is where I was going with this.

  90. Oops. Meant to say “However, a wedding is about celebrating that common identity, and not about minimizing it.” not “However, marriage is about celebrating that common identity, and not about minimizing it.”

  91. I always took the two becoming one to be becoming one flesh; I believe that’s the phrasing used in the Bible.

    I’m fairly traditional when it comes to marriage, and I never took it to mean two people becoming one person. Two separate, individual people coming together and forming one partnership.

  92. Jae, you totally got the spelling right, which I always appreciate – grade school in Georgia with my name NOT being spelled Mary Ann was an adventure. *grin*

    Dexter is so great! Have you read those books? It’s a rare thing for me to enjoy both the books and an adaptation (film or tv) equally but I totally do with this. There are things they play with in the books that are madly intriguing and there are things they play with in the show that are totally intriguing and it just sucks me in over and over again.

    I love it. And I never love tv!

    I love the supporting characters in the show, too. Angel? He is so incredibly awesome and I love that he is a larger dude who is not just there for laughs. And I love that, while she certainly isn’t fat, LaGuerta is no skinny miss. The variety of body types on the show is so fantastic. The cast is really diverse in a lot of ways.

  93. Well I think my position on the passage is obvious, but if y’all don’t watch out you’re going to get my position on reader response theory, and you don’t want that.

  94. Hey Marianne (yay I can spell! *lol*)…I have read the books and though the last one sorta made me go “okaaay” I have definitely enjoyed them! One of my favorite little things is the alliteration. It’s amazing how well the author pulls that off without making it overly cheesy.

    And I LOVE Angel for exactly the reason you stated. I am trying to remember if there has ever been a jab made about his body or his weight, and nothing comes to mind. Granted, he isn’t so much larger than “average,” so I don’t doubt that is a factor, but as you said, he is never played as a joke. There are even instances of women finding him desireable, which is refreshing.

    Also, on the other end of things, Deb is about as thin as she possibly could be, but I adore how they contrasted her mainstream-ideal beauty with other characteristics which stray from the feminine ideal. She has appetites, for food, for sex, and she curses nearly as much as Doakes (who my mother loves). She also is ambitious and good at her job, and normally if a beautiful woman is portrayed as having either of these characteristics, she is usually an evil bitch. A former friend who also watched the show once told me that she couldn’t take Deb’s character because she was “such a man,” and I could not believe she didn’t seem to notice any of this.

  95. Deb rules!

    And now we have turned this open thread into Dexter squee. *grin*

    I love love love that Deb has appetites. It would have been so easy to make her eat like a bird given her lanky frame but she is considered just as much a woman as anyone else on the show – she is neither held up as an ideal that everyone should emulate or cast aside as not curvy enough. It’s like, zomg, she’s a real person! I can see how someone who is still invested in the culturally constructed gender signifiers thing might not like Deb, but I think she is such a great challenge to all of that.

    Every time they go down to the club, Angel gets hit on like mad so I think it is safe to say that his larger body is no joke. *grin*

    The conflict between her and LaGuerta is SO INTRIGUING because they are both good at their jobs and ambitious and they both have flaws and good points and omg again with the complex characters! Even though LaGuerta is totes manipulative, I love her.

    Doakes is, likewise, really fascinating. I am torn between my love for Angel and my love for him. If Deb and Doakes don’t get together at some point on the show, I will be totally disappointed.

  96. I love the conflict between Deb and LaGuerta! From some things you’ve said (which I will not elaborate on so as not to spoil), I’m guessing that you have not finished season two, but I like that it is not the case of LaGuerta being demonized for being more manipulative either. They don’t necessarily condone her behavior, but we see enough about her as a person to know that she has struggled, and she is doing the only thing she has found to work in order to survive: playing a little dirty.

    Doakes…I love him too (though now I think I’ve proclaimed my love for everything *lol*). He is fascinating, and I feel like he is probably the character most like Dexter, even though he has not gone down that same path. Plus his quick and dirty one-liners are made of awesome.

    Seriously, we need to keep in touch about this after this thread *lol* Because after reading your blog and talking to you here, I know you are gonna have some smart things to offer about the up and coming bits.

  97. I am about halfway through season 2 – I bought the DVD set the other day when I bought the Bones season 2 set – Barnes and Noble was having a 40% off sale. We’re working through Bones at the moment but there is only one disc left of that so I can catch him up on Dexter! I was watching them online on, like, hulu.com, but that got old and so I stopped until I could get the DVDs. And season 3 is about to start! It’s going to kill me to wait and I NEVER feel like that about tv so I might actually have to watch those online as they come out. So I have seen some of LaGuerta’s “interaction” with the new liuetenant but I not how it finishes playing out.

    I think you’re on to something with Doakes being the most like Dexter – it’s interesting how that is playing out in the show versus what happened to him in the books (I totally didn’t see that coming because I saw the show before I read that book!).

    You know what else I appreciate about the show? That people sweat. It’s fucking hot in Miami! And there really is an intensity to the light in South Florida that I think the cinematography (is it cinematography when it is a tv show?) really captures and explores in interesting ways.

    Oooh, yes, we do! Feel free to email me (therotund at therotund dot com) – are you on livejournal at all?

  98. the ideas of marriage y’all are giving me kinda reminds me of a fave cartoon…”The Dot And The Line: A Romance In Lower Mathematics,” an MGM cartoon, done in 1965 or so, i think…..

    a line falls in love with a dot, who loves a crazy looking scribble…..and….well, try google-ing it……

    as for “dexter”….unfortunately, i’ve not had the pleasure of seeing this show….though i do <3 michael c. hall…..loved him in six feet under…..

  99. My parents were totally obsessed with the being one thing and when it ended, my Dad ran right into another relationship and my Mom completely fell apart because she didn’t know who she was separate from him. She’s finding out. My dad is on his 4th marriage.

  100. Diosa!!!

    The Dot and The Line is from a book by Norton Juster, who also wrote the Phantom Tollbooth, one of the greatest books of all time.

  101. “Because I am fat and lazy.”

    I don’t get it. Laziness, open thread, yes, I get it, but why are you having a thread that is open because you are fat?

    (I’m assuming the answer is not that you want to perpetuate the “fat and lazy” stereotype.)

  102. Sharon, I’m obviously not Kate, but I’m pretty sure she was just poking fun at the fat must automatically equal lazy stereotype.

  103. Sorry about the planes during the reading. It’s nice to read it again, 4 years later. Since we’re still married and seem more different than ever yet closer than ever, I guess it must be true!

  104. We actually liked the emphasis on sexual attraction in the Song of Solomon, especially as a way of emphasizing publicly our “forbidden” fat love. :)

    Marriage is basically no work at all, at least for me. All that mushy “my own true love” celtic music stuff? That’s us. Ed might be struggling mightily without ever complaining, but I kind of doubt it. We have the same meyers briggs personality type with borderline measures on the same two traits. This makes us blissfully happy just the way we are. There is definitely a price though – what we are bad at we are REALLY bad at, and there’s no balance at all. So determining what we truly couldn’t handle for ourselves and finding ways to get them done has taken years of work and compromise. You know what, we are NEVER going to be neat and clean, we are never going to be organized or smart financially. So we make adjustments.

    Parenting twins, on the other hand, is definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m lucky to have the love of my life to do it with.. :)

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