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love, marriage and someone else's american dream

love, marriage and someone else's american dream

"You marry for money. Love comes later."

My grandmother said this to me when I was 21 and breaking off an engagement with a guy who was financially stable but mentally one fry short of a happy meal.

Grandma was old school. In her world, women married out of necessity, not love. They reached a certain age and it was expected they would marry, have children, tend to the every need of their husband and live a life of quiet servitude. Women depended on men the way you depend on air to exist. As long as he put food on the table and went to work every day you could overlook the drinking, the womanizing, the occasional name calling.

The first time I married, I thought it was for love. It certainly wasn't for money. It wasn't until 7 years and two kids later that I realized I was confusing love with need. As in you need to marry me because it's your only chance. You need to stay with me because you will never find anyone else. You need to get married at 25 because all your friends and cousins are getting married and it's just what's expected of you.

My father, subjected to my grandmother's ideas of stations and standards and gender roles for most of his life, expected certain things of his daughters. Marrying was one of them. Marrying well was another. He meant well. All he wanted for us was the American Dream. The problem is, his American Dream is not mine. He wanted me to live his life. He wanted me to meet the standards he set for himself. Own your own home. Have two cars. Pay off your credit on time. Look good in the public eye. Keep your lawn trimmed and put your garbage out on Tuesdays and join the PTA bowling league and make sure your kids never have snotty noses. And always, always depend on your man. He will make the money and put the meat on the table and he will negotiate with all car salesmen while you nod your head politely and he will provide.

Well, I tried. I tried for seven years to give dad what he wanted. Two problems with that, though. My husband would not oblige dad's dream and it wasn't really what I wanted anyhow.

I wanted to hold hands. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to take walks on the beach and go to DisneyWorld with the kids and smile for the camera and be happy. I wanted dinner conversation and cuddling in front of the fireplace and I wanted to go to bed at night with a content heart and arms wrapped around me. That was my dream. Not the house, not the car, not the Ivy League education for my kids. Happiness. Contentment.

Of course, I got none of that. I didn't get my own dream or my dad's. So when the marriage bit the proverbial dust, no one batted an eye. No one was surprised. Life went on. And I would get another chance at the dream.

Forward to now. When I tell my father I'm getting married again this summer, I know by the look in his eyes that he is happy for me, yet not. This is not his dream for me. This is not his standards. He wants me to save money. He wants me to put away for a rainy day. He wants me to buy a house and another car and he wants my future husband to have more of a station in life. An accountant would have been nice. A lawyer. A fireman. Someone who joins the Kiwanis club and golfs on weekends and provides for his daughter.

I tell my father, finally. That is not my life. That's his. And for once I am living my own life. I am setting my own standards. This is my rainy day. He wants me to save for my future but my future is now. I am almost 40. I deserve a life. I may never own my own home and we will probably always drive shitty cars and I will never, ever again depend on someone else to provide for me. I have my own career, my own bank account, my own things. This isn't going to be a marriage about status or money or white picket fences. This is a marriage about love. We may never join the Chamber of Commerce or have a family golf outing, but we will always be happy. After putting the most miserable years of my life behind me, I am finally happy.

I tell my father, this is the most content I have ever been in my life. That maybe he finds contentment in a manicured lawn and zero balance on the Visa, but I find contentment in holding hands and cuddling by the fireplace and dinner conversation. I find contentment in the warmth of my home, even though I don't own the particular home. I find happiness in the life I have chosen for myself. And I know that, although he won't come right out and say it, at least not yet, my father finds happiness in that.

I'm sure grandma is looking at me from whatever world she is now, shaking her head and silently cursing my decisions. But times change, grandma. This time I'm marrying for love. Maybe the money will come later. Maybe not. All I know is I go to bed at night with a content heart and arms wrapped around me. I am living my dream.

Comments

Superbly written. You bring a ringing clarity to things.

Benjamin Franklin once described ideas as being like fire, they spread freely without diminishing. Sometimes when I read your posts I find myself thinking, "I'm so glad she laid that out just so. I wanted to think that and hardly knew it." Kind of like someone laying out your clothes for you. How did you know what I wanted to wear? It's lovely. I hope that makes sense. (It's supposed to be a thanks and a compliment) I'm usually pretty tired when I write these things.

Bravo for marrying for love! I'm married... I married for family. I'd like the nice dinner table conversation, cuddling by anything, walks... a social life with husband. Good for you!!! teary eyed

Perfectly written.

This time around I'm doing it for love too, and I've never been happier. It's the rightest thing I've ever done.

Follow your heart -- your children will respect you for it later. My mother went through two bad marriages, but after turning 50 and getting me off to college, she re-bonded with her girlfriends, started writing poetry and short stories, and bought a condo. I have never seen her happier, and I love her so much.

Bravo. I married for all the wrong reasons my first time, and thankfully, all I lost was time. There were no children to squabble over. Just a loveless marriage, over before it began, to a woman I would never see again once papers were filed.

The second time, I married for love. That was nearly 13 years ago. We still hold hands everywhere we go, smile at each other with dumb smiles that hurt our cheekbones, and I still try to cop a feel in movie theatres (I try to wait for the houselights to go down, but sometimes I can't). Her children have seen me frisky, and I just tell them it's because I love their mother and can't control myself.

They're grown now, and on their own, but I think they understand what it's like to really be in love. I don't hear any of them talking about marrying for money, or status, or need. And I'm proud of them for learning that lesson.

Our anniversary is also in August, so I hope to be celebrating with you for years to come.

Damn, girl, quit making me cry at work.

And bravo -- I married for need the first time, too. If there's a next time, I'll do it right. Yay, you.

.......very nicely written.....wish u luck for the future !

Away from internet +++ for many days .........

Missing you SO much!

I married for LOVE. Still love him after nearly 40 years (30.03.03 - remember us!!). Could have married (reasonably happily) with another who did have money +++ +++ +++ "prospects".

I MARRIED FOR LOVE AND DO NOT REGRET IT!. (possibly would have liked more money

Bravo, my dear. Superbly written. An honest, important story for women like me to hear. I'm in my 20s and many of my friends and acquaintances in their 20s and early 30s are getting hitched. And of course they're all asking me: How about you?

But neither I nor my boyfriend is in a rush. We're solid. We know that. We don't need to get hitched to prove it, either. If it's going to last, it will last with a ring on my finger or not. Someday, that ring may appear. But for now, we're just hot & heavy, but taking it easy too. :)

I really appreciate your honest post about your life. I'm not even thinking of marriage yet, but your advice is well taken. Thanks, Anthony

Hurray for love. My grandmother always used to tell me that it was just as easy to fall in love with a rich man. Not that she married one. She still says it to me but she laughs a lot harder now that I've come out.

I married for love. I think about the old ladies I used to work with who married for security and money. I envied them until I met their husbands, who were to a man controlling jerks. That's the price you pay for prospects. Brrrr.

I think the times have truly changed, and 60, 80, 100 years ago the money was more important, and you just "made it work" (aka - tolerated a lot of shit). These days divorce is more common because we don't put up with crap and we have different goals for our lives. Funny how things can change so much in such a short timespan.

You write so beautifully Michele - you better be writing your own vows!

As we're about to celebrate our sixth anniversary of marrying for love, I'd just like you to know that once again you've managed to make me smile and cry all at the same time. I wish you all the best as this next chapter unfolds!