Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.
– Pablo Picasso
I love being married. I love living with Alex and planning our future together. I love parenting children with him. I love planning to spend the rest of my life with him. I love having a partner I can rely on and know will always be part of my life. I love having someone who knew me when I was 20 and will know me when I'm an old lady. I love sharing the ride with someone. But other things that traditionally are part of marriage not only don't add joy to be life, but in fact actively hinder my ability to be happy. Traditionally, women are supposed to marry men who can “take care of them” by earning more. My husband is a stay-at-home father, a decision that lets our children have an amazing caretaker full-time and helps our household run smoothly. I have always and will always make much more money than my husband, even when he is working. We did not have a church wedding with a white wedding gown. And my husband and I have chosen to be non-mongamous. And we are not the only ones who have made these decisions. There are many, many more. Even traditional, more conservative couples often have chosen to drop some of the assumptions of marriage, at least in some areas.
This is an exciting and fertile time for marriage. The old structures and beliefs that have created a mythology of marriage that the last few generations have been raised on as truth have begun falling away. By necessity, marriage is changing. Let me restate that: Marriage is changing again. It has changed many times in the past, despite claims by some that there has only been one true way to be married. Marriage has not always been about love, it has not always been a choice of the participants, and it has not always been about sexual monogamy (at least for the man, who in most cultural contexts was permitted to have mistresses at least). Gay marriage, polyamory, swinging, stay-at-home fathers, marriage contracts that have an expiration date, childless marriages – they are on the rise, and challenge our traditional notions of what a marriage is. Conservative organizations say “marriage is under attack” and in many ways they are right. The things they identify as core to marriage are under attack by cultural forces The fact that so many conservative organizations are struggling mightily to try to hold the struts in place so the whole edifice doesn't fall apart is evidence that the relentless forces of change are exerting force on an institution we once held dear. Marriage as we once knew it is clearly being destroyed. But that doesn't mean marriage as a concept is dying – this is just an opportunity for it to be reborn.
Marriage has become like a buffet. We are presented with a range of options, some traditional, some new. We get to choose which ones work for us. And what if none works for you? You get to make it up as you go along. This is exciting! We get to explore new territory, try new things, think new thoughts, relate in new ways. But it is also scary – we are on the bleeding edge. We could get hurt. It could fail. There will be unexpected results. Some may be content to accept marriage as tradition has dictated it should be – and if that makes them content, then so be it. Nothing wrong with traditional marriage if it works for all involved. However, if you are not happy with that then now is the time to change it. Go forward bravely, knowing that there may be bumps along the way but you have the power to shape your relationship in ways not dreamed of in the past.
If you'd like to read more about the new frontier of marriage, I recommend Pamela Haag, who seems to be one of those at the forefront of those envisioning a new way of being married. She's the author of Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Workhorse Wives, Royal Children, Undersexed Spouses, and Rebel Couples Who Are Rewriting the Rules and keeps a blog called Marriage 3.0 at http://bigthink.com/blogs/marriage-30.