Today is our anniversary, and although it is a very personal thing I share with my husband, I cant help think of how marriage is thought about around the world. When we think of weddings and marriages, these days we often think of these grand productions, expensive dresses, brides who have been starving themselves to fit into their barbie doll gowns and all the nerve wrecking, angst ridden, budget breaking, theatre production that may, or may not, end in a life long union.
I have been to so many now that I have lost count. And sadly, I know of far too many divorces. Did the choice of Barbie doll gown matter? Did the hair, make up and flowers matter? Did the tuxedo matter? Did the location really matter? Did it matter how young, attractive, thin, sexy or blonde the bride was? Did it matter how rich, famous, or athletic the groom? These things now seem like “flash over substance” to me. What should of mattered was the character and compatibility of the couple. The ability to work as a team and commitment to things more important than the superficial.
Where do we find such partners? I think these qualities come in all shapes and sizes. They come in many different packages, many different colours, many different races, many different cultures, many different genders and many different health challenges. There is no cookie cutter mold which churns out successful marriages and partnerships, despite what the media might try to tell you.
When I became ill I didn’t think it possible that my fiance would want to marry me, I didn’t think I had anything to offer anymore. I could not think of one situation where someone I knew had wanted to marry someone with a life long illness and unknown future. I didn’t think I was marriage material anymore and so I told my finance that it was OK to break off our engagement and allow him to start anew.
I thought that all men cared about is physical beauty and the ability to be a mother, a house keeper, a income earner, a nurturer and a provider of sex. I guess I didn’t really know or see any exceptions to those rules. I looked back on my own history of relationships and saw how easily they crumbled when I had all those things on my side, I imagined my ability to have a meaningful, respectful and dignified relationship without those things almost zero. Thankfully, I was wrong.
You see, by undervaluing ourselves, undervaluing marriage, undervaluing relationships and undervaluing character we have created and perpetuated a culture of superficiality which lasts about as long as the average wedding cake. Our culture continues to crave the appearance of perfection over the feelings of fulfillment.
All the things that make me a valued wife, friend, relative, advocate, neighbor and valued lie inside me and it is my challenge in life of how to express these things with the challenges that I have. I know of no greater compliment than someone who acknowledges your inner qualities than your outward appearance. It is now the yardstick that I use to measure myself and those that I come in contact with.
So… why aren’t people considering dating or marriage with autoimmune, chronic illness, disabled people? Why aren’t we a desirable mates? I don’t pretend to have ALL the answers but I do intend to do my little bit to try and change the picture. I want to show the world, through blogging, advocacy, informing, putting my ‘truth’ out there, through my actions, through my spirit that we are not what society perceives we are. We are not burdens. We are not characterless. We are talented. We are fighters and brave. We are intelligent. We are not chronic whingers. We are not unworthy. We have a lot to offer and deserving of consideration. We are not a ‘step down’ the ladder. We have a lot of experience and character to offer. We value things more deeply than others. We are marriage material.
Although I am aware that this is going to be a slow process of changing perceptions and understanding, I invite you all to join me on it as I think together we can make a real difference and I think we may see some wonderful changes in experiences of marriage when we see them start being based on things that matter and last. Clearly the media model doesn’t seem to last and divorce courts are full to the brim with ‘cookie cutter’ couples that fall apart. Maybe the socially acceptable picture. The Hollywood picture. The Disney picture is not the picture that lasts. Maybe its time to respect that giving your life to someone (regardless of race, sex, health, status, wealth, culture) requires looking for someone that has a lot more to offer than looks. Looks never last, and marriages based on these things wont either.