The Mythology of Marriage

Old Wedding PHotos

In 1877, Susan B. Anthony, a suffragist, abolitionist and labor activist predicted that gender equality would evolve with a period of time in which women didn’t marry, cites Rebecca Traister in All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation. That time is now, she adds.

There’s only one problem: the mythology of marriage still lingers, as it once did for me.

I was 35 when I got married. When my ex told me he loved me, my response was automatic, “Well then, we must move in together and then get married.”

We did, and for the next 15 years, I was encapsulated in an institutionalized, fictionalized, and commercialized model of marriage that included gender roles, creeping projections and unhealthy legacies. I became my mother. My ex became his dad. (He also became mine symbolically.) We did not live happily ever after.

But that marriage also served a purpose. It enabled me to relive, re-member and eventually re-story my childhood. If its model disappears, will that growth experience do so as well?

Perhaps not.

New stories, and their underlying models and mythologies, emerge over time. We live the old stories individually, break out of them, migrate what worked into a new story, and live that. We repeat the process many times, over many stories, and, in this case, many marriages.

Then one day, centuries later, the individual new stories reach a critical mass and a new collective story, or mythology, emerges, such as the one Traister identified. With that “new normal” comes also another unique opportunity for evolution, personally and socially.

Photo Credit: “Old Wedding Photos” by Ray Dumas is licensed under CC BY 2.0.


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