Men and Marriage

A few days ago, I met with a couple: young, in their 30’s.  They farm his land together.  They had been living together for 6 years.  She wants to marry.  He is reluctant.

I asked why he was reluctant:  “She could take half of my stuff”, “I don’t see how a piece of paper would make anything different from the way they are now.”  And “Marriage is a sham.  I know people who have married and nothing has change.”  She said that when they are alone, he says he wants to marry her.

I am not an attorney and don’t know Illinois law as it applies to marriage and divorce.  I am divorced.  We used an attorney.

From what I understand, his first comment is true.  If there were to be a divorce, she could take “half of my stuff”.  As a therapist however, I wonder if he is even a candidate for marriage if he looks at it this way.  This comment suggests A LOT of suspicion and a serious lack of trust of his partner.  So it leads me to believe he is not a candidate for marriage.

What would lead her to take half of his stuff?  The implications is that that desire is present in her and hidden from him.  I believe however, what may motivate her to take half of his stuff is HIM!  People treat others based on how others treat them.  So, if she wants to take half of his stuff, it is because, at least in part, due to how he has treated her.  And if he begins the relationship with the belief that she will take half of his stuff, this will skew how he sees everything she does.  This suspicion will drain the relationship of its love and affection.  He will continue to suspect her, doubt her, check on her, etc.  This will create resentment and anger.  It could eventually drive her a way and if she feels unjustifiably accused, she may retaliate and sue for half of his possessions, citing, “mental abuse”.

A healthy relationship or marriage REQUIRES vulnerability.  He is vulnerable to her.  She is vulnerable to him.  The two people must let down their walls to mix all their parts to create something unique to them.  The relationship is not “his” relationship or “her” relationship.  It is THEIR relationship.  All aspects of the relationship is or should be a compromise between the two partners.

For this vulnerability to exist, both partners must have some maturity.  This situation reminds me of the older sibling that says to the younger sibling, “My toys…my toys”!  They have not yet learned to share and give with the understanding that they will be given to as well.  If you don’t want her to take half of your stuff, ALWAYS treat her with respect!  If she doesn’t treat you always with respect, look for another partner.

This speaks to the aforementioned man’s comment about marriage being a sham, that nothing changes when two people marry and what could a piece of paper mean.  Either he is not looking too closely to the marriages around him or the marriages around him are of poor quality.  When you marry, EVERYTHING changes…or it should.  I believe the line is “….and the two shall become one”.  How could everything NOT change if the two people become one entity?  Further, has this man never bought a house or car?  EVERYTHING can change with a piece of paper!

This brings up another issue:  What have you been taught about how women or men REALLY treat their partners.  If you were raised with parents with modeled suspicion and distrust, you are more likely to act in the same way.  If you see such behavior in your parents but don’t see such in yourself, ask a trusted friend if you act this way.

Consider a third issue:  How are men and women socialized when the question of marriage comes up?  Women, in general, are taught to take care of everyone else’s needs before caring for themselves, cooperate, negotiate, to give in hopes of receiving.  Men are taught to be independent, fight for what they want, provide for the family, but don’t actually participate in the emotions of the family.  It seems pretty clear to me how the socialization of the male leads to fear of their stuff (representing their independence) being taken from them.