Dear Lisa: Let us offer you some hope

Lisa of broken daughters recently wrote a post in which she admitted that even though she is in a wonderful relationship with a wonderful young man, she is scared to death of marriage and can’t picture herself married. Now, I don’t think there is anything wrong with people choosing not to marry, and plenty make that choice. It’s just that Lisa’s reasons are as follows:

“But I’m afraid of marriage. I’m afraid of what marriage is to me, what I have been taught marriage is. You see, I only know two extremes: The fundamentalist marriages, and the supposedly terrible secular marriages. I don’t want to be a submissive, meek wife and lose everything I dream of these days. I don’t want to go back to where I’ve been. I don’t want to waste everything I sacrificed just to end up back in the old ways. And I also don’t want one of these marriages the fundamentalists talk about: The man lazy and fat, cheating on his wife, going to swingerclubs, terrible kids. It’s all I know, and I want neither.

I realize there’s got to be more but I just can’t imagine what it would look like. I have just tasted freedom and marriage seems like a prison now.”

And so I would say to Lisa, take the time to enjoy that freedom and don’t feel like you have to get married, now or ever. But realize that you are right – there is more. You may not be able to picture it right now, but it is out there.

I was also, like you, given a dichotomous view of marriage growing up. There was the “good” married couple following “biblical” gender roles and patriarchal authority structures, and there was the “bad” married couple, where the woman “wore the pants” and the man was reduced to an emasculate house guest. I think part of the problem is that those who live a patriarchal lifestyle and have a patriarchal mindset are incapable of imagining a marriage based on genuine equality, where the husband and wife are partners and friends, and instead think that if the man isn’t in charge, it must be the other way around. Another part of the problem is the fallacious idea that if you don’t do things the “biblical” and “godly” way, your life will be horrible and an utter ruin. Both of these ideas are wrong. 

I’ve been married for a while now, and have two children, and my marriage is part of the “more” that Lisa has so much trouble imagining. It stands outside of the dichotomy I was given growing up. My husband and I are partners and friends, and we make decisions together. We communicate, we find compromises when we disagree, and we hold each other in mutual respect. He is not emasculated by the fact that I am his equal. We parent together, love together, live together. It’s called an “egalitarian” marriage, one based on equality and partnership, respect and love.

And so I thought I’d ask my readers to help me out here. Can you join me in helping Lisa envision some of the “more” she knows must be out there? Can you give her some idea of what an egalitarian marriage looks and feels like? Please leave a comment with some of your thoughts and experiences.

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