Marriage Is Totally Gangster

Marriage is Gangster, Marriage is Totally Gangster, Jackson Bliss, Gangster Love, Good Men Project, Marriage, Partner in Crime

Jackson Bliss thought that marriage would be the death of his masculinity. Then he realized that it helped him become a stronger, more courageous and more complete human being

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After LB and I became serious, I routinely ignored her hints about getting married, flicking them off my sleeves like breadcrumbs. Usually, I’d change the subject. Or I’d give her a long hug and tell her I loved her. Besides, she was a decorated marriage veteran, wearing an invisible Purple Heart for her battle wounds from her first marriage (dude cheated on her). Just as importantly, I was an adamant critic of the institution of marriage at the time. At any given instant, I could spew a furious and multiplying list of reasons on why the institution of marriage was irrevocably fucked up. The list was always in flux, but the basic arguments went something like this:

  • DOMA is profoundly discriminatory and same-sex couples should be able to marry whoever the fuck they want
  • Historically, marriage was an act of tribal consolidation and economic protectionism, connected to property rights and the ownership of female bodies
  • Radical social conservatives have been using straight marriage to rally single-issue voters for so long now that it’s become an act of cultural chauvinism, a political gesture of hypocrisy and a tool of oppression to deny legal and proprietary rights to gay couples. Therefore, every new straight marriage reinforces a complicit and codified discrimination against non-straight couples

My personal arguments were much simpler:

  • I don’t want to doom our relationship by following impossible expectations
  • Marriage always turns into friendship with diminishing bennies. Why complicate something so simple as love?
  • Marriage is slow-motion castration. Why sublimate my sexuality for a daydream?
  • Marriage kills the romance and the sexual chemistry of a good relationship. Why ruin a good thing for an impossible ideal?
  • Marriage is a baby boomer obsession. Gen X and Gen Y don’t have the same hang-ups. We can get down or disengage whenever we want
I had this epiphany: I don’t have to get married for all the reasons I abhor marriage, I can get married for all the things that make marriage beautiful. For my very own reasons.

In some cases, these arguments are still valid. But something changed inside me three years ago. I was driving through K-town with a friend when I had this epiphany: I don’t have to get married for all the fucked-up reasons I abhor marriage, I can get married for all the things that make marriage beautiful. For my very own reasons. It seems so obvious now, but it wasn’t so obvious inside my head. Once I returned to our Hollywood apartment, I opened the front door, ran to LB, gave her a huge hug and said: —I think we should get married, boo! LB told me not to joke around with marriage. She said she’d wanted us to marry me for so long now that she’d given up hope. She said Latinas don’t play with marriage, so if I valued my life at all I’d stop joking around. I laughed and told her I meant every word. I told her I wanted to be with her forever and that it was only now that I understood the way couples could shape marriage into their own creation, a collective Galatea project of passionate love, bedrock friendship and dynamic and continuous personal growth.

When we’d finally opened ourselves to that bold gesture of togetherness, we both cried like in telenovelas. A month later, we drove to the Beverly Hills courthouse and got married with tears streaming down our faces again. The sweet judge who married us that day said she could see how much we loved each other. She said in so many words that our vows were redundant. Afterwards, we called our shocked parents to let them know the impossible had happened. We went to Urth Café in West Hollywood with some friends and ate vegan chocolate cake. Two days later, we flew to Tokyo for our honeymoon and visited as many Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples as possible. We wanted to thank our ancestors and the Buddha for bringing us together.

♦◊♦

There are plenty of legit reasons not to get married. And clearly, marriage isn’t right for everyone (whatever their sexual orientation). It wasn’t even right for me until one mysterious day in 2010. But after being together for over seven years and married for almost four, I realize that marriage can be an intensely personal and intensely beautiful daydream that you share with the most important person in your life. Sometimes, you wake up from that co-created dream, other times you’re gone forever. And that’s okay, because part of marriage is pure raw intention.

But marriage is not the death of your masculinity or the death of your sex life.

But marriage is not the death of your masculinity or the death of your sex life. For too long now, male bachelorhood has had complete jurisdiction over the operative definition of masculinity. For too long, we’ve defined straight masculinity through the trope of the skirt-chaser and non-straight masculinity through the cruiser, as if only hunters were real men. The sexually dominant single male bachelor who rode a motorcycle, forgot to shave and didn’t call back the next day was always the real man, not the happily-married guy holding his wife’s (or husband’s) hand in the hospital, not the faithful husband resisting advances in a bar or making quiche out of the blue, and not the dedicated father who reads J.K. Rowling books to his kids and kisses his partner’s head as s/he sleeps. For whatever reason, we treat husbands and dads like they’re anti-sex symbols, part of the inevitable emasculation and degeneration process that begins in the chapel of love and ends in the nursing home. From Chris Rock’s hilarious cock in a jar theory to Milan Kundera’s degrading depiction of married couples as sexless, silent and boring extras in a movie of exciting bachelor protagonists, from big pimping motifs in hip-hop music to outdated biological narratives of male germination, and everywhere in the silver screen, marriage is depicted as the death of masculinity, the death of male identity and the death of male sexuality. Here’s the thing—and I say this in the sweetest way I know how—that depiction is complete bullshit.

In a way, there’s nothing more “gangster” (and I mean this in the most evolved sense possible) in the whole world than a man abandoning the trite gender clichés of the male hustler and exposing himself, devoting himself, to love and its emotional turbulence. In a way, there’s nothing more gangster than being real, complex and vulnerable: your imperfections, contradictions and hang-ups flashing in your partner’s face every day of your life like a strobe. In a way, there’s nothing more gangster than true intimacy: learning to understand, intuit, respect and celebrate your partner’s sexuality and sexual desire (and of course, being able to make love whenever both of you want). There’s nothing more gangster than monogamy: learning to stop using new sexual partners as an escape from the work you’ve got to do in the relationship you’re already in. There’s nothing more gangster than being with someone for such a long time in such an intense way that it forces you to confront your own bullshit. There’s nothing more gangster than learning to advocate, listen, and negotiate with your (life) partner. And of course, there’s nothing more gangster than not having to be a gangster at all: to learn how to undress your own gender stereotypes (especially those that glorify violence, promiscuity and lack of empathy) and rewrite those identities into empowering counterexamples of dynamic manhood. The evolved gangster, as I like to call it, never uses violence to resolve crisis. He never tries to escape his reality, never loses his ability to empathize, compromise and communicate with his partner. He never stops trying to become a better person and a more complete human being. He never stops caring for people or animals, he strives for self-awareness and has a healthy relationship with himself. Above all else, he never disses the redemptive power of love because his marriage is the very embodiment of it.

♦◊♦

Of course, all the great things that happen in dynamic marriages can also happen (and do happen) in dynamic relationships without the marriage vows. That’s obvious. But in some mystical way, marriage feels different to me. It’s a sort of beautiful weight that prevents me from floating up into the nebulous sky like a weather balloon (and ultimately, crashing back down to earth). It’s the awareness that my decisions will always have consequences for the person I love. It’s the sacred knowledge that she’ll always be there for me and I’ll always be there for her, even if the world collapses into chaos, global amnesia infects the planet and the streets burst into apocalyptic flames. For me, marriage is a tiny promise I’ve made to my self, to my wife, and to the universe, to be better than I actually am. When you break it all down, there’s nothing more gangster in the whole world than loving someone so much it actually engulfs you in sadness because you know there will never be enough time to express every majestic thing you feel for her when she looks at you with the sunlight in her eyes.

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image credit:  Flickr/Wineblat Eugene – Portraits

Other articles by Jackson Bliss:

Ballers of the Heart:  The Importance of Male Self-Love

5 Mistakes Men Make in Relationships

A Scarcity of Affection among Men

How to Stay in Love

The Dream of an Inclusive Masculinity

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Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Jackson Bliss

Jackson Bliss is the author of The Amnesia of Junebugs, The Ninjas of My Greater Self, Dream Pop Origami + Atlas of Tiny Desires. His essays + short stories have appeared in Tin House, Antioch Review, Kenyon Review, Fiction, Quarterly West, ZYZZYVA, Fiction International, Stand (UK), Huffington Post UK and African American Review, among others. You can find him at www.jacksonbliss.com and on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Probably my favorite article from GMP so far. I think a lot of people share your beliefs–that marriage is a powerful catalyst for learning virtues such as true love and acceptance, that it gives weight to your decisions, that you will have someone there for you through thick and thin, etc. But, I think, for a lot of people who love the idea of marriage, and share all of these beliefs with you, the thing standing between them and marriage is fear. Not fear of having to give up other sexual partners, or fear of having to have all of their possessions become co-owned, or fear of finding the toilet seat up. It’s fear of being left by your partner.

    I love the idea of marriage. I really do. I’d love to get married some day. But looking at the divorce rates, the broken marriages of my friends, and the sudden changes of heart that overcome people who promise their lives to others, I don’t know if I will ever get married. I find it too difficult to imagine that any one person can be trusted, just because they make a promise.

    It’s one of my dreams to get married and have a family of my own. But I don’t know if I ever will.

    It’d be nice to see an article dedicated specifically to how to overcome this fear.

    • JB

      I appreciate your honesty + know exactly how you feel. I felt similarly, to be honest before I got married to. Here’s my take on both marriage + love, for what’s it worth: It really doesn’t matter if things don’t work out, that’s actually okay. That doesn’t make them any less valuable to you. Maye a short relationship teaches you something crucial about yourself, maybe a short marriage teaches you how to love other people. But just because things end doesn’t mean they’re not worth trying. I mean, all of us will end someday too but our lives are still jammed with almost too potential beauty for people to handle in a life time. I say, just find the right person to love. That’s enough. Learn to trust + learn to be trustworthy. Give people second chances + demand them in return. Learn to love other people + learn that you’re worthy of being loved. All the other stuff like marriage, moving in, having kids, that will all happen organically I think. I personally think it’s better to try + fail then to not try at all. You might have pain, but you won’t have regrets for not trying. You’ll work it out. I have confidence in you.

      Peace, Blessings,
      -j1b

  2. Not buying it says:

    Marriage, dress it up as a wholesome, healthy, positive, cool, gangster like & long lasting affair all you want to Sir, for the average guy it’s a sham & a raw deal that more & more of us men are finding to be a very negative experience on average, the stats proves that fact & the numbers of males avoiding it is increasing year after year, traditionalist can claim ,men are refusing to man up & grow up all the want to, it’s simply cost versus benefit & more of us are noticing that fact.

    • You don’t have to buy it. As I said explicitly, marriage isn’t right for everyone + it may not work out either. I think the first part of my essay makes it pretty clear that there are more than a few legit reasons not to ever get hitched, but to pretend that anyone who gets married or who is happily married is deluded, that position is a little dogmatic for my tastes. I also agree with you that statistically, the divorce rate is staggering. But for some people, marriage can be a beautiful, amazing thing, what exactly is your objection to that? That’s pretty much the gist of my piece. And by the way, I’m like the farthest thing from a traditionalist, dude + no two marriages are alike. Maybe part of the reason my marriage is so amazing for me is because my relationship PRIOR to our marriage was equally amazing, so marriage became an extension, a consummation of the great stuff going on in our relationship. But either way, my personal opinion is that marriages don’t have to work out to be successful in some way. You don’t need stats, just the right person. But by all means, don’t get married if you’ve got it all figured out. Ultimately, people should be happy regardless of their marital status.

      Peace, Blessings,

      -j1b

    • I second that!

    • @ not buying it,

      Agree 100%. The majority of men who get married are scared for life in one fashion or another. I think it only works for SOME men.

  3. Marriage doesn’t always work out this way for many of us, but that doesn’t change the fact that it could be improved if more had this ‘make it what you want it to be’ approach.

    Love. This. Post.

    • good luck says:

      Isn’t the devil in the details that there are two people who are supposed to “make it what you want it to be”? And what they want is liable to change over time?

      Not that there isn’t room for improvement in marriage. No where to go but up, in fact.

      • Good Luck,

        Yes, of course. But the point here is that instead of being subjected to a marriage template or trying to follow some culture code about what a marriage is supposed to look like, couples need to make marriage their own personal, cocreated thing. I think that’s really important. And yes, people change over time, that doesn’t have to be a problem, especially if people can celebrate each other for who they are instead of who they think they should be. And if the two spouses transform into people who become incompatible (which, very likely they always were, but I’m sure this happens), I still don’t think a relationship or a marriage would ever be a waste of time. That experience would still be important. Longevity is not my criterion for success in any relationship, but love, growth + transformation.

        Peace,
        -j1b

    • So glad. I appreciate that.

      Peace, Blessings,

      -j1b

  4. Can we please stop using “gangsta” as a compliment? Real gangsters kill, rob and degrade innocent people in order to gain easy wealth for themselves. It’s not something I aspire to.

    Apologies for not commenting on the substance of the article…

    • Nic,

      That’s partially true, which is why my essay revises/redefines the term gangster, introduces the concept of the evolved gangster (because the classic gangster would almost never subscribe to the belief system I outlined here) + also why my piece gives space to both undress, appropriate, reinvent + recreate this term +/or reject the gangster as a trope of masculinity altogether. It’s pretty clear in this sentence:

      “And of course, there’s nothing more gangster than not having to be a gangster at all: to learn how to undress your own gender stereotypes (especially those that glorify violence, promiscuity and lack of empathy) . . . ”

      And whether I like it or not, gangster has entered into the popular domain + many people who use that term colloquially do not have in mind any of the violent behavior that real gangsters exhibit. The terms gangster has morphed into something bigger, stranger, more contradictory + less violent than the original meaning.

      Thanks for reading my piece, Nic. I hope you’re doing well.

      Peace,

      -j1b

      • Katherine says:

        Also, just because other people inappropriately appropriate (lol) racial terminology doesn’t mean it’s okay. lots of people do lots of stuff. You need to take a black studies class.

        • Right, because if I took a black studies class, I wouldn’t write this essay. That’s absurd. Look, I’m from Chicago, which is where the term gangster comes from. If I’m appropriating the term gangster, then I’m appropriating an appropriation. Second, just because some people use the term as a form of racialization doesn’t mean no one is allowed to use it anymore. It certainly doesn’t mean that only people of color can use gangster considering that the term has been used to describe both white, black, Latino + Asian gangsters. And what about the Yakuza? I’m part Japanese + my family on my mom’s side is completely Japanese. Does that suddenly entitle me to use that term now? Are you trying to suggest that gangster is the same thing as a racial slur? There’s absolutely no way the term gangster is just used for African Americans. Surely they taught you that in one of your black studies classes. Third, even if the term gangster had been racialized to mean just black (which it doesn’t, to be clear), I’m not letting Fox News decide which terms I get to use. The problem isn’t the term, the problem is the way that some (mostly white, conservative) people have used “gangster” as a way of racializing people. Why would we allow white hegemony + white supremacy to dictate our own cultural vocabulary? Fourth, with the exception of the N-Bomb + a few other deeply hurtful words, which should always be forbidden for use by white people, I’d argue that people don’t get to control language even if they wanted to. Different people of different demographics are using the term gangster to mean a number of overlapping but disparate things. Neither you nor I get to decide how those meanings of that word change over time or with different communities + we certainly don’t get to police that word so that it now only means one single, exclusive, despicable, racially insulting definition above all others, especially when that meaning is not necessarily shared by a large number of other people in this country. Maybe you need to take a class on feminist hermeneutics.

          Peace,

          -j1b

    • Anonymous says:

      I felt the same way when I read this article! Great insights but puhleeeease dont use ganagsta. It sounds like my jr hi son!

  5. I am incapable of loving like that. What has enabled you to do so? I fictionalize my life experiences to try and make it work, at least in my head and on paper.

    • Virginia,

      Thanks for your honesty. To be honest (+ as I mentioned briefly in my essay), for most of my life, I wasn’t ready for it either. I tell LB (my wife) all the time that if I’d met her earlier on in life, it would never have worked between us. I wasn’t emotionally mature enough, I was way too interested in making out with too many girls, I had a hard time committing, I hated the idea of marriage, I was way too narcissistic . . . the list actually goes on + on. I’m not saying this to self-deprecate either, just to get to the point I’m making: I really think that the reasons my marriage with LB is so good is because I met her at the right time. I think those things are very helpful. I met her after I’d dated a lot of girls + experimented with my reality, which helps me appreciate what I have with her more, helped me become more aware of how my mind works + how it can sabotage a relationship. She met me after getting her heart broken, which made her braver + more open to love + its possibilities. If I’d met her when I was younger, I would have broken her heart + she would have been too guarded. Instead, we met when both of us were emotionally available, slightly humbled, romantically open + looking for the same thing. I think our willingness to love, our openness to love + even our strange, mystical faith that love exists were probably all preconditions for us meeting each other and falling in love. In addition to all the other really important things a good relationship needs (like communication, things in common, chemistry, attraction, patience + tolerance, great sex, sense of humor, honesty, etc., etc.), I think meeting the right person at the right time can be really helpful. Hopefully you live in a big city where there’s 1,000 of right people for you.

      Anyway, I wish you tons of luck. More than anything, you should find your own happiness in whatever form it takes.

      Peace, Blessings,

      -j1b

  6. It’s awesome that you were able to move past your old stereotypes and preconceptions about marriage and move to a place where you entertain new ideas about it.

    Unfortunately, it seems that you have substituted another set of stereotypes and preconceptions about marriage for the ones you used to have.

    For example, you wrote “In a way, there’s nothing more “gangster” (and I mean this in the most evolved sense possible) in the whole world than a man abandoning the trite gender clichés of the male hustler and exposing himself, devoting himself, to love and its emotional turbulence.” Unfortunately, you seem to hold only two cliches are possible: the evolved, loving married man and the unevolved, unmarried hustler. In reality, not all unmarried people are these stereotyped “hustlers,” and there are many, many married people who do not devote themselves to love or vulnerability. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that whether or not a person is legally married actually has very little to do with whether they’re “devoted to love and all its turbulence.”

    Similarly, you confuse marriage with monogamy. Not all non-married people are non-monogamous, and not all married people are monogamous!

    Then you compound that stereotype by characterizing non-monogamous people as “using new sexual partners as an escape from the work you’ve got to do in the relationship you’re already in,” apparently not aware that some people are deliberately, ethically non-monogamous and don’t use non-monogamy as an “escape” from relationship work. Far from it; investing in two (or more!) long-term, stable romantic relationships requires nothing short of an awe-inspiring amount of investment in relationships.

    You say “There’s nothing more gangster than being with someone for such a long time in such an intense way that it forces you to confront your own bullshit,” yet in my experience, this isn’t something you can assume in a married relationship; quite the contrary, many married people simply learn to naviagte around one another’s bullshit, engaging in a kind of Mutually Assued Destruction pact where each learns not to call the other on bullshit for far of being called on their own.

    And so on. I could keep going, but I hope the point is clear by now. When you talk about marriage, you’re talking about a particular stereotype of marriage–a stereotype that does not apply to all married people, and which does not exclude many non-married people.

    What you’re talking about is a certain kind of romantic relationship–a kind which, perhaps, you personally can not have without a marriage certificate, but which other people can (and do), and which a marriage certificate can’t guarantee.

    • Dear Franklin,

      Thanks for reading my piece. I appreciate that.

      On to your comments: First off, I haven’t substituted any stereotypes for marriage, unless of your course you think that monogamy is a marriage stereotype (it’s not, it’s a personal choice that happens to characterize the vast majority of married couples) or unless you think that positing a few ways in which marriage can be awesome + beautiful somehow qualifies as an idealization of marriage (which still wouldn’t be a stereotype, by the way). But in case it’s not clear, my essay does not idealize marriage. It concedes a number of legit reasons why marriage as an institution is flawed + also concedes that marriage will not be right for some, possibly even many people. I’m perfectly clear about that despite your misreading. All I advocate is that marriage can be amazing with the right person, a point which you seem to completely avoid, maybe because that interpretation doesn’t give you the right to tacitly defend polyamory as an alternative to monogamy.

      Also, my essay also does not maintain two clichés of marriage either, that’s a crazy oversimplification. In fact, my essay is arguing for an expanded definition of masculinity, that includes the evolved gangster, a conception that is the very opposite of a stereotype since the evolved gangster doesn’t even exist as a sexual or matrimonial trope. Also, I make the argument that married couples have the creative freedom to make their marriage into whatever they want (a joint work of art, a collective piece of Galatea, as I call it). That’s the very OPPOSITE of a cliché, which is literally a stamp or template. Also, in no way did my piece assume that being married = being enlightened or that being single = a hustler. That’s patently untrue. I think you’re confused. My argument is pretty clear, actually: that MASCULINITY shouldn’t be defined just by the single hustler, the single cruiser, the dysfunctional single guy who never calls back or the hunter because there’s more than one way to define masculinity, which is why I include alternate examples of masculinity that I think also should be included in the public imagination, like the father reading to his kids, the husband holding his wife’s hand in the hospital, etc., etc. Furthermore, the hustler + the cruiser, for example, aren’t my sole definitions of being single. I shouldn’t even have to point that out. Those are a few examples of the dysfunctional single male archetype that I think shouldn’t have sole jurisdiction over the definition of masculinity.

      Additionally, it’s incorrect to state that I confused marriage with monogamy. I’m completely aware that there are polygamous marriages (illegally of course), polyamorous relationships without marriage + there are also polyamorous marriages with one legal wife. You’re not telling me anything I don’t already know, dude. But monogamy is still the most common type of relationship in marriage, which is part of the reason I focused on it, and my point is that monogamy can be amazing thing too. I’m not suggesting that people have to be monogamous either, just that monogamy in a marriage can be amazing with the right person. Obviously monogamy can be a failure, just as polyamory can, just as being single + jaded can. Furthermore, it’s incorrect to state that I characterized all non-monogamous relationships as “using sexual partners as an escape from the work you’ve got to do in the relationship you’re already in.” That’s not my characterization of polyamorous/polygamous relationships, that’s my critique on what some people do in MONOGAMOUS relationships, they cheat on the person they’re with (even though their relationship is supposedly monogamous) so that they don’t have to work on the shit in the relationship they’re already in. And obviously that’s not the only reason people cheat on each other, but it’s one of them. I know lots of people who have done this very thing for these very reasons. I also know this because I used to do this when I was younger for those very reasons.

      Further, I never assumed that people in a marriage automatically confront their own bullshit either. Where did you get that? I argue that marriage gives you the opportunity to do that because of your intention to try to be together for the long haul, which not only requires a different skill + solution set, but is also one of the reasons why marriage can be awesome when it works. One of the biggest flaws in your critique is that you confuse an essay that speaks about how amazing marriage can be with an empirical essay that attempts to characterize how marriages actually are. Yes, I agree with you that there are plenty of dysfunctional marriages that leave much to be desired. No question. But the same can be true about the single life, polyamorous relationships + asexual relationships too. So what’s the point? My piece already concedes this + argues that the opposite possibility is also there, which is what makes marriage potentially incredible, especially with the right person. Yes, when I talk about marriage, I AM talking a specific type of marriage, a marriage that has enormous potential for personal growth, negotiation, love, evolution, intimacy, happiness, joy, desire + self-awareness. In no way is my essay naïve about marriage though. I would never claim that marriage “guarantees” ANY of the things that I talked about, an absurd assertion on your part. I even state that:

      “There are plenty of legit reasons not to get married. And clearly, marriage isn’t right for everyone (whatever their sexual orientation).”

      My central thesis is much more nuanced, complex + objective than you’re giving me credit for. I argue that with the right person, marriage can be the greatest thing in the whole world. I argue that marriage does not have to be the emasculation of the husband. I argue that marriage can be the epitome of love. I argue that marriage can force us to be real with ourselves + with our partners who end up seeing every part of us as time goes by. I argue that marriage can be deeply comforting in a spiritual, emotional + psychic way. But the operative word is CAN, a word of potentiality, not a prophecy, not an empirical state of the union on marriage.

      Let me say this again, dude, because you seem to have ignored it. I know that people don’t need to be married in an awesome relationship because I also said the exact same thing in my essay. I even called it obvious:

      “Of course, all the great things that happen in dynamic marriages can also happen (and do happen) in dynamic relationships without the marriage vows. That’s obvious.”

      But what I go on to argue is that for me, marriage does feel different. If you disagree, that’s cool with me. The difference is that my essay understands there are many problems with marriage (both historically and culturally) + that marriage is sometimes the wrong decision. But my piece also posits the opposite possibility + sees unlimited potential for personal growth, happiness + evolution. If you think I’m describing (or even more bizarrely, guaranteeing) that all marriages are like that, or if you think I’m suggesting that everyone should be married or monogamous, frankly, I don’t think you really understood my essay. You certainly don’t understand me. I think you’re simply gravitating towards your favorite polyamory talking points that you’ve probably made before. Conversely, I think your comments also make a number of tacit assumptions about polyamory, about being single, and about marriage that are even more specious than the warrants you claim I’m making in this piece. But I don’t wanna get into that. What you’re talking about (or implying) in your commentary is also a “certain kind of romantic relationship,” in this case, the stereotypical dysfunctional marriage, the self-avoiding marriage, the trapped-in-a-box-because-I’m-not-evolved-enough monogamous marriage, as well as the sexually emancipated polyamorous relationship, the happily single bachelor/bachelorette. And that’s fine because those relationships certainly exist too. I have no doubt.

      But when you say “And so on. I could keep going, but I hope the point is clear by now,” the point was always clear: you failed to distinguish between ontic, deontic, potential, + empirical descriptions of ideal marriage in my essay. You made a series of inaccurate assumptions about my piece, + it was those assumptions that were the target of your commentary. In many instances you simply ignored what the essay said, even when it made the same argument you were making or anticipated your critique. But whatevs, man. At the end of the day, I’m sticking with what I wrote because I believe it with all my heart: marriage can be awesome, beautiful + empowering with the right person. It can even help formulate a new conception of masculinity, foster spiritual + emotional growth + teach us a lot about issues of intimacy, trust, authenticity and ground us to reality in a power + redemptive way. I can say all of that because it’s been my own personal experience with marriage + also that of many other people I know who are also happily married. But I also know—because I stated this point blank in my essay and because well, I have eyes—that people don’t need to be married to be happy, liberated or evolutionary + the married life doesn’t guarantee anything or suit everyone for a number of often legit reasons. The point, though, is there’s an implied optimism in my essay that I think you’re missing that is patently different than delusion or stereotype.

      Peace, Blessings,

      -j1b

      • Is it possible that maybe you communicated all of that poorly the first time, then? Could you maybe take responsibility for that instead of being so defensive? That might be gangster.

    • Not buying it says:

      Mr Bliss, I truly wish you all the bliss in your relationship endeavor Sir, I am not anti-relationships as much I am anti- common law & marriage including any relationship that is government involved, that forces either adult parties to follow specific criteria based on outsiders ( religion – ideological demagogues – government decisions, ..etc) views period, human relationships are evolutionary natural invention based on our needs according to time , place & Era, therefore we are seeing ever increasing number of different kinds of relationships evolving nowadays since marriage as we know it is not as attractive option for heterosexuals men & women at least.

      • Not buying it says:

        Mr Bliss,
        By the way it’s not the idea of commitment that is I am avoiding or dreading , heck I am in a committed relationship for years now in which not only do we have separate places, the term common law is not something either of us defines it as, both of us had children, Ex’s ..etc, but we have separate residences, accounts, friends, …etc.
        we do care about each other enough to set the other person free from coercion & unnecessary commitments if & so the other person wants to move on, it requires emotional maturity but it makes both of us happy & I am actually running in to more & more couples in somewhat of the same situation although some of them live together.

    • Hi Franklin

      You write:
      ✺ “investing in two (or more!)
      long-term, stable romantic relationships requires nothing short of an awe-inspiring amount of
      investment in relationships.”✺

      May I ask you a question. How long do the poly relationships lasts? Are 50% lifelong relationships ?
      I ask because I know nothing about it,and have never meet anyone living in committed long term relationships with several partners .

  7. PursuitAce says:

    This worship of marriage by progressives is at best disturbing. At worst it’s a terrible support of the primary pillar of the patriarchy. Franklin your comment is right on the money. I hope people are paying attention.

    • This essay is much more objective, nuanced + fair than that. It does not workshop marriage (sorry, that’s an absurd overstatement), it enunciates some of the redeeming aspects of a healthy marriage, expands the definition of masculinity to include the father and the husband + also simultaneously revinvents + defies the gangster stereotype. At the same time, my piece concedes a number of problems with marriage, both historical, cultural, institutional + even political issues with the institution (which includes an obvious referent to patriarchy), so worship is an absurd characterization (because that connotes a delusional, one-sided, uncritical perspective). Additionally, I advocate for couples co-creating a marriage + making it into their own project of love together, which is the opposite of patriarchy, by the way, which is male-dominated + also predetermined. Lastly, are you seriously trying to suggest that conservatives don’t workshop marriage? So-called family values are the very heart of the GOP, as is the “protect (straight, white) marriage from gay couples” subculture. You’ve got to be joking.

    • marriage is the primary pillar of patriarchy??? who’s going to tell my young niece who dreams about her wedding day???

    • wellokaythen says:

      As for marriage being a tool of the patriarchy:

      Marriage takes many different forms in many different societies. It is not inherently, always patriarchal. When and if you find some good historical or anthropological evidence for non-patriarchal societies, you’ll see they have forms of marriage as well. Patriarchal forms of marriage are just one kind.

  8. The death of sex life? So you’re already living in sin? Is yours a mixed marriage too? 3 years later – you still together? Marriage sucks.

  9. I really enjoy the points made about the failures of marriage. I’m not sure why society is so afraid of a marriage that fails. It’s certainly possible, and my wife and I have discussed this at various points in our relationship, but that doesn’t mean we should be avoiding it. We know that failures can make us better as people. I’ve seen every failed relationship as an opportunity to improve myself which has culminated in the marriage I’m living in today. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. We’re being very careful to wait a couple years before we have kids because we want to be sure our kids grow up in a loving family and nothing else.

    For now, we’re having a lot of fun. There’s an element of relief involved in being married. We’ve gone the distance and made the ultimate commitment to each other. That gives us the freedom to move forward and begin planning our lives out together. It may not work out, but what’s the point in doing it if you fear a burden that things may not work out?

  10. Katherine says:

    “there’s nothing more “gangster” (and I mean this in the most evolved sense possible)”….

    Nope. Were you seriously not capable of finding a more accurate word? Did the editors put you up to this? The only justifiable reason to use a word like this to mean “cool” is if a better one literally doesn’t exist. It’s…it’s hella lazy dude.

    • Jackson Bliss says:

      Katherine,

      I don’t know what I have a bigger issue with, the sententious tone with which you wrote that comment, or the assumption that I’m either not smart enough or original enough to reattribute this word in a current idiomatic expression for a different purpose in my article. But for the record, the term “gangster” has become synonymous in our culture with both “thuggish, strong, attractive, cool, tough, badass, dangerous, sexy, homicidal + powerful.” I didn’t invent that word + I certainly didn’t force it into the vernacular of 20 and 30-somethings. But that word is there, it has all of those valences (+ more) + it’s not going anywhere in popular culture. What I’m trying to do, is reassign that term into something matrimonial. Because many men treat marriage like it’s castration, I’m clearly arguing that it’s not, by reassigning a new definition for a common (complex) marker of masculinity, the gangster. What’s hella lazy is your reading of my article that clearly ignores the way I’ve reappropriated + redefined this term to be a positive thing (hence, the evolved gangster, which is clearly different than just a gangster).

  11. Love, Love, Love this article! Not only because you clearly outline that forever is NOT for everyone, but also for the fact that you show how much work a marriage really is.

  12. John Anderson says:

    I might consider a mail order bride type thing, but probably wouldn’t marry a woman from the U.S. The biggest issue is that I’d have to put up with someone else and they’d have to put up with me. I can see the first one happening, but not the second. I also need significant amounts of alone time, which I imagine is counter marriage.

    • American males considering normal to buy women. To buy people, people to live with them and serve them, people that could care less about them. I do not know if I laugh or feel ashamed for humanity, maybe I’ll go with both. America was supposed to be a first world Country, but it seems that, socioculturally, it is a sad place. These males also still believe American women is the issue, though. Yes, all of them (if I remember well, almost 160 million?), men there are saints and victims, that is all. Hysterical and embarrassing.
      Males there think of women as… ‘slaves’ that need to do what males want them do to without having to reciprocate? It seems like so. So better just buy one, I guess. They really see women as something you buy so they have to do what males want them to do, with a contract, without original affection, never on the same level, maybe they even feel some kind of superiority feeling in this situation. Grossed out, I guess most of the rest of the thinking world is feeling the same as me right now.

      • John Anderson says:

        @ José K.

        Why do you think getting a mail order bride is the same as buying a woman. Granted she’s probably a little less picky when it comes to choosing whom to marry, but I don’t think that they’re totally without standards. I know a 26 year old Filipina who wasn’t interested in a 46 year old American man because he was fat and bald.

        I know several men who’ve married women from other countries and guess what. They’re some of the happiest couples I’ve seen. The way these guys talk about their wives. You can tell they adore them and that stereotype about these women being slaves. I haven’t seen it. I know a guy who buys food before he goes home because he doesn’t like his wife’s ethnic cooking. I know another guy who can’t get guacamole because avocado is prepared as a desert in the Philippines. They never forced their wives to cook anything they didn’t want to. I know another guy who was so in love with his bride that he learned Spanish for her and she was so in love with him that she got her mother in law to teach her how to cook all his favorite meals.

        From what I’ve seen as long as you’re not an asshole. You don’t beat her, etc. and you’re willing to help her family members, you have a person who’ll take care of you for life. It’s not hard to fall in love with someone who cares for you. I’ve seen that happen with both parties.

  13. wellokaythen says:

    Ah, marriage may be gangster, but is it “gangsta”?

    I’m just an uptight a cultural dinosaur. When did “gangster” become a good thing? It’s bad enough that “pimp” is now a positive expression. I’m waiting to see the article titled “To Be a Husband Is to Be a Pimp.” Great, just great….

  14. wellokaythen says:

    If it’s so wonderful, then why every stop at just one? Marriage is so cool and so awesome that each person should try it as many times as possible. Try 2, 3, 4 spouses at a time.

  15. Danielle Paradis says:

    So much awwwwww for this piece :D

  16. It’s interesting that we have a stereotype that men want to avoid marriage when married men seem to be healthier and happier than single guys, and are quicker than women to get into a new relationship after a failed one.

  17. Interesting how the word “gangster” is being used here: “…in the most evolved sense…” Ghetto culture–which includes gangsters–is being glorified by people who have little to no idea what they are referencing. White kids of privilege like to emulate “thug” behavior, seemingly because they think it makes them appear badass. The truth is, most of the kids/people who jump on this gangbang wagon would piss their pants in the face of a legit gangster. These aren’t superheroes being emulated. They are real people who would not even be tolerated in most of the circles where their persona is being tossed around like a party hat.

  18. wellokaythen says:

    Never mind what I just wrote. You said it much better than I did!

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