A Single Guy’s Thoughts on Marriage

January 6, 2010 § 22 Comments


 I’m blessed to have guest blogger Jamey Stegmaeir today. He’s a great writer and has become a dear friend. When he isn’t writing beautiful short stories or working on his blog, he’s taking excellent care of his cat, Biddy. (and maybe you’ve seen pictures of his skinny jeans on twitter)

I write a daily blog over at http://jameystegmaier.com/My blog topics jump around—I focus on whatever is interesting or exciting to me that day, topics that I hope will provoke conversation without offending anyone.

 

Lately I’ve been blogging a lot about relationships. I recently ended a relationship that was heading towards engagement, a relationship that was immediately preceded by another relationship heading in that direction. Both women were wonderful people, but I just didn’t feel like they were the ones I could mate with for life.

I recently wrote two complementary blog entries—one on what I want in a woman (which garnered a huge number of comments) and the other about why I’m choosing to be single for a while. Harley and I discussed those entries in regards to my fears and concerns about marriage, and she mentioned the possibility of my writing about those fears on her blog. It’ll go hand in hand with a similar post from Harley herself, obviously from the perspective of a married woman with kids.

My Top 3 Fears About Getting Married

Friendships.  What happens to friendships when people get married? Of course, friendships can dissipate from any romantic relationship, but with marriage it seems like more of a long-term change. Why do two people who have several circles of friends, some overlapping, some not, somehow neglect all those friendships after marriage? I view marriage itself as a very important friendship, but I don’t think I would be whole without other friends as well. I’m just scared that despite my desire for continued friendships, it simply won’t happen, because I know few adults my parents’ age who have those types of friendships.

Kids.  I would love to have kids. I think that bringing life to the world is one of the greatest gifts you can give. I love the idea of raising kids and coaching them and teaching them and learning to let go, the whole package. What scares me is how kids will affect my relationship with my wife, as well as how they’ll affect the time that I need for myself. I know that you need to find a balance, but with that balance comes great sacrifice. I already devote time and attention to my cat, who requires very little time and attention. And it feels like a lot. How could I possibly handle a child?

Making the Wrong Choice.  Friendships and kids are fears that I face assuming I’ll actually get married. But there is one fear that definitely holds me back from taking the next step to marriage: making the wrong choice. What if she’s not the right one? And please don’t say, “You’ll just know.” Because I felt like I knew at times with my past two girlfriends. How do you know that you’ll “just know” every day of your life for the rest of your life? How do you know that? I think the fact of the matter is that you don’t, but you have to find someone for whom you’re pretty sure the “knowing” days will outnumber the days that you have doubts.

I hope you can tell from reading this that I’m not your typical case of “commitment jitters”—I’m not the guy who’s scared of the idea that I’ll only get to sleep with one woman for the rest of my life. Honestly, that seems fantastic—what’s wrong with one sexual partner? You have so much to explore and discover within the Trust Tree.

That being said, I’m curious about your thoughts, particularly those of you who are—or have been—married. And feel free to subscribe to my blog if you’re interested in these types of topics.

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§ 22 Responses to A Single Guy’s Thoughts on Marriage

  • Thanks so much for posting this, Harley! I look forward to seeing your post in response sometime!

  • Oh, and I also realize that the end of the post got cut off. Here’s the rest:

    “…woman for the rest of my life. Honestly, that seems fantastic—what’s wrong with one sexual partner? You have so much to explore and discover within the Trust Tree.

    That being said, I’m curious about your thoughts, particularly those of you who are—or have been—married. And feel free to subscribe to my blog if you’re interested in these types of topics.”

  • harleymay says:

    So sorry Jamey. I have fixed the issue and your article is restored. Experts say that with every child you have, 25% of your mental functions are lost. I am the poster child for this theory. Please forgive me. I will punish myself.

  • Anne Riley says:

    Jamey and Harley – thanks for posting this! Jamey, I can absolutely see where your fears come from. With the divorce rate being what it is, and people’s kids often running amok and rebelling against their parents – well, it’s enough to terrify anyone, isn’t it?

    Yes, getting married can be a scary prospect, and I don’t think it’s something to be done just because you feel like you should, or because everyone else is doing it. I have been married for only about a year and a half, and I LOVE IT but it does take work. You can’t be nearly as selfish in marriage as you can be when you’re single (which is hard for me) and you have to learn how to communicate clearly. You can’t think of just yourself any more – there are always two of you to consider in every situation.

    That being said, marriage is the most satisfying, liberating, comfortable thing in the world to my husband and me. I wouldn’t give it up for anything. How did I know he was the man I wanted to be with for the rest of my life? I studied him. We dated for almost four years before we got engaged. We saw each other at our worst. And – this won’t sound legit unless you are a Christian too – we both prayed for wisdom. And you know what? We got it. But we do know that we have to continue to work, continue to communicate, continue to pray for strength in our marriage – because it’s not something you can just settle into and let it run its course.

    I could go on forever, but I won’t. Hopefully I was coherent (just woke up, haha)! Thanks again for posting!

    • Anne–I like to read comments like the one you just wrote. I want to be assured about marriage. I want to believe in it, and I want to believe that it can work. My parents are still married after 31 years, which is great, but some of the worries expressed above have come from my perspective on their marriage.

      I appreciate the Christian perspective (I’m Catholic). I think praying together is a powerful thing (for people of any faith). I also like the idea of really studying the person you’re dating–I’ve done that too. That reassures me about point 3.

      But what about point 1? Tell me about that. I’m really interested in how married couples end up without friends. Maybe after a year and half you haven’t experienced this yet, but surely you’ve seen it in other people. How does that happen?

      Jamey

  • Don says:

    I’m really only qualified to speak on fears one and three 🙂

    I’m just scared that despite my desire for continued friendships, it simply won’t happen, because I know few adults my parents’ age who have those types of friendships.

    YMMV, but any sort of life change tends to affect some, if not all, of your friendships. When I went to college, some friends drifted away and some new ones came into my life. Moved to a different city, same thing. Got married, same thing. Decided to become a writer, same thing. A few friendships survived the changes and a few, sadly, didn’t.

    People grow and change, and sometimes that growth takes them in different directions. It doesn’t have to be a foregone conclusion that marriage becomes a detriment to friendships, any more than any other commitment you make in your life. It’s a choice that can be made if you’re aware of what’s going on around you. Without exception, I saw which friends were drifting away and on the verge of entering my life at each point, and made choices about what to do about it–not always the best choices, or the most successful efforts–but I never woke up one morning and said, “Where’d everyone go?”

    And please don’t say, “You’ll just know.” Because I felt like I knew at times with my past two girlfriends. How do you know that you’ll “just know” every day of your life for the rest of your life?

    Assuming you chose “the one,” then it becomes less “just knowing” and more choosing as time passes. It’s that easy–and that difficult. And, it’s not just your choices, but your spouse’s as well. Therein lies the rub.

    Something occurs to me that I’ve never thought of before. People rightly worry about divorce rates and fear bad marriages. But just as I’ve looked at, for example, the way the writers I want to be like conduct their writing lives and finding, with all that infinite variation, a path that resonates with me, why couldn’t people look at marriages the same way?

    Hm… I should stop before that takes me off into a tangent that distracts me from writing the story that will make Harley dance! :). Oh, and working my dayjob.

    • Don–

      Not sure what YMMV means, but thanks for the comment. I understand what you’re saying about choices (both in terms of friendships and “the one”). If you don’t mind sharing, what is your friendship situation with your wife? Does she have a group of lady friends she hangs out with on occasion? Do you have friends you hang out with? Do you have overlapping groups of friends that you see on a regular basis? Do you grab lunch/dinner on occasion with individual friends?

      I love the dynamics of all those different types of friendships, and although I know the dynamic will change (I’ve seen it happen when I date), I still think it’s healthy to not put all your friendship eggs in one wife basket. That’s my take, but I’d like to make that happen in my marriage.

      That’s an interesting point about looking at healthy marriages and following those paths. That’s part of the reason I want to hear more about healthy marriages and how people make and maintain them.

      Jamey

      • Don says:

        YMMV = Your mileage may vary :).

        If you don’t mind sharing, what is your friendship situation with your wife? Does she have a group of lady friends she hangs out with on occasion? Do you have friends you hang out with? Do you have overlapping groups of friends that you see on a regular basis? Do you grab lunch/dinner on occasion with individual friends?

        The short answer is: all of the above. Now, I’m the introvert. The Mrs. is the more outgoing, so her friends outnumber mine. We both have male and female friends which the other spouse would really consider more acquaintances. And, we do have one big group of overlapping friends–some couples, others not–some of whom gravitate to me or my wife. It’s hard to physically see a lot of them from that group very often, but that’s mostly because of distance rather than married vs. single life. We saw a bunch of them a couple of weeks ago and I’m 99% sure I’m going to see them at a camping trip this July.

        Now that I think of it, I can give you one example of two friends in our circle who have known each other since 8th grade–well over 30 years. They both got married, moved to different states and back, but have lived within 2 miles of each other the whole time I’ve known them (6 years, now). They’re friends, their spouses are friends, they’re friends with each others’ sposes, and the children have, for all intents and purposes, two sets of parents. AND, they are not their only friends–they’re always willing to let more friends in (my wife and me, for instance) because their capacity for sharing seems virtually endless.

        … I still think it’s healthy to not put all your friendship eggs in one wife basket

        Absolutely–no question! With this to add: If the marriage is at all healthy, if there’s more than a token effort at honesty from both parties, then your spouse will know you like no one else and vice versa–like it or not. Maybe not every single iota of your brain, but when you’re sharing lives, there will be a growing familiarity. For some people, there’s a lot of satisfaction to be gained there.

        Jonathan Lethem wrote, “As I get older I find that the friendships that are the most certain, ultimately, are the ones where you and the other person have made substantial amounts of money for one another.” Now, I don’t think that’s strictly true, but there is an underlying truth there. We do gravitate toward people with whom we can share ourselves, with whom we have things or can develop things in common–maybe it’s a business, maybe it’s a love of listening to Chicago records on vinyl, maybe it’s how two people decide how they’re going to pay the bills. In any case, it’s no surprise to me that in a lot of the more successful marriages I’ve ever encountered–mine included (so far, so good, fingers crossed!)–the spouse really is considered the best friend.

  • John Aughey says:

    We can talk about this more interactively, but I couldn’t not comment on this post. I might be a bit blunt.

    Your concerns were, #1 Friendships, #2 Kids, #3 Right Choice.

    Let’s start with #1 Friendships. I agree that 100% of everything you fear will happen. Your circles of friends will overlap, dwindle on the fringes, and expand in other ways. You will “neglect” your friends. Your current friends don’t “need” you – they’ll get by. You don’t “need” your current friends – you’ll get by. Your friends will change. You’ll have different amounts of time to spend both alone and together with friends. These times will change throughout your relationship and other life events (see #2). If you like how things are now, great – it will change and you’ll deal with it. The married adults you know do have those types of friendships, they’re just different.

    With that can open, let’s open up another for #2. Kids will change your life even more than getting married. I’m not going to say, oh they’re wonderful and it’ll be the best years of your life. I’m not saying that’s true or false, but what I will say is it is having kids is damn hard. Your attention to your wife, friends, and beloved cat will change more than you can imagine. You’ll discuss poop like Monday night football. You won’t have the same time you have now to write, you won’t sleep, you’ll gain weight, you’ll argue, and you’ll get sick more often (and not be able to lay around like you want). There is no balance – it changes daily. You’ll deal with it.

    I don’t think I’m helping, but let’s try #3. There is no “right choice”. I love my wife dearly, but I bet there’s someone else out there that would “work” too. That’s the thing, you have to make it work with whomever you ultimately choose. How you make it work, well that’s up to you. Dating definitely helps you choose your cards and allows you to fold when necessary. Technically marriage allows you to fold too, but the pot grows. I don’t have much more to say about this one.

    My overall response is, every one of your fears will come true. You’ll just have to figure out how you’re going to deal with them when they come, and accept it.

  • The recurring theme of these comments (as well as one person who commented directly on my blog) is choice. Marriage is a choice. Staying married is a choice. Adapting to new friendships is a choice. Kids are a choice (although, unlike marriage, once you have kids, there’s no longer any choice).

    No one has really mentioned the choice of not getting married. Isn’t that just as legitimate a choice as getting married? I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but name one “married” thing that I can’t get because I’m single. Marriage seems like the default path to take, and I’ve never really questioned it, but if I’m going to say “yes” to all those other choices, I want to first have turned down the alternative.

    I’m not bashing marriage at all–really, not at all. I’m just curious what you all think.

  • Anne Riley says:

    Hey again! Okay, so… point 1. Here’s the thing: Rob (my husband) and I had a lot of the same friends to begin with. We went to college together, and even though we’re from different cities, our groups of friends sort of meshed together at UA. So we do still see our friends a lot. Would it be different if our friends had not become friends with each other? Maybe. I don’t know.

    But, you know? We’ve got a lot of single friends that we don’t see much, and it’s not because of us – it’s them. They don’t have time for us! But our friends that are married – we see them all the time. Probably at least once a week, we hang out with either another couple, or a group of friends (mostly married couples).

    I think what Don said is right on the money: It’s not just marriage that can get in the way of sustaining friendships. It’s any life changing event. And I think that when you get married, you can either make your friends a priority, or you can not. But as long as everyone realizes the importance of friendships, and everyone makes the effort to maintain those relationships, there’s not a problem. Does that make sense? I’ve felt like my marriage has strengthened my friendships as opposed to breaking them down. My friends and I are going through the first years of marriage together, and the same goes for Rob and his friends. It’s sort of like a new common bond.

    Does that help?

    • That’s a really good sell. I can buy into that. Perhaps I just need to find a woman who shares my philosophy on friendships. Most of my friends are on the path to marriage, so I’d have plenty of support (and could offer support) in our married friendships.

  • Sarah says:

    Okay, Jamey, I showed up on this blog. I saw your last challenge here… aren’t you glad you got a Marriage and Family editor on this thread? Haha, bear with me.

    I think there is nothing wrong with being single. But it is different.

    I loved what this other post-er said, “marriage is the most satisfying, liberating, comfortable thing in the world to my husband and me.” I know it’s popular now for couples to live together and forego marriage vows, but even in our divorce-ridden culture, study (after study, after study) shows that taking those marriage vows up the security and “liberation” and safety (and physical health, and financial health… the list goes on) of all involved. There is just something special, unique, binding about the marriage commitment… it gives you added strength to do the hard work of love (as our deacon says, it is a “school of love”).

    Unless you decide you love being single or feel called to singlehood (which is great too), then I actually don’t see anything wrong with “defaulting” to the idea of marriage. (Speaking as a fellow Catholic :)) Genesis: “Man and woman he created them… ” Adam was alone among the animals until Eve, when he exclaimed, “At last! Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh!” I think most of us (not all) but most of us are just wired to find life most satisfying in this arrangement!

    Have you ever read much of JPII’s “Theology of the Body”? I’m in awe of how God works in the sacrament of marriage after studying some of that. Not that marriage is superior to other life states, but marriage is definitely it’s own special path. 🙂

    • I do like empirical evidence for this sort of thing, so I appreciate you citing studies on the security, liberation, and safety (and so on). I can see that. I was just playing devil’s advocate, but it’s good to have some numbers to back up the idea of getting married. I believe in the special type of love that marriage can create, and I hope I find that–and make a choice for that–someday.

      I haven’t read Theology of the Body, no–maybe I’ll check it out. Sometimes I have my doubts about what celibate priests really know about marriage–they only know what they see and what people tell them–but I have heard some great insights from my priest, so they probably know something 🙂

  • The Gourmez says:

    I agree with what you just posted Jamey, what would be important is finding a woman with the same philosophy on friendships. My husband and I feel like we are wasting away if we don’t get out of the house at least a few times a week and we are the ones who are often proposing things to do with our friends, both married and single. Being social is something we value, so we have to make the effort to keep it up and not just drift into everyday coupled monotony. Many of our friends do just that, and it makes us sad that they no longer want to hang out as much, but hey, that’s them. So we search out new people who are willing to be more active socially. We thrive on it, so we make it happen. That would be the case as more and more of your friends couple off whether you are single or married–being married only means you have a partner to help you seek out new friends who do want to spend time away from home.

    Kids, I don’t want them, so I can’t comment on them!

    I believe there are many right people in the world for each of us; what makes the difference is our commitment to work at a relationship. If you haven’t found a woman that you can say, yes, she might drive me crazy and this and this may be a problem down the road, but gosh darn it, I love her and we will make it work, then no, you shouldn’t get married. You have to want to succeed at partnering with that person and then work at it as needed.

    • Thanks for chiming in! That’s wonderful that you found a life partner that shared your social philosophy. I really think it’s something that must be shared. If you have someone sitting at home waiting for their partner to come home and socially fulfill them, something’s going to break. (I think that might be able to work if they don’t have that need at all, but otherwise, those couples are in trouble.)

      “Our commitment to work at a relationship.” I’ve been hearing that a lot today :). On my main blog, Sarah posted an interesting question she heard: “Look at the person you’re dating and ask, ‘If I die, would I want that person to raise our children without me?'” That’s commitment if you choose that person (if you want kids).

      I think I’ll let Harley take over the discussion from here, but I really appreciate all of you sharing your thoughts on this. I appreciate you not waving off my fears as illegitimate. They’re real, those fears, but hearing what you all had to say gave me some positive ways to approach those fears.

  • Sarah says:

    Jamey – I hear ya on the celibate priest thing! Although, lol, I am actually making an appointment to meet with a local priest to discuss marriage (to a special man) this week. Go figure!

    If you want a married man’s perspective (and an easier read), Christopher West (married, 3 kids) is an expert on JPII’s “Theology of the Body”: http://www.christopherwest.com/

  • donnacarrick says:

    Harley and Jamey, thank you both for the direct and honest posts on this difficult topic. Is marriage difficult? You betcha. Is it worth it? That answer will vary for each couple.

    These issues are tough to discuss, and I appreciate your bringing them into light.

    Best,
    Donna

  • Thanks, Donna. 🙂 We’ll see if my journey leads me to marriage, and I wish you the best in yours.

  • harleymay says:

    Donna, you brought up an excellent point I didn’t address in my response to Jamey’s. “Is it worth it? That answer will vary for each couple.”
    Depending on the situation, there are certainly marriages not worth salvaging and fighting for. Were I, or my children, in emotional or physical danger, I would not have tried to reconcile. I am fortunate to never be in that kind of danger. This discussion should be reserved for another blog post, though. 🙂 Thanks, Donna.

  • […] on Harley May’s blog, where I recently had a guest post and she had a follow-up post, there has been a discussion about “the one.” So many […]

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