To marry or not to marry, that is the question
I bumped into an old colleague of mine the other day, a beautiful 30-something single mother of one gorgeous little boy. She seemed less than happy and shared that it had to do with her boyfriend of a decade. He still does not want to get married. My friend does. What was making her unhappy interestingly enough was not that he wasn't ready, (I don't think he will ever be,) rather, it was the friends who keep telling her that she is being antiquated by wanting a traditional marriage. She said she was made to feel bad for wanting marriage by her more modern friends who feel its OK to be single, for life.
And this is where the conversation got really fascinating for me because I find that one of the areas where modern day Latinas get stuck is in the area of love and marriage. Culture is not catching up to the reality of a 21st century Latina. I devote two chapters on love and relationships in my new book and honestly, I can write a whole book, several books about the topic.
Why can't a woman be happy in her choices? We are living in really amazing times when it doesn't have to be either or, where we can create a very specific menu of love for ourselves when it comes not just to the lives we want to live, and the partnerships we want to have, but for the dreams and goals we have for ourselves. And yet women get stuck between the expectations of the world, vis a vis, the culture, church, friends and society and the inner knowing which may contradict all of the above. Or vice versa...
Women who want to buckle the Latina destiny, that is: marriage, kids and becoming their mothers and grandmothers feel the pressure from family that those three things are only path to being a healthy and happy adult. Those who stay single and or childless by choice get the, "poor thing, what is wrong with her," looks and comments from family and friends. And yet on the other spectrum, those who really love the idea of a husband, kids, and some picket fence, feel pressure from the other side, why so abuela, you can do it without a man, etc.
Happy relationships really do begin with a happy self. Examining deeply why you want the things you want is a really great start. This is why I dig Socrates. Why does my friend want marriage? And a traditional one at that. Is it family, church, societal, cultural pressure? These all play a prominent role in how we view ourselves, love, the world and what we want for our lives. And it's worth examining deeply and honestly how our core beliefs came to be. And if they fit with our lives today. The tougher part is discarding them.
Several years ago, during a wonderful conversation with my wise friend Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the Justice shared some Latina wisdom I will never forget. The gist: love and partnerships come in different ways. To some, it may be the traditional marriage, to others, it may be she lives in Brooklyn, he in Staten Island, and they meet on weekends in Manhattan. To others, it's an open friendship with companionship until one doesn't want it any more. The trick, she said, was to find a compatible mate whose ideas of love were in sync with yours. The secret she said was to know what made you honestly happy, and not settle for anything else. Never force the other into a partnership that made you happy.
I loved that Sonia shared that message with me because it felt honest and right and very empowering coming from a woman who gets to see and experience life from a wholly different perspective. Majestic words that I carry in my heart.