Spring is usually the time of year when these kinds of thoughts prevail. Not being limited by the season however, (or maybe subconsciously driven by my Australian roots where it is Spring) in the Northern Hemisphere Fall I am pondering this word: Married, the result of following through the verb, to marry. And then you are inside the noun of Marriage.

I have been married, albeit long ago, and then with no trouble resisted any impulse to so do again although I lived with someone long term. So it is not the living with, that is the problem, it is the terminology. The word has been reappearing before me again. It is amazing how at my age people are talking about it again after the marriages, divorces and ‘never-agains’.

So, I find myself wondering today what is in a word that it can cause such a pronounced attitude around letters in a particular arrangement?

Out with the Pocket Oxford:
Marriage – act, ceremony, or state of being married
Marry – shows me words like ‘give’ (as in ‘away in marriage’) and ‘take’ (as ‘in marriage’). Sounds like an exchange of goods and services.

There is also ‘unite’, an expansive word, implying that something greater is created.

Synonyms: espousal, union, nuptials, conjugality, matrimony, match. And these last three that remind me of catching/trapping and holding of something: wedlock, nuptial knot, nuptial tie. They each sound very final and sort of, well, imprisoned.

So where do my knee-jerk, heart-deep reactions to these words originate? Early in my life I was a university student feminist and along with studying history and living in the patriarchal Australian culture, was emotionally stirred by the reinterpreted history from radical feminists (Germaine Greer and others) who told this story.

(This next in a nutshell, quite unfairly to the nuances, but in the interests of brevity and to summarize a short but impressionable time in my life.)

Traditionally, women were dependent on men. They couldn’t vote and owned nothing. Men could behave or even leave with impunity whereas women were stuck. Women lost their names, their few processions and any inheritance. They were often also removed from their families in the process of being married – to which the word ‘off’ was regularly attached.

(Actually in most cultures the family of the female paid to get her ‘off their hands’ with goats, land or by footing the bill for a walloping great public ceremony.)

And here was the bit that really mystified me. Women yearned to be married! Why? Because it was a symbol of having achieved some sort of social and cultural status as a desirable and worthwhile human being. Never mind that the status as desirable and worthwhile was at the cost of personal and even social, educational or financial freedom.

So, I set off into the world of relationships both smitten by the opposite gender, and also determined to preserve my freedom. Tricky balance there and I didn’t often get it right and rarely for long. I swung from one extreme to the other.

The hardest aspect to balance was the social expectations with the division of labor bit that goes with sharing a household. Who was meant to cook and clean and do the shopping, who brought in the (most) money? How do we know when we are doing our ‘jobs’, our ‘part’?

Unresolved on this issue, I stopped thinking about it, moved away from Australia and got married. It looked as if it would be easy and the roles clear.

Indeed, even as I resented it at some level, doing those domestic things as my Mother had done, my friends did, somehow made me a credible and at least acceptable woman. When I am very honest I  enjoyed it in some ways. I was also reassuringly on the map, which kept me safe even if a little confused. I was living within the realm of conventional social expectations and standards of evaluations which had been so shocking in my university days.

But what else could I do? Enough of it really worked, and it wasn’t as if I had some incredible career. (In the current evolution of male/female relationships, that passed as an acceptable alternative if you were not a full time wife/mother.)

Many years later, I own a divorce, the memory of a long-term live-in/not married relationship and several long relationships NOT Live-in. I arrive today as a woman who has had the opportunity to more fully come to know herself, her unique source and place in the world. I have been nomadic, jobless, homeownership-less and blessed with time and willingness to simply Be.

Always I have had family (daughter, parents, siblings) and friends of long standing from Australia, Oregon and newer ones in Arizona. Years working in education, theatre, arts in healthcare and with horses provided a continuum of wide-ranging experiences within which to expand.

Underlying the entire journey is the ongoing exploration and evolving awareness of the role of Spirituality in my life. This, with all the arts work and play, has sustained, challenged and grown me.

Finally, I articulated the understanding I have gained into a book, Personal Magic, naming the unique and powerful Being each of us is, deep within our Soul-self. It is this work and play that enables me to be free from some old paradigms.

Thus, today I arrive here. Relationships exist between people regardless of the social and cultural milieu in which we conduct them. How we feel about them, behave within them, nurture or harm them, is to a large extent influenced by that culture and society.

We each have a choice: to function thoughtlessly within the definitions handed down to us, or to bring our personal awareness and individuality to create each relationship in a way that is true to our personal truth.

When I allow societies’ definition of a word to directly influence my choices around that word by refusing to give it any credence, I am as blind to my Personal Magic as when I blindly follow the conventions. This applies whether we are talking about Mother and Child, Friend or Enemy, Lover or Partner, Sibling or Stranger, Wife and Husband.

How we feel about and respond to the word ‘marriage’ is essentially a choice we can make. (Choice – I wrote about it last week.) So, revisiting the word requires an honest looking back, letting go, moving forward.

I look back to understand and place in context my personal history with the word and institution, the cultural norms as I knew them. I remember the history of the evolution of relationship between men and women throughout eras and societies. I note how the word is used in our current society for political and religious agendas.

I allow my indignation that Marriage is often narrowly defined without real respect for and honor of the LOVE that is shared by the two who would be married. When social and political considerations make something illegal, amoral or shocking, it serves to solidify my respect and admiration for those who, in spite of obstacles to their love, opt for a public ceremony of marriage and who agitate for the legal right to be married.

As a heterosexual woman, how fortunate am I to have the option of choosing that state, legally, without fear of slander, discrimination or rejection.

In reclaiming the word for myself in this time in my life, I create it anew. Marriage is the state of, act of, the pubic expression of a personal trust and gift; an experience no-one can have but the two in relationship. It is also understood within the cradle of the intimate personal relationship, loosely agreed to across many different lifestyles, societies and places.

For me, when I hear that someone is getting married, when I consider it again as an option for myself, I have my list of synonyms. These include: trusting, sharing, supporting, nurturing, growing, offering and receiving the gift of surrender. Marriage is riding the challenging along with soaking in the floating – together.

I know that this only works when each individual is free and whole, willing and able to evolve their Personal Magic. True independence resides in the capacity to choose. Choice arises out of clear vision and, as applied to this subject, is not dictated by fear, either of losing your independence or of being alone forever.

Marriage is a recognition of the other in ‘each other’, the one with whom you can journey in intimacy at ALL levels – body, mind and spirit. It encompasses coming together with time, permission and acceptance of the times apart. It honors the complete, whole individual who brings him/herself to this shared life.

Everything I knew before is a lie. This is now. I am this person with this relationship and this experience. Together we create how we are together whether it includes marriage or not.

Writing the book (Personal Magic) is part of arriving here. At every point in this darned book, I have had to truly walk the talk. This is one of those cases in point! I have had to acknowledge my history and fears, without attachment, in Awareness of Self.

I have had to truly let go of that which no longer serves me or is even relevant. I have drawn on my empowerment as a responsible person, embraced my willingness to give to others as well as to protect myself.  I have come to know that the two are not mutually exclusive.

So, to be or not to be married? Considering the question for myself or others, ultimately I have had to also accept that Spirit is there for all of us. When we know we are on the path of our right work, heart’s desire, doing what we are meant to, (however you name that), it becomes easy.

And if that path includes love, marriage and public recognition as such, then say Yes, in the fullness of your personal empowerment and magic in the world.