Relationship advice from a divorce attorney.

Dear Lady Esq.,

What do you do when your core values clash with “society’s”? When your friends, family and everyone you meet needs to place you in a box upon which they can label you so they can “figure” you out? When you love someone so much you have done everything you want to to prove it, but no one believes you because you didn’t do the things that everyone else does because they’re “supposed to.”

These are the values I’m speaking of: Love is sufficient, makes no demands, and is not dependent upon anyone’s approval but those who are in love.

Why then must I be subjected to everyone “knowing” that my love is not real because I’m not “married”? Why then must I be subjected to everyone “knowing” that I don’t love my child because she’s not “baptized”? Why must the support of my family be conditioned upon such things? Why must the “state” (the stupidest most destructive idea ever conceived of and inexplicably supported by man) be a party to my love for a woman? Why must the “church” (tied for the title of the stupidest most destructive idea ever conceived of and inexplicably supported by man) be a party to my love for my child?

Why must the love of another for me be conditioned upon the support of state and church? Why can’t they love me unconditionally like I do my beloved and our child? Why can’t they lend a hand when we need it like I did when I had the abundance to do so — without insisting upon me having their values?

Are my beloved and my child not worthy of love because we don’t support nor require the support of state and church?

Why can’t everyone just be satisfied that they support or require the support of state and church AND leave everyone else alone who doesn’t?

– Against the Grain

Dear Against the Grain,

Ah yes, the us vs. society dilemma. Personally, I grapple with this one on the following level: I am not sure I believe in the institution of marriage. I think most people go into it for religious or romantic reasons, not fathoming in the slightest that it is in actuality a business partnership. Additionally, I believe that marriage changes a relationship. Sometimes for the better, but often a sense of ownership is instilled. Men feel emasculated. Women feel entitled. The whole dynamic shifts. And on top of all of that it is an institution that creates a false sense of security. Marriage is no guarantee your partner won’t leave you. It just means it’s going to be a longer and more costly break-up.

So, with that vision of marriage in my mind, why would I want to get married? Societal and cultural brainwashing. Since I was a little girl I’ve dreamed of the white dress, the veil, the flowers and cake. And as a grown woman what do I really want? The ring. Because my whole life my society and culture have been telling me that one day I’d grow up to be that princess in the white dress, that if my man really loved me he’d give me a big shiny diamond.

All understanding of societal and cultural brainwashing fully considered, when it comes to marriage, I want that ring. I want that party. I want to get married. Not because I want the institution, but because I stand no chance after 29 years of societal and cultural brainwashing of not wanting those things.

So, I try to navigate my way through a world of falsehoods that are created by others. And I think about what I really want. OK, I really want the ring. I do. Why? Because it means someone wants to marry me! I’m not quite as concerned with actually getting married as I am with knowing that someone wants to marry me. So I’m willing to start with the ring and navigate from there. I’m alright with the idea of a perpetual engagement. I’ll have the ring, people will see it sparkle and know that someone has asked me to marry him. That, in and of itself, might be enough for me.

And if it’s not? Well then, I have a plethora of alternatives available to me. I could actually get married (mostly for the tax benefits) but enter into a rock-solid prenup that is essentially a means to a hassle-free divorce. A prenup that enables both of us to walk away from the marriage without having to give each other anything, a prenup that treats our divorce like any other non-marital break-up.

There’s also the option of a commitment ceremony. A handfasting. Jumping the broom. An outdoor barefoot party under the chopa, overseen by a lesbian rabbi, with no legal ramifications attached.

Basically, I am open to exploring the possibilities of a partnership with my partner, and I’m willing to think outside the box. In fact, I’m fairly terrified of the box. The box was created by religion, church, and state (and federal government) to encourage marriage and help keep families together. But with a 50% divorce rate, clearly there is something wrong with the institution as implemented. And with the state having independent control over child support issues irrespective of marital status (at least in California), it seems to me the basic reasons behind marriage are now irrelevant, and we should start a revolution of a “to each his own” mentality surrounding the entire institution!

I don’t have any children, so I have not personally had to deal with the religious and societal pressure to baptize a child. And, being Jewish, for me the problem would come up in the form of a bris. Oh, how my son would love to know that one day a bunch of family members and friends sat around and ate and drank and preyed and celebrated while he had his foreskin removed in front of them! My, but religion can be quite silly.

No, I have not had to grapple with that problem, but I grapple with a similar one: I am not sure I ever want to have children. I am approaching 30 and there is no tick of a biological clock for me. I love my urban life, my ability to take lengthy trips abroad, the thought of giving up on America altogether and relocating to another country. I love my freedom, and I see children as a direct obstacle to maintaining that freedom. Now, many in my society and culture see this as selfish. If it is selfish, then let me be selfish!

I much prefer the thought of having children only if and when I know that I have lived all the life I can live and that I am ready to completely give up my life for the life of another. Because that is what parenthood is. You love someone so much you give up your life for theirs. From nine months of pregnancy to diaper changing and months of sleepless nights to baby-proofing your house and constantly keeping an eye on your toddler to being a chauffeur for extra curricular activities to constantly worrying about and probably fighting with your troublesome teenager to figuring out how to pay for college followed by a wedding – there is not an act from conception to death (of you or your child) where your life is not given over to your child.

I applaud those who do it. I love being an aunt. But parenthood, now, and perhaps forever, is not for me. I’m perfectly happy with that decision. It is my culture and society that are not. It is my religion that is not. It is the outside forces of church and state, culture and society, that look down on me for this “selfish” decision.

At the end of the day, my friend, we cannot change the discerning eyes of the forces that be. We cannot change the way government functions or religion behaves, other than in small ways. We cannot stop them from judging us or from trying to set parameters for us. We can only trust that we are living life our way, doing what is best for ourselves and the ones we love.

And this concept does not have to be mutually exclusive of religion. If a person lives by the basic tenets of their religion, by the teachings of their original deity (as opposed to the modern teachings of their organized religion), they can likely live their life in a way that works for them and still be a good Christian/Jew/Muslim/Buddhist/Hindu/Pagan/Wiccan/etc. Because the fundamental teachings of most religions are essentially the same. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Judge not lest ye be judged. Love thy neighbor. Essentially, be good to yourself and those you love, live a kind life, and you will make Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed-whomever happy. And more important than that, you’ll make yourself and the ones you love happy.

So I must disagree with your assessment of religion as being tied for the title of “the stupidest most destructive idea ever conceived of and inexplicably supported by man.” It is not religion, but organized religion, that is the problem. It is not the spiritual words of encouragement and goodness of Jesus that I take issue with, but what the various churches have done with them over the years. Man fucked this one up for everyone. Just like man is fucking up the world for everyone by making it uninhabitable with global warming and chemicals. Mankind, it appears, may just be a parasite on the face of this earth. But it is our own destruction that we are bringing about. The earth will persevere. Volcanoes will erupt, plates will shift, oceans will drain and fill. One day there will be no trace that we were ever here. And religion, church, state, government, society, and culture, will be long forgotten.

In the mean time, each of us must learn to be like ducks and let the water of outside opinion roll off our backs. We must be true to ourselves, live life in the way that we feel is right, adhere to our own core values that work for us, and know that in doing so we are “beating the system.” Church, state, society, culture, and government will go about their business of sticking their noses into other people’s business, likely for the rest of the time that mankind is on this earth. If we are bothered by it, we let them win. If we do what is right for us, regardless of the ideologies and constraints they try to impose upon us, and we don’t give a good goddamn what they think, then we win. And quite frankly, I like to win.

One last note. I do want to say that this “let them do what they want and we’ll do what we want” attitude is not all-encompassing. We still have a duty to try to fight for the things we believe in. We have a duty to vote, from an educated perspective, on the issues that govern us. That way if the vote doesn’t go our way we have the right to bitch about it. We have a duty as human beings to fight for the basic human rights of others. We may not believe in the institution of marriage, but we have a responsibility to fight for the right for same-sex marriages, because just as we get to make our choice not to marry, they should have the right to make their choice as to whether or not they want to marry. We have a global duty to fight for human rights across the planet – to push our local representatives to push our national representatives to push the world to fight for basic human rights for every person in every nation.

As long as we are in the system, regardless of whether or not our being “in” was ever by our choice, we must fight for what we believe in, at the very least for the basic human rights of everyone on the planet.

Other than that, do what is right for you, follow your heart and your personal belief system, and let those without sin cast the first stone.

– Lady Esq.

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1 Response to US vs. SOCIETY?

  1. mattgonzalez says:

    Your posting was sent to Against the Grain. He replies as follows:

    Dear Lady Esq.:

    Thank you for your helpful discussion of a complicated issue. Clearly, I am not the only one who struggles with the institutions of state and church and how they interact with loving relationships. In the end, your entreaty for me to be myself was an important reminder. I really have no choice in that regard. So, I have decided to act like I was never given an ultimatum and just continue doing what I do – try hard to make life as good as I can for all of us.

    Thanks again for your advice; you obviously thought deeply about it.

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