a neo-feminist account of how marriage made me a better person

It wasn’t until after I got married that I decided to go into therapy. A variety of speculations, I can surmise, were tossed around . “Did her husband drive her into madness?” The drama queen will ask. “Is she unhappy?” The concerned one will wonder. “They fell out of love so soon.” The cynical one will affirm.

I hate disappointing people, but I have to take blame for this one myself. I was having a breakdown and needed to make some changes. I was forced to address certain issues that I had been flippantly brushing off my entire life. It had nothing and everything to do with my marriage. I did this for my husband, but mainly for myself.

In Philosophy of the Right, Hegel asserts that marriage, “in it’s objective source lies in the free consent of the persons, especially in their consent to make themselves one person, to renounce their natural and individual personality to this unity of one with the other. From this point of view their union is a self-restriction, but in fact it is their liberation because in it they attain their substantive self consciousness.” This self-concsiousness, Hegel claims, is what will finally give you clarity to be a fully actualized individual.

When I first read this statement I was struck by the contradiction, but in its paradoxical nature, it made sense. Still, most of my life marriage never seemed a option and I was fine, actually I rather preferred to go on living without regard to another person.

And then, several years later, I met the man who would one day become my husband. For the first time marriage seemed like a viable and healthy union for someone like myself who had always been happier as a free agent, even when involved. But you can’t deny the warm and fuzzy sensation you get from the person every time you look in their eyes. Or that sick giddy feeling that takes control when you replay the night you spent together, at work the next day, with a big silly grin. You begin to remind yourself of Diane Lane on the train returning home from her initial tryst with Oliver Martinez in Unfaithful. It’s exhilarating the first time, but after four years and you’re just as gaga, it becomes magical. It’s not about the sex though, well, it is, but the sex wouldn’t be all that if the mutual respect were deficient.

Being with my husband and connecting so intimately with him, I see for the first time in my life, I am accountable. This is kind of weird when you are used to doing things on your own volition. All of sudden someone is noticing your patterns and calling you out on your flakiness. Friends and family can do this at times as well, but it is much easier to shun them than the person you share a bed with.

While still in the honeymoon phase, I so buoyantly enjoyed the domesticity of marriage, it was fun skipping out on my Kung Fu classes to pore over Epicurious.com for recipes. At the same time I was severely bothered that I would forsake some of my favorite activities just because I was married. Thankfully, and to further complicate matters, my husband expressly didn’t want me to start giving up my pleasures and was annoyed with me for being complacent. What I was unwittingly doing was renouncing my “natural and individual personality. “ This is bad in and of itself, but it was also what moved me to action.

So for various reasons, mainly an existential crisis, I decided to seek professional help. I was afraid that my uncertainty would manifest itself into bitterness. I didn’t want to displace the anger on my husband and ruin, not only a great relationship, but myself. Perhaps I was just being a Cassandra, but I wasn’t going to take the chance.

During this transformation period, I began to understand Hegel’s stance on marriage with even more perspicuity. Becoming a “we” doesn’t have to negate the “I”, but rather, can facilitate its actualization if you wholly become self-conscious about your position and what it means to be a part of something more.

This awareness can be onerous when you’d prefer to be in the dark. It’s a constant struggle, but worth it because it will reflect well on your own marriage, and you’ll likewise be viewed by others in a positive light. This perception by the other is just as important since, as participants in an institution, it is your obligation to set a good example for society.

Though, I’m far from healed, and hardly noble, I’d like to think that I am on the right track of a process that will never end. Sure, this all sounds terribly marriage centric, but I’m not opining that single people are exempt from such an awakening,nor are all married people capable of it. For me though, having this accountability to my mate, and the public with all eyes on us as a married couple, makes for a stimulating challenge. Is this so wrong?

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