Saturday 27 May 2017

gilded-cage

Is marriage a form of entrapment?

Yesterday, my sister was speaking to me about possible topics for her doctoral research; one topic she’s interested in pursuing is whether people who are separated/divorced would consider getting married again, now that they can*.

When I asked this question on Facebook, I was overwhelmed with the replies which came flooding in mostly from women, both on my wall and through private message.  I was particularly taken aback by the sheer amount of negativity associated with the idea of marriage.  It seemed quite ironic (and rather sad) that for all the hype and romance which fills female brains in the run up to their ‘dream wedding’, judging from the “never again” remarks which came in as furious as bullets, the starry-eyed view of marriage  seems to fizzle out pretty quickly.

Of course, I was speaking to people who had been burnt, so to speak. Anyone who has had to go through a separation comes out at the other end shaken, distraught and often, quite bitter – at least until time passes, and they can slowly start to pick up the pieces of their lives.  So it is understandable that, viewed from the other side of a broken marriage,  the images of Barbie in her wedding gown which we were fed as little girls (brainwashing us into yearning to wear that gown ourselves) are viewed with more than a hefty dose of cynicism.

Too late, women realise that the female obsession to have the perfect wedding is not the same as actually being married.

However,  it did take me by surprise that even women who are in a new relationship are quite happy to remain as they are, and have no intention of making it legal every again. Marriage was spoken of in terms of losing one’s independence and freedom.  Those who are still single, on the other hand, spoke over and over again of being able “to do what I want, when I want, without anyone interfering”.

This made me wonder (as I have often wondered) whether it is the institution of marriage which causes people to lose their individuality and which erodes their sense of self. Do people, on saying “I do”, automatically start looking at their spouse with a triumphant expression thinking, “right, you’re MINE now, I OWN you”?

Of course, it doesn’t help matters that our very language speaks in terms of “il-mara/ir-ragel tieghi” (my woman/man) when referring to a spouse . Notice there are no specific words for wife/husband so we even say il-mara, ir-ragel, because the “mine” is understood.

Heck, some people  even shorten it to “tieghi” (mine) to drive the point home. When I joke around with my girlfriends we often slip into this mode, lamenting sorrowfully, “ghax tieghi ma jhallinix nohrog wahdi” (“mine” doesn’t let me go out alone). But behind the laughs, I am keenly aware that there are women for whom this is reality – they have such controlling husbands that they might as well have stayed under their fathers’ thumbs. Same holds true for domineering wives, of course, who crack the whip at every opportunity.

And I guess that’s why so many women who find themselves separated after a bad marriage in which they could not be themselves, suddenly realise that they relish this new-found freedom.  For some, this is the first time in their lives they have been truly independent, especially if they got married when very young.  Who can blame them for being loathe to let this freedom slip away by tying the knot again?

Rightly or wrongly, they have come to see the idea of marriage as a trap, in some cases even as a prison, and now that they are free from its shackles, they never, ever want to go back.

I find that it’s truly a shame that marriage has come to be perceived as a form of entrapment, rather than as a union of two people who want to be with one other out of their own free will, rather than because a legal document says so.

 

*If you would like to take part in this research kindly contact me and I will forward your details.

 

  • B.Schembri

    First of all I would like to say that I come from a happy family, my parents are still together and happy, I guess I can be considered one of the few lucky people left.
    Anyway, I’m 24 and I’m in a committed relationship on the way to marriage. Unfortunately what you wrote is something that I hear everyday, even from other women my own age(who also have parents who are still together) they don’t want to get married because they want to remain “free”. Honestly, I don’t understand that, what does being free mean? That you can go have a drink with your girlfriends every once in a while? or that you want to go to the clubs alone every weekend while he’s waiting for you at home? because the latter for me means that you don’t even want to be in a relationship in the first place. If you’re in a relationship where your partner doesn’t even want you to go out without him even if its just a drink/dinner/movie… with some friends, than I don’t believe that he’s the right guy for you, since he obviously doesn’t trust you.
    Other than that there’s also another issue that irritates me a lot, it’s when a person doesn’t want to marry his/her partner but would be happy living with him/her, because, again, they want to be “free”. Why live with someone, or be in a committed relationship with someone if you want the chance to leave when you feel like it? At the end (always in my opinion) I feel that that’s another way of explaining that you don’t trust the other person, and really if that’s the case, than why be in the relationship?

    I don’t want to sound judgemental, because there are other situations where people have a valid reason for not wanting to get married, maybe because they don’t believe in it, or else because as you said they where divorced/separated. But I think that some people going through this situation should realise (probably hard at first to face) that marriage doesn’t break a relationship, it all depends on the people. If it didn’t work with one person, doesn’t mean the same thing will happen with another.

    • Thanks for your interesting comment. In fact I had this conversation on Facebook, about what people mean whey they say “free”.
      I guess it means different things to different people, and in cases where people still want to live the single life, such as partying, bar hopping etc. then they are wise not to get married.
      To me, however, freedom means being free to grow and develop WITHIN a loving relationship, where both sides allow each other the space to “do their own thing”, such as a hobby, or to follow a course, without breathing down their neck and demanding that they spend each moment 24/7 joined at the hip. It is when you “let go” in this sense that I believe you will reach a point where you actively seek to be in each other’s company, by finding common ground to do things together which you both enjoy.
      The occasional girls’ (or boys) night won’t ruin a marriage or relationship; it’s when you dread the sound of the key in the lock because your other half has come home that signals that something is very, very wrong.

  • Christine Galea

    I will willingly take part in Miriam’s research, Jos. Just sms me.

    For the moment suffice it for me to state that I fully disagree with those who think that marriage is a form of entrapment for either spouse. Lived as it should be, ie marriage as a vocation, can be a very enriching experience for both spouses, one in which they grow in love for one another (and not only, their experience of love eventually encompasses their children and other people). Lived as it should be, marriage encourages the spouses to live their lives as a total gift to one another. It goes without saying, of course, that gift giving is a risky enterprise. A gift runs the risk of being refused. When this happens, when the couple cease to treat each other as a mutual gift, when they begin to treat one another as objects, then their marriage loses its character as a gift and at it is at that point that it becomes a trap (for the one who wants out). I think that the ‘golden key’ that liberates a man and a woman from themselves and frees them to love each other lies in loving one’s spouse for his or her own sake.

    There are many fortunate couples who have built beautiful and lasting marriages which are living witnesses to the beauty of the married state. May God continue to bless them. Similarly there are many, like me, who, following separation, have adjusted to a single life after many years of marriage. In spite of this, I still view marriage in a very positive light.

  • Great article as usual Jos! However, I think the whole issue revolves not with the issue of ‘marriage’ but that of commitment…as someone so aptly put it ‘means a lot of different things to different people’…you can be married and committed and married and not committed and not married but really and truly committed. At the end of the day marriage does not define who we are and what we believe in…if we truly believe that our life is better off with our other half in it, no legal document will make or break that belief…of course, the reverse applies only too well…

    • Yes, I definitely agree with your interpretation; it is the commitment aspect which seems to trip people up. And that does not necessarily hinge on whether one is married or not.

  • Audrey Friggieri

    Some time ago I came across a C.S. Lewis quote which I’ve kept: “We are what we believe we are.” Somehow it resonates with how I have come to look at life. Marriage is a controversial topic and no matter how much we discuss and argue, there can hardly be a consensus because it is a unique experience for everyone. Of course, there are trends and many find similarities in their perceptions of it…
    My personal opinion is tinged with meanings derived from the above quote: If I believe that I am a free being, then my choices will be free, even the way I perceive my marriage. A healthy marriage is made up of two separate individuals who freely choose to respect one another and stay together. They do not become one. That is a stupefying myth which has had me in knots when I was newly wed. To say that we become one is to deny somebody’s right to BE, usually the part that has less power in the marriage, and here is where the problems arise. In marriage both parties are free, and they have to appreciate and evaluate this freedom every day. Anything less is akin to being in a dark and miserable prison.
    Thanks for the interesting article:)

    • Thank you for this very insightful comment. I too have always been puzzled why there is this instance on telling couples that they will now become “one”…it is probably the reason why so many people enter marriage with a skewed image of what the institution really means. The result is that they do not allow the other person to breathe and be themselves because they have been led to believe that they are meant to do everything together, always be in agreement, always feel the same way about everything etc. That, of course, is impossible, so no wonder so many people feel stifled. I also sometimes wonder if couples (before they get married) ever ask each other about their expectations of married life.

  • Elaine

    Loved the article, yes I feel the same way. Separated with kids, it’s not easy, but I relish the fact that no one is breathing down my neck. That I’m in full control of MY life and MY choices. I think after having given my all to an abusive man, now I feel rather selfish and I don’t want to share my freedom, my things, my dreams… I deserve the chance to develop without anyone else holding me back. It’s not about partying. It’s about being whole as one single person. The marriage decree is an extremely expensive document that means nothing. Commitment is in the fibre of a person, not in the fibres of a sheet of paper.

  • Christine Galea

    @ Elaine……..that’s a really good comment you made “It’s about being whole as one single person”. Reminds me of a quote a read somewhere (I have no idea who the author is):
    “Two halves have little choice but to join;
    And yes, they do make a whole.
    But two wholes, when they coincide,
    that is beauty”.
    The need for self-development as a person does not mean one is selfish in my opinion. I agree with your feelings that you wish to develop yourself without anyone else holding you back. Good luck and may you feel fulfilled. I too am more ‘settled’ since my separation and quite content to be on my own.(If you can call being a mother of three daughters and a grand mother to two ‘being alone’!!!). Although sometimes I must admit there are moments when it can get a bit lonely, overall my quality of life is much better now.
    The only point I don’t agree with you is where you say that the marriage decree means nothing. Marriage (not the decree) in itself can be a wonderful and enriching experience for those for whom it works. One cannot generalize.

  • Thanks for finally talking about >Josanne Cassar | Is marriage a form of entrapment?
    <Loved it!

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