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The "Hang on Till Death" Marriage

I have a theory about marriage in these days of longevity.  Yes, I know this won't be a popular idea, but here's what I think.  We live much longer than we used to, and now we need a partner for procreation and then one to hang out with till death.  Some of us have the great good fortune, prescience, and smarts to meet this hang out till death person in the procreation stage, but many of us get to the empty nest and decide to leave it ourselves.

Flap, flap.

Now, this isn't the starter partner thing I'm talking about.  I never managed a starter marriage.  I had what I described above (thus the reason I believe in it so fully).  I have run into people who were married one, two, five years, divorced that person, and went onto long term procreation marriage.  This is not to say they won't need hang out till death marriage later as well.  Three times is a charm, as they say.

Who we pick to reproduce with has been analyzed to death.  There are theories about gene pool and providing and nurturing and hip size.  Apparently, we size up our mates based on ancient human knowledge resiging in DNA.  We know who we need instinctual, trying to create the babies that will survive on the planet. 

Later, the man with the great job and the woman with the big hips might not be the ones we want to stay with.  We want someone who will talk with us about Gaudi and Camus and go bowling with us.  We want to travel to Nepal and Belize and scuba dive.  We want to make pasta and sit out on the deck and talk about our feelings.  We want a connection that we don't have any more or never did--because the connection we had was based on tribal need.  Or just one wild night.  Who knows. 

But we turn to the person who has been with us, and for no other really good reason (ie, abuse) we want out.  Maybe the reproducing partner wants to play golf and eat steak and won't go to therapy.  Maybe now that the reproducing is all over, intimacy is over as well.

I watch many of my married friends, and I can see some of the marriages have evolved into a "I can't leave, but I don't want to stay" form of functioning.  Both partners lead separate lives, emotionally and physically.  Different vacations.  Different interests.  Same house.

It's likely that this split partnered life has been around for a while.  Thus the need for commandments and social sanctions and adulterous affairs.  It's not easy to break up with the person with whom you had children, as there is no real break at all.  For the rest of your lives, you will have the connection of actual human flesh between you.  Human flesh you both love.  There will be graduations and marriages and grandchildren.  There will be struggles and needs and issues you will have to talk about.  For some, that is reason enough to stay.

And there is that love you will both carry for each other because at one time you both came together to do something so old and instinctual and human.  You made a couple of babies together, raised them, watched them grow up.  That is a bond like no other, truly.

In a dream world, we would be able to part more easily, but we grow attached to everything that is past.  What is new is scary.  Change means we have to change.  Wanting something is different than actually going after it and is not for the faint of heart.  Frankly, I don't always recommend it, as the journey can be too frightening.  There is always the possibility that we won't find the new partner we want.  Or maybe being virtually partnered while partnered is a perfect balanced of independence and dependence.  We do not rely on the other for emotional support, but if the house burns down or we are injured or ill, there our partner and his or her benefits are.

If medical science keeps improving, we might end up living until we are 120 as a matter of course.  It's likely our relationship patterns will adjust to these new biological facts.  Maybe we will end up with three partners over the course of a long life, all based on the time we are in.

Okay, enough of my theory.  I am sure someone has an opinion about this one!




7 Comment count
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Simone de Beauvoir

beat you to your theory, Jessica ;)



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JExactly?  I thought she

JExactly?  I thought she had some different ideas about marriage and committment.  Sort of a hands off policy?!

However, after having seen her grave site, I'm not sure she had different ideas at all about togetherness.


essica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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I forgot

about marriage and kids.  Totally forgot.

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Very well said, and very true.

One of my favorite quotes I heard some time ago (so long ago that I do not remember who said it and I now have to paraphrase) is that a woman needs three men in during her lifetime: one to have hot young sex with, one to have and raise children with, and one with which to to share true companionship.

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I think if you hang on to

I think if you hang on to number one long enough, you can make it to number two for the duration!  (Or, at least I'm hoping).


Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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I don't believe people even

I don't believe people even use the word starter wife or marriage like your buying your first house that you already plan to move out of in a few years. Divorce rates are high and when it comes to saving your marriage most people dont even consider it as an option.

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hang on til death marriage

I am in the "empty nest" stage of my marriage(43 yrs)and just have to respond to what you wrote.It is so true! I married when I was 21,barely out of childhood myself,to get away from a highly dysfunctional family,and because of a strong sexual attraction.The fact that he chose me made me feel I was ok,worthy to be loved.WE had 3 kids.I broke the chain of abuse that I experienced growing up.I also raised my kids almost singlehandedly.My husband travelled alot.He was a loving dad but left all the discipline to me,so I was the heavy.He loved sports,I loved the arts.he is left brained,I am right brained.
In the beginning we seemed to complete each other.But,as the years went on,and I emerged as a real person,with my own beliefs,causes,and passions,I saw the gap widening every day.There was little common ground.I repeatedly had"emotional encounters" with other men,but never left my marriage.I had come from a divorced home,after all,and didn't want to have my kids go through the same.
Then,in March of this past spring,while writing on an Obama empathy blog,I encountered a guy who was a gifted poet and artist.WE corresponded daily for 5 montohs.I shared things with him I have never shared with anyone else.WE began to get close.But,in the end,he couldt handle an actual meeting.he was single,but afraid after having left a litter of failed relationships behind him.I accepted all that,and loved him anyway,because of his honesty and willingness to "own his own shit" as he would say.
but ultimately,he left me abruptly,too scared to go on with such intimacy,wanting to instead pursue intimacy "in real time" which he had refused to do with me.
so now I lick my wounds and miss him terribly,but have learned what I do and dont want.Since I am not getting any younger,and my work would not support me,I ahve chosen to stay in my marriage,as it stands now.but I cannot go back to stuffing my feelings,as my guy from BErkeley cracked me wide open,and now my emotions are there and difficiult to control.
Because I ahve deep roots here(my kids and grandkids) I stay.I write poetry and music about my guy who got away,feel his presence,and pray for his healing.
People grow and change in different ways throughout a lifetime.This,I feel,is what has happened in my marriage.