The Cynics’s View of Marriage

As some of you know I was once married (and quickly divorced) and that union was a hard one for me to get over. I love hard and fall hard, and when I fell, I fell into a mess of depression and cynicism. Some of that cynicism permeated through my fiction and other writing during those immediate years after my marriage.

In my novel, “Darla Went Down” (don’t ask where to get it, it’s not published or finished), the main character has to deal with her boss’ hostility towards her because her boss believes Darla thinks she is better than her simply because she is married. (But doesn’t realize that Darla is in a largely passionless marriage.)

The boss is a black woman, over 40, and never married, but successful. In all the news surrounding successful, unmarried black women I decided I wanted to share the monologue of one angry (but with a few valid points), Ms. Janet Hendrix. Re-reading the monologue is amazing to me because at one point I was as angry as Hendrix after my divorce and obviously, as I wrote this, this was more about my own frustrations than anything else. The whole monologue is essentially post-divorce me yelling at married me for giving up my dreams in exchange for false promises of marital bliss.

Monologue after the jump.

From “Darla Went Down,” by Danielle C. Belton, Janet Hendrix’s monologue

Even in today’s modern, progressive age all this, all this accomplishment means nothing unless you have a man. And that’s how you get to feel superior. That’s the one thing you have that I don’t. A husband. And no matter how bad you feel. No matter how depressed you get. No matter how hard I am on you, you can go home every night with the resolve that, ‘I am better than you because I have a man.’ And that’s why I don’t like you. That’s why I’ve never liked you. When I see you all I see is a waste.

Do you know what it means to me when a woman says she’s married? It means – ‘I quit. I tried being my own person and I failed. Think I’ll try being somebody else.’ Marriage is an ends to a means. Not a beginning. There’s a reason why all those fairytales and movies end with a wedding. Because there’s no more to say after that. No more adventure to have. No more possibility. Only stability and tolerance. Another step in that slow march to death. He doesn’t stop dreaming just because he gets married. His dreams get only bigger. It’s your dreams that get narrower and narrower until they mean nothing. Because once you’re married you have to work at it. There’s no time to work on you. You’re finished. You’re done. You quit. What matters now is the marriage. What matters now are his big dreams for the both of you.

I bet you never even thought about it. I bet you didn’t put one thought into it as you rushed to that shining alter. After all, doubt? That’s not romantic! Thinking about how this is the end. Oh no! This is the beginning. A great new future. Or at least that’s what you tell yourself. The worrying about fitting in and about your body and all your mommy and daddy issues? You’ve cured them because somebody loved you enough to humor you and marry you and make you whole. And how long does that good feeling last? One year? Two years? Then what? That’s when all the familiar signs start showing up. That’s when you don’t know if you can stand to listen to that same funny story one more time. When your libido turns to dust, if it ever really existed in the first place.

So you do what all women who marry do. You follow the script. Oh, you think you’ll do something novel and different. You think you’ve got it figured out. But society’s pull is too strong. You’ll be complaining about how he doesn’t listen or doesn’t lift a finger or how he’s from Mars and you’re from Venus and all that other cockamamie bullshit that’s shoved down our throats to save a bastard dying institution that doesn’t fucking work. Better pop out some babies. Be fruitful and multiply. Otherwise you gave it up for nothing. But of course when you have the kids, that’s the final nail in the coffin. There’s no going back after that because the minute the first one drops you’re a corpse. Your dreams are now your children’s dreams. And I know you’re thinking. That’s not how that’s supposed to sound in my head. That’s supposed to sound good. That’s supposed to sound comforting. Well, I got news for you. When you die, you don’t take it with you. And that means the kids. They’ll grow up and they’ll leave and you’ll be left with nothing but memories.

I know it’s supposed to be something that I’m supposed to want, but let’s suppose I never wanted it and realized that it didn’t have to be that way. I don’t want a baby. A baby’s a death sentence. A death sentence to my identity, to my sanity and to my waistline. I know why some animals kill their young. Because they’re trying to survive and the fucking bastards are slowing them down. Sucking the life out of you when you need that life to keep fighting to live another day. Every day it’s them or me and I choose me every time. I’m not willing to sacrifice my goals, my dreams for someone else. And anyone who thinks different is a fool.

And do you know what that makes me? Do you know what I am? I’m a man.

Do I still agree with what I wrote? No. I’m not nearly THAT horribly cynical anymore. But angry, post-divorce me in the form of Janet makes some valid points. In my desire and love for the fantasy of what I thought marriage was I rushed into a poorly thought out union with a man who was not ready for marriage any more than I was. I essentially settled because at 24 I didn’t know my own worth, had little dating experience and was convinced that it was better to have somebody love me than have no one love me at all. Boy was I ever wrong.

The end result was a bitterness that knew no bounds that lasted for a good two or three years as I worked to get over being burned. The only good thing about my bitterness was that I at least didn’t hold it against all men, let alone all black men. I was only angry at the one who broke my heart. All my anger and frustration began and ended with him, which I think was helpful when I finally started dating again. But I didn’t date while I was that angry because I was just dying to hurt someone as much as I’d been hurt and that would have been cruel to the innocent party.

So if you can get past the bitterness, I think the lesson here is that it, again, does not serve you well to panic in your pursuit of a spouse because you might end up with less than stellar results. You don’t want to compromise so much of yourself and negotiate away so much of who you are to the point that you’re left with nothing that resembles you. And this goes for both men and women. It’s easy to lose your identity in a coupling, especially if one partner is more dominant than the other. We have to maintain some portion of ourselves and have a partner who can accept that self, rather than compromise so much of who we are until we are blobs of nothingness.

33 thoughts on “The Cynics’s View of Marriage

  1. and why does jada look like she’s going to lick the tip?wait.why does will look like he’s going to lick the tip?HELL NAW

  2. I’m reading this and thinking WOW! You really hit this one out of the park–and I’m a woman married for over 20 years. See this is the thing, most of my married friends really, really want to be single (for all the reasons that you can imagine) and most if not all of my single friends want to be married. We always seem to want what we don’t have. In my particular situation I’ve had to work very hard to let his dreams go and remember that I actually had some. That in itself is a journey and a hard fought battle, but one very worth it.

  3. omg – you are so right (and I have a child!) ! I posted this on my facebook and can’t wait to hear how much of a "hater" I am for revealing the truth about marriage again. I want no parts of it……I hate it when they try to me feel bad beacuse "Oh, you’ll find someone…." BS

  4. @ Carmelcoated – you are so right. i’ve been married for 10 years and where i am right now is reclaiming my dreams and making peace with myself that my husband and i can want different things, but that doesn’t take away from the love we feel for each other.

  5. Danielle, I really appreciate your candor. What you wrote of yourself remind me of what Lance Armstrong ex-wife said of herself in her book (did not read it, she was doing the talk show circuit) – she lost her identity as Mrs. Lance Armstrong. Personally, I have gone into relationships thinking that my partner will make me whole. I wanted a partner to save me from my mundane, directionless existence. I now know that is not going to work. I now know (using Mr. & Mrs. Obama as my examplars and one could add Jada and Will Smith as well) that a strong and healthy individual identity is essential to a successful relationship. That mine and my partners identities, goals, dreams, and life experiences should not compete with each others’ but be used to support each other. That I do not have to suffocate my goals/dreams, that I don’t have to turn into a mouse: to be heard not seen, to respond only when spoken to. I am an intelligent woman who is a loving and caring individual. (A bit short tempered at times, but who is perfect – smile). I should be confident in myself and the moment I feel that I am walking on eggshells (for I may have been tiptoeing for a while without realizing it), I know the relationship is going to fail.Thank you for the piece Danielle.

  6. I’m not sure what it is, but some women get in this mode that they have to get married after college and definately before 30. It’s like this prescription for happiness – get married, have babies, etc. As a matter of fact, I’m going to a wedding on Friday for a couple under the age of 25. These people have no idea how hard marriage is and the effort it takes to make it work -not to mention when children are factored into the equation. I’ve been married for 12 years. I almost fell into that "give up your dreams rut." I remember having the nerve to tell someone that I didn’t need to get a college degree b/c my husband had 2! Thankfully I snapped out of that one and now have 2 degrees of my own. My life doesn’t revolve around my husband’s, nor do identify myself through him. I have one awesome kid and one is enough any more would put me in an asylum. Unfortunately, it’s a different story with the wives in his circle of friends (and this is okay if they’re happy). Here’s an example of the mindset. I love photography. So at my husband’s party, I had my big camera taking photographs. One wife, who I used to be close to, said "I knew it wouldn’t be long before Allen got you into photography." My husband is not a photographer. I could go on and on about women who’ve lost themselves in their marriage or never knew themselves to begin with. Marriage is not the end all be all.

  7. Is the problem marriage or is it our misunderstanding of it? Sacrifice of self for the progress of the group is not a new concept. There just has to be balance. Disapprearing into someone else is never a good thing. But you can’t be married and remain autonomous. It doesn’t work. I have been married for seven years. We have been together for ten years. My wife and I still love each other very much. And just as important we still like each other and enjoy each others’ company. We did not get here by each of us pursuing the path of me. We got here by pursuing the path of us. Marriage is not the end all be all. But some people allow bad experiences and bitterness to make them think it a horrible arrangement. That’s not true. But everyone is entitled to their own view. I choose not to view it that way. My parents never married. I am glad my two children can say otherwise.

  8. Wow, I didn’t know marriage meant so much to you. You should stop building fantasties about TJ Holmes and settle down with a decent guy before you quickly hit 40. The years go by fast.

  9. "I could go on and on about women who’ve lost themselves in their marriage or never knew themselves to begin with. "this is why i don’t advocate marriage prior to turning 30. i think you don’t know yourself well enough to give yourself to someone else at a young age.

  10. ^^^^^ not that i’m all that knowledgeable about the institution. but i see so many divorces among my friends who got married in their early 20s, and it saddens me.

  11. Maybe, I’m a rarity, but I am a happily married black woman to a black man. I have a secret for all single ladies in search of happiness and "Mister Right." Forget searching for mister right in all the wrong places. Instead, concentrate on falling in love with yourself and your Creator. Your real relationship should always be strongest with your maker first. If it’s meant for you to find your true love in your 30s or 40s, it will happen if it’s HIS will.God Bless.

  12. I never got married because I recognized I was not stable enough yet. I did not want to repeat the disasters to be found all over my extended family. Now I am stable enough. But the landscape is just … sad. So many disappointed people. Obviously, potential couples need to discuss their expectations thoroughly. I even think it all should be written down, because participants "forget". I have never wanted someone to disappear, to be about me, be compliant. I am only attracted to powerful women. (I would say "strong women", but that is loaded with extra meaning, to most readers here, that I don’t mean.)Marriage is a tricky balance between you, I, and us. And it changes over the course of the relationship.I really worry about the low fecundity of the achievement-oriented segment of our population, regardless of race. Smart people unfortunately have too much insight into the downside of family life, thus often choosing to avoid it. We don’t want to slowly lose our most capable people as the generations roll on.

  13. I hate to say it, but this is kind of how I view marriage. I’m not this angry about marriage per say, but I do get tired of the crazy looks I get when I mention that I’m not really interested in marriage and that I don’t want to have children. With the way people react you’d think I’d grown an extra head or something.

  14. I gotta say that I’m happily married to my first love, and neither of us jeopardizes our identity for the sake of the relationship. I’m 22, he’s 30, and I’m with him because he’s the only man I’ve ever met who encourages me to be and find myself, no matter what effect it may have on him. I agree with Nita, I only found love once I stopped looking for it and focused on loving myself and learning more about who I am. I heard all the warnings that I was too young, that it was a mistake, that we moved too fast, and you know what? I chose to take a chance on being happy instead of letting everyone else’s worries hold me back. Couples are not just statistics of broken marriages and disappointments. Yes, some marriages crash and burn, swallow up identities and regurgitate resentment, but-Some don’t. Some live happily ever after. PS- I still think children will eat my identity and poop it out in smelly diapers. No spawn for me, thankee very much.

  15. Interesting you (and most of Black America) choose to use THE Obama’s and the Smith’s as THE standard to which Black people should aspire for a ‘happy’ marriage. I’m not totally inclined to believe that either union is a marriage made in bliss heaven by any means. I think the comment regarding marriage as a ‘means to an end’ can also aptly demonstrate their unions. I’m just saying. Just extending my devil’s advocate card a bit further and for good measure, not everything that glitters is gold; What happens in private is a whole other matter from the way couples portray themselves in public; Meet me, date me and then live with me are vastly different yet often troubling elements. Again, I’m just Having possibly overplayed my devil’s advocate card, I will admit that I enjoyed the article and the comments.

  16. Yes, I am married. What I love besides being a marrried Black man raising his family is being able to sit down with my wife and kids and watch good televsion shows like "Everybody Hates Chris", "Good Times" (With James Evans, Sr.), "My Wife and Kids", "The Cosby Show", and "Family Matters". Its not that these shows are so great, but they all depict for my children how other Black families interact and how there’s can be. Hip-hop has set our kids back a century, but you got admit televsion has somewhat gotten better as far as the "Black families". Don’t get me started on that ig’nant ass reality crack head shows with Flavor and the mom and them. That’s ignorant stuff! Marriage is a beautiful thing. "Give credit to those who are doing it right, encourage those trying"- Me

  17. I think this is also the message behind that Eat, Pray, Love book. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older, but for me marriage meant an EXPANSION of me and my dreams. It means having someone at my back who believes in me at times more strongly than I believe in myself. It would appear, at least to me anyway, that people are blaming marriage, the institution for simply having made bad choices. I remember watching Lance Armstrong’s wife on Oprah and wondering how she couldn’t see what is obvious to anyone who has seen even the most cursory interview with Lance Armstrong. Dude is a self-absorbed SOB who would suck the life out of pretty much anything. If you choose to mate with men like him, or Donald Trump or any other dickweed then that’s your call. It’s not about marriage, it’s about YOU and the men YOU chose.

  18. I agree with Saudia, it seems at though the Smith’s (the Obama’s too but maybe not as much) have this onstage behavior. Who knows what really goes on behind closed doors. It’s none of our business BUT when we start basing our relationships on other couples’ relationships (especially couples we don’t personally know) there are bound to be some problems. You have to find your own personal formula for what works in your marriage.

  19. Why is it about marriage rather than about me? What is my horrible experience the truth about marriage rather than my horrible experience?I’m a bit perplexed by this "we need to find ourselves." I tend to think that those closest to us including spouses know us in ways we cannot imagine because they are not in our heads but see us without our outside in public persona. Pehaps if they notice or bring out something that is opposite to the outside persona they are onto something that we simple cannot see.Denial is not just a river in Egypt.

  20. The post reminds me of a dialogue in my all time favorite movie "All About Eve" when Bette Davis’ character, Margo is pouring her heart out to her best friend while sitting in a cold car that’s run out of gas…something to the effect of "in the end, being a woman really doesn’t matter unless you’ve got a man to cook for and cuddle up to at night". I know I got married for all the wrong reasons – and had no one to blame but myself when it tanked (o.k., he did have a drug problem i was totally oblivious to…). I just thought it was the next step to take in life and he fit the basic criteria for my then, shallow 28-yr old way of thinking…Which brings me to the state of mind I’m now in – best summed up by a line from another of my favorite flicks: "The Women" (the original, w/Joan Crawford – not the poop-y remake w/Jada) "Romance?? Peace is a whole lot more to me than romance."

  21. Well said Roslyn – everything you said. If I ever marry, I hope that that’s the kind of marriage that I can have.

  22. I think a lot of views on marriage depends on your upbringing and how your parents viewed marriage. I come from a two-parent household and I believe in marriage and that there are good black men out there who want to be married, faithful, etc. However those few good men are scarce and it is not easy to find one when you are working on self and career. My god-sister however had totally different views on marriage. Her parents were married too but she remembers her dad always having girlfriends (it was hardly a secret to her mom) and she remembers her mom taking frequent "vacations" to her sisters house. She viewed marriage as BS and drama. The irony to the story is she is now married and I am single. I wanted marriage and she did not. We now have the opposite but I must say that I am happy with the position I am in today.

  23. That was pretty good. I am not married nor do I have kids and sadly I feel the way you mentioned in the monologue. I am only 26 (willl be 27 in 2 months). I don’t think it is that serious. People try to grow up so fast and think "marriage" makes you grown. Most people don’t even know theirselves before they decide to combine with someone else. Then people have kids as if they are doll babies. I want to grow and learn Stacy before I learn Stacy a husband and some kids. People say your "biological clock" ticking- oh well. I can adopt right? It is not that serious. I praise those who are happily married not happily faking it.I praise those who truly love and adore their kids.That person is not me (or at least not me at this moment)

  24. better not let the Mommy Set hear you say that about their Precious Bundles of Joy. I’m terrified of children and the death to the marriage and identity they represent. As bitter as that monologue is (goodness, hating someone because they’re married? Calling them a waste? Way to have a trip to HR, lady), some of the ideas are pretty understandable. It took me a couple of years to realize that i don’t have to fit into some predefined notion of Black Wifery in order to be a wife and have a decent marriage. Now the sex thing is an issue, but that’s another blog altogether.

  25. I know I'm a couple years late on this, but I still have to comment. "I know why some animals kill their young. Because they’re trying to survive and the fucking bastards are slowing them down." Yes, I erupted into laughter about this segment… It's funny 'cause it's true…

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