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.
In 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