5 Reasons I Got Married & Why We Should Stop Criticizing Marriage. ~ Shasta Townsend

Via on Jun 3, 2013

marriage1

My friends called me the “un-marry-able woman.”

I was committed to a life of passionate lovers but not one of love. Marriage seemed limiting, patriarchal and old school. As a post-feminist woman, I did not need a man to support me, define me or possess me—so marriage was definitely off the table. I also really like good sex and could not imagine one man fulfilling that need for a lifetime.

Then I fell in love and I proposed.

It is in vogue to criticize the choice of marriage and monogamy. I agree, marriage still has a hangover from “women as property” days, which makes me want to throw up. I also observe that, for many women, their wedding day is a day that is “all about them” which perhaps signals we need a bigger and better dream as women than a $2,000 dress and matching china patterns.

Great sex is also a birthright as far as I am concerned and if he or she is not working for you then you need to speak up or switch it up. I know marriage and monogamy aren’t for everyone, but women who choose marriage and one sexual partner are not any less feminist than those who don’t. Judging our sisters is not sisterhood.

Stepping into marriage was one of the most challenging, exhilarating and yes, even spiritual experiences I have had in this life so far. I am not preaching marriage. I honor everyone’s experience, choice and desire but I am super tired of the anti-marriage crusade.

It is misogynistic that women are considered more acceptable when they are married and have children. Personally, as a woman who decided not to have children, it is intrusive, impolite and just darn abrasive when people tell me, “You still have time.” I really want to say, “I don’t want children so please fuck off and stop asking me why. It is none of your business.” I get it that women bristle when they are told they need to get married. You don’t need to get married but for me, it was a powerful experience and here’s five reasons I chose marriage:

1. You Can Bring Me Flowers: The Power of Vulnerability

When I was about six, I watched my domineering stepfather tell my mother what she could or could not buy with her money. I remember her slowly getting out of our 1980 Cougar, walking into a night shift as a waitress and looking sad and defeated. I knew all her tips would go to him. In that moment I told myself no man would ever tell me what to do and I would certainly ensure I never fell in love. I created an armor of self-sufficiency and independence that I thought would guarantee my safety and happiness. I was so efficient, successful and self-reliant that I did not need anyone.

This turned into an inability to receive gifts, help and even love. Talk about exhausting and a denial of worthiness! I chose men who were either so self-absorbed it would not occur to them to give in any way or men who were children so they required constant help. All of this fit very nicely into my self-contained world where receiving meant being vulnerable which I equated to weakness.

When I met Ian, my husband, he would bring me flowers, pick up groceries and be kind to me and it freaked me out. When he offered to pay for lunch when we were first dating I sarcastically retorted, “I don’t need you to buy me a thing. I am my own woman.”

He smiled and said, “I know but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to eat.”

I realized how rude, unkind and awful I was to reject his offers of support that were given with no attachment or expectation.

Stepping into relationship with a kind, supportive and giving man meant I had to believe I was worthy of that man and heal the wounds of my past. Marriage enabled me to see that being open to receive was a powerful gift to myself and the giver. To receive was to be vulnerable, which signaled a powerful trust. I did not need rescuing but I did need to leave the fortress of isolation and experience my innate worthiness.

You can bring me flowers!

2. Patriarchy No More: Embracing the Masculine/Embracing the Feminine

My parents’ marriage was the image of an abusive, angry masculine and a passive, submissive feminine so I rejected both. I became not only self-sufficient but also extremely critical of strong men and soft women. I rolled my eyes at romance, was purposefully confrontational and refused any traditional feminine roles.

Don’t get me wrong, I know women have less choice, are paid less and are still the object of degradation even in North America so sometimes we need to be overt, strong and “bitchy,” but I never quite felt whole, at peace or happy denying myself. I realize now that I was cut off from my feminine and standing in judgment of the masculine. Healing my own split in the masculine/feminine meant learning to love all aspects of myself and all aspects of another, even the parts that I found disgusting.

ying-yangIn Tantric philosophy, as in many spiritual paths, the masculine and feminine are in a dance together; both are required and both are powerful. In fact, the masculine requires the feminine to become whole and activated and the feminine required the masculine to take form within. The feminine is a powerful life force. This, of course, is what patriarchy has tried to destroy for thousands of years in its degradation of the feminine. So how do we overcome patriarchy?

When we reject the masculine, we feed the patriarchy machine. We feed the split, the victimization and the ridiculous notion that we don’t need each other. We are all masculine and feminine, whether we are man or woman, gay/lesbian or straight. To step into our humanity is to step into radical acceptance of this.

Marriage for me did not mean I submitted to a man, but rather that our individual feminine/masculine was honored and could dance equally together, thereby creating something powerful, something that we may not have been able to achieve alone. We created our own version of marriage, and to do that we each had to be willing to let go of hate, pain, rage and outdated archetypes and honor the powerful feminine and masculine in us both. When we change the system from within, we create powerful transformations.

So, take that patriarchy!

3. Dirty Underwear: Love as Fire

I realize my rejection of marriage was part of a limited narrative that held men as the victimizers and women as their victims. I also hated the notion of a man “completing me” and I still do. However, my marriage is one of the most significant means of personal growth and the strongest form of spiritual practice I know.

I teach yoga, Tantra and spiritual practice and yet, it is my marriage that has taught me the most about service, forgiveness, unconditional love, power and spirit. It is easy to talk about love in a room full of wonderful people all nodding in agreement. But when your husband leaves beer cans all over the house or won’t put his dirty underwear in the laundry basket, it is quite another thing.

Living and committing to another person was a true test for me, in the willingness to truly allow and honor another person even when I wanted to whack him over the head. If you want to experience growth, get married. I am not talking about accepting bad behavior or abuse, but there are some things I just learned to let go of like my need for people to show up perfectly in order for me to be happy.

I am not suggesting you need marriage to grow, but it is a great way to do so. For me, marriage was also a symbolic expression of my expansion. My willingness to marry Ian even though I was terrified signaled to me that I was ready to walk into the fire of my worst fears—vulnerability, trust, co-creation and potential abandonment and loss. All things are a part of a relationship, yet we do it anyway. As a person who has created her life to ensure she could be the first to walk away, marriage seemed like suicide and yet, I asked him to marry me. Maybe I had more strength, power and fire than I had realized, if I was willing to love.

4. Love as Rebellion, Love as Power

I used to ask, “Why me?” Why did I experience all the abuse, suffering and pain in my early life? Why did I not have parents who could love me and get their shit together? Why did all this happen to me? For many years I was angry, defensive and really just a bitch. I had lots of excuses and lots of people to blame.

Then I had an a-ha. What if the point was to love anyway? What if I could thrive no matter what? What if I chose to love deeply even though I was scared, angry and hurt? I know it sounds cliché but loving was a truly rebellious act.

I was no longer a victim. I wasn’t ruled by patriarchy or rejecting it. I actually was more powerful than it. My past, my genetic line or my society’s paradigms weren’t dictating. I am just love—the most powerful force in the universe. In a world where we really are all in this together, our ability to truly step into love—whatever form it takes—is the most powerful thing we can do.

5. I Fucking Love You: Ishta Devata

I am crazy about my husband. Even after a decade of marriage, my husband totally turns me on; he is the first person I want to talk to each day and the last person I want to say goodbye to. He is not perfect and at times drives me a little crazy, as I do him, but I love him fully. I never expected or even believed this could be possible—to love someone as unconditionally as I love him.

In Tantric philosophy, Ishta Devata is God/Goddess in the form of our Beloved. My husband is my Ishta Devata. I know the Divine is real when I look into his eyes and see love, wisdom and life force there. You don’t need marriage or even a lover to experience Ishta Devata, as it can take form in a friend, a muse or even your child, but for me the form is Ian. Spending my life with him in marriage was the natural choice.

 

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Ed: Brianna Bemel

About Shasta Townsend

Shasta Townsend Shasta inspires people by helping them make more sense of their world and flourish in it. Thanks to her emboldened but down-to-earth teachings and her passionate campfire style story-telling, she provide students and readers with the clear know-how to experience inspired possibility and real joy. Focusing her expertise in sacred sexuality and love, Shasta's breakthrough methods awaken and empower individuals to embrace intimacy as a source of transformation, joy and spirit. She fearlessly offers up the sacred cows of sexuality and romance, as she transparently and meaningfully speaks, teaches and writes to the power of true connection as a catalyst to experience our innate wholeness, happiness and freedom. Evidence of her gift is apparent in a multitude of success stories from her happy readers and students. She calls her self the “untantric Tantric” teacher and encourages you to release dogma and become your own guru. She offers many opportunities for you to flourish in the bedroom, the boardroom or wherever your life takes you. She is a Featured Columnist for Elephant Journal, Rebelle Society and Vivid Life, she speaks and teaches worldwide and is completing a book on the power of sex. Visit www.shastatownsend.com to learn more or connect with her on Facebook at Happy, Sexy, Shameless.

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24 Responses to “5 Reasons I Got Married & Why We Should Stop Criticizing Marriage. ~ Shasta Townsend”

  1. Judy says:

    Love this, and I am so happy for you!!

  2. Katia says:

    Now this is an honest, well-written article that comes from a place of love! :)

  3. Trish Huston says:

    Beautiful as always :)

  4. MatBoy says:

    As boomers we grew up thinking that we somehow had power over our lives and where they would take us, that we could pick and choose our experiences and that this would lead, somehow, to greater satisfaction in life. I have not seen that belief borne out in almost all of my friends' lives. In fact, the opposite is likely more common: dissatisfaction, isolation and loneliness are more often the result of the choices they have made in their lives and at 50+ years old, it is difficult to right the ship.

    When I was young, probably in high school, an old-timer told me that the 4 most important things I needed to do is life were: go to university, serve in the military, get married and to have and raise kids. The ideas seemed crazy at the time but now I recognize their wisdom. These 4 things were most likely to take me out of my self-generated and self-centered life narrative and force me to confront new experiences that would enable me to grow-up and to see the world from a wider-angle.

    I never joined the armed forces, but I can imagine how it would have taken me, very quickly, out of my self-centered universe and taught me other lessons about myself and my relationship to my culture and the world. I've done the other 3 things on my mentor's list and all have brought me insight unavailable through any other life experience. I know that I 'lucked-out' by meeting my spouse over 30 years ago so I do not feel that I am in a position to advise others on getting married because I do not know their feelings or circumstances. My marriage did work out and it is the bedrock upon which both of us have built our lives: our communication and support only deepens and improves each years. Our relationship has passed through many phases and now, since our children are on their own, we begin to prepare to confront the challenges of growing frail and old together. Sure, previous phases were more exciting but none were more meaningful.

    In our fast-changing societies it is easy to get separated from friends and family and to arrive at retirement, or late-middle-age without a healthy support group, family or other active and enjoyable network of friends. Old-age inevitably leads to poverty and dependance because we can no longer participate in the economy and support ourselves. Relying on the government to step in to take care of us seems soulless; having a spouse I truly like spending time with, in contrast, feels like a dream come true.

  5. Cristin Whiting Cristin Whiting says:

    Beautiful!

  6. Linda Lewis Linda V. Lewis says:

    Trungpa Rinpoche used to encourage his students to marry as a way to practice all the paramitas–generosity, patience, discipline, exertion, meditation, and insight–so your seeing marriage as spiritual development is right on! But also, tantra in the buddhadharma tradition sees each of us as embodying both masculine and feminine qualities–so your marriage is indeed the union of 2 whole beings, each already complete.

  7. Megazilla says:

    This is so refreshing! As a 24 year old woman engaged to be married in 4 months, I can't tell you how much of the marriage bashing I've come across since I became engaged. I'm definitely of the opinion that marriage can be good for some people but not for others (it's all up to your own choice), yet it also does not have to fit into one person's definition of it. I think a lot of people my age think I'm settling or losing my feminist side, but my decision couldn't be further from the truth. Thanks for using your voice to speak on behalf of those of us who are getting married and are strong, independent, and powerful people who happen to be completely in love with another person.

  8. Dearbhla Kelly Dearbhla says:

    Beautiful.

  9. Amber says:

    Thank you! I loved this!

  10. Anna says:

    Hi Shasta, thanks for sharing your experience with us all. :) I am curious what it is about being married that made it possible for you to "grow" that wasn't possible if you were simply in a committed long-term relationship (everything except the marriage certificate)?

  11. EachHisOwn says:

    I will take your word for it. I am a woman who agrees with your pre-marriage views.

  12. Sarah Louisignah says:

    Your introduction led me to believe that you were pro-marriage but not pro-monogamy – and I was STOKED! “I also really liked sex and could not imagine one man fulfilling me for a lifetime.” But it’s not. You can still be in complete love and have the marriage you have without closing that door. That’s what I’m doing. My partner and I are practicing non-monogamy and we just got engaged. To me this choice has been the biggest spiritual and yogic growth opportunity of my life.

  13. Camilla says:

    Great article………….. loved it!!

  14. lisab says:

    Gorgeous. And I've actually read some stats somewhere that say that people tend to have more fullfilling sex in happy long-term commitments. I don't get why people think novel sex is better sex. Personally, I thought sex was extremely overrated until I met my husband. Almost 5 years later and it's still the best ever.

  15. lisab says:

    One more thing. This — "Stepping into relationship with a kind, supportive and giving man meant I had to believe I was worthy of that man and heal the wounds of my past. Marriage enabled me to see that being open to receive was a powerful gift to myself and the giver. To receive was to be vulnerable, which signaled a powerful trust. I did not need rescuing but I did need to leave the fortress of isolation and experience my innate worthiness." — OMG yes! I was raised to be a little girl Viking. We didn't need men, we didn't need anyone. And then suddenly I had to figure out how to receive love from a man with grace. Thank goodness all I had ever really wanted to do was give it. :) Thanks for this refreshing and soulful contribution.

  16. manorama says:

    my first thought after i read this was to comment "beautiful" then i read the comments and saw I wasn't the only one that thought that! :)

  17. Gerry Ellen Avery Gerry Ellen says:

    Boy, did I stumble onto this at just the right moment! Thank you for such an eye-popping piece. I feel like our paths resonate in so many ways….great great article.

  18. Ellen says:

    I am a person who struggles with the idea of marriage. By that I mean that I think about if I want it or not, and why. A lot! From my point of view marriage still seems to be the status quo for the evolution of a long term committed relationships. I am 27. Is it generational? Marriage seems to be the act of the entire life that happens AFTER the marriage ceremony, which is where I get stuck. I get stuck on, and nauseous from, the symbolism of a white dress, the act of my father giving me away to another man, and the biblical meanings underlying even in secular marriages. Living in a marriage seems to be the place where your five points make sense to me. I really enjoyed reading your article. What you describe sounds great! I want all of that in my life. The ceremony, which in my mind the foundation of marriage, is what bothers me. If we accept or edit the ceremony, change it to meet our personal needs and call it marriage, are we just continuing a misogynist institution that could change? Why, as feminists, do many women and men choose to use a name and an institution "marriage" with its symbolic roots still showing in the ceremony rather than come up with an alternative? Should/ could we call it something else? Honestly, I am just confused. I grew up with this fantasy presented to me, I like attention for sure, and the presence of all my loved ones gathered to celebrate a lifelong relationship sounds blissful… I love rom-coms. I just dont get marriage. Please comment!

  19. emotionalviolence says:

    Beautiful! Thank you for this! Much love to you!

  20. Naomi says:

    I have always thought of marriage this way "creating something powerful that we may not have been able to achieve alone"…You also also reminded me a lot of my own journey in this article, moving from a place of fear and self protection towards vulnerability, acceptance and love. I think the beauty of this time we live in is that we have the freedom to choose the types of love we want to engage in and a marriage can be what we want it to be. It doesn't have to be defined by societal values or even influenced by the opinions of our friends or loved ones. I really enjoyed your article.

  21. tania says:

    thank you. I needed to hear/Read this

  22. Happening Spinster says:

    As a never-married woman in my 40's, I feel like my friends tell me, "Oh, marriage isn't all it's cracked up to be" to make me feel better about the fact that I never found the right person. But then those who are like, "how come you never got married" as a criticism can't understand that what you and your husband have are what I want, and I won't settle for anything less. Kudos for finding that needle in this haystack, Shasta. Great article!!

  23. Farah says:

    You're not someone who was against marriage you SIMPLY turned into someone who's is love and experienced that "bliss", don't see why you needed to post this article. It's not about marriage but you're just defining and expressing that state and life of loving your husband and those who find that "great great" person would be more open than ever to change. That's all about it.
    Anyway didn't know that you would live with someone for a decade and he will still turn you on.

  24. @natehermes says:

    beautifully written piece. thank you.

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