The challenge of defining marriage

I’m finding fewer and fewer things to write about in a singles column since I’m not technically “single” any longer.

I mean, I’m not, not single – according to the definition “characteristic of the unmarried state” – but I’m also no longer looking around in the wide world of singles.

I’m not sure what to call this particular state.

It’s beyond “dating.” A “monogamous relationship” sounds too scientific. “Part of a couple,” maybe? Yes, that sure rolls smoothly off the tongue.

Maybe it’s the recent efforts to define marriage that has led me to this attempt to define which stage my relationship is in and the direction it is going.

Actually, perhaps defining marriage isn’t such a bad idea since there seems to be so many versions of it.

Looking around at relationships around me, it’s kind of frightening to think about the future. One couple I know has recently separated (one of the “oh, they’re perfect for each other” couples that has been married only two years). And they’re not the only “perfect” couple whose marriage has deteriorated. It happens all too often.

Looking at my current relationship, I feel it has careened so effortlessly through the past five months and part of me wonders, what could ever go wrong? Then I remember all the struggles that life often slams in your face and I wonder how that would affect us. I see how other couples deal with life’s ups and downs, and some don’t fare very well.

For instance, some couples’ relationships seem to thrive with children while others seem barely able to stand up to the strain.

Consider a couple I’ve recently met. The woman works days and the husband works nights to avoid daycare for their children; the result is they only see each other for a few hours a week. Yet, they seem happy, although tired, because they’re both working toward the same goal and can count on each other.

The life of another couple – a trendy, fun couple always ready for a night out – changed dramatically after a child arrived. The wife switched to mom mode, willingly foregoing nights out to stay at home with the baby. The husband didn’t shift his priorities quite so quickly and the trendy, fun couple no longer got along quite so well.

With more than half of marriages ending in divorce, it’s justified to be concerned about these kinds of things.

What is the definition of “marriage”?

I decided to Google it, since the trusty search engine seems to have all the answers.

One of the definitions was “it’s an institution in which a man loses his bachelor degree and a woman gets her master’s.”

Hmmm… That’s not really what I had in mind, but I did like the definition of “a set of cultural rules for bringing men and women together to create a family unit and for defining their behavior toward one another, their children and society.”

Although that definition isn’t very romantic, and ignores some of the aspects often deemed important today in deciding whom to marry – chemistry, attraction, employment – it has a long-term sound to it.

After all, isn’t the main goal of marriage to build a life with somebody? And build a family unit, if that’s what you both want. If that’s the underlying goal, then it makes sense to choose somebody that wants the same things, not somebody who merely makes a good Saturday night date.

Whether you define yourself as married, single or “part of a couple,” struggles will still exist in your life, there’s no way around it. But things seem to usually work out for the best in the end – and inevitably provide plenty of good writing material.

This article first appeared in the March 12, 2004 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.

A time of transition

I suppose it’s like riding a bike – you never really forget.

After 2 1/2 years of frenzied dating, I find myself now in couple mode. Just like the transition between married life and singlehood required an adjustment of attitude and expectation, I’m quickly learning that alterations are also necessary from singlehood to couplehood.

It doesn’t come without its challenges.

For instance, time management.

I’ve recently been accused – jokingly, I think – that ever since I met Ron, I don’t make time for my friends anymore.

The truth is, I’ve been frantically trying to juggle everyone.

With all the time I spent dating and attending singles events, I assumed that once I met someone, I’d have a lot of extra time. Obviously I didn’t have as many dates as I’d thought, because there’s not much extra time.

Maybe it’s just that the obligations increased. Rather than just finding time to go out with friends, I need to find time for us to go out with my friends, with his friends, and our own friends individually (as well as time for just us, of course). Then there are errands, exercise and puppy duties. Add family obligations and that time-consuming thing called work, and there’s really not that much time left in the week.

Being part of a new couple is like being in a state of limbo. The majority of my friends are single and it’s not appropriate for me to attend singles events with them anymore. Since we’ve only been dating a little more than two months, we haven’t yet developed any couple networking either. We’re still in the introductions stage – I’m slowly meeting his friends and family; he’s slowly meeting mine.

So far the big merge hasn’t happened yet – where his friends have met mine – but my dad did meet his mom over Thanksgiving weekend.

Luckily there are organizations, like the Young Leadership Division of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, that cater to both singles and couples. So all of you who are either in the newly single or newly coupled – or established in either – come see all your friends at Mazelpalooza. (It’s a shameless plug, because I’m one of the co-chairs, but I would be remiss if I failed to mention it: 8:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 24, at Sanctuary Bar, 7340 E. Shoeman Lane, Scottsdale. Get your tickets before Dec. 19 for $20, $25 afterward. It’s best to purchase them in advance so you don’t have to wait in line: www.jewishphoenix.org/calendar/calendar.php).

This will be my third Mazelpalooza; and my life has been a little different each time: At my first one, I was completely single. The next I was kind of dating somebody, but still looking. Now I’m going purely for the fun of seeing everyone I haven’t seen as much as I used to.

Although every year usually has transitions of some kind, this one has been full of major ones for me.

In 2003, I became a first-time homeowner and a parent to two puppies, adding enormous new responsibilities to my life.

Sadly, our family said goodbye to my grandfather and an uncle, both leaving significant gaps.

I suppose that everyone’s life is touched each year by both positives and negatives – may 2004 weigh more heavily with positives for everyone. Happy New Year!

This article first appeared in the Dec. 12, 2003 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.