Marry me… or not

One difference between the US and France that fascinates me is the fact that most Americans do want to get married while most French do not.

I figured that the Americans were still a bit conservative and that the ones wanting to live together out of wedlock were frowned upon. When my younger brother and his girlfriend of over 7 years decided to have a baby together, I’d talk about it referring to her as “his wife” simply because I did not want to have to deal with questions as to why they were having a baby without being married. I feel that in America ~and I know that I am totally generalizing because it will most likely depend on many things like which state you live in, your religious upbringing, and mostly how cool you really are ;-), the consensus is that if you are pregnant and not married, then most likely, someone has been taking advantage of you.

And I figured that people do not get married in France because they are scared of commitment… It seems that most people do not actually believe that one can be with a single partner for your entire life so why be a hypocrite and get married…

But then I was able to recently look at it from a different perspective. In France, if you want to get married, you only have one option: you have to get married at the local city hall… And then you can also choose to have a religious ceremony but given that those have no legal value, marriage does end up being just about the civil ceremony or like most people like to say, about a piece of paper without much meaning attached to it.

In the US, I think that getting married is truly about committing to someone… Of course, there are the ones who get confused between wedding and marriage but I am not going to go there here… I am only talking about the ones who decide to get married because they simply cannot imagine their life without the other person…

In France, when I say that I want to get married, I have had people looking at me as if I was some chick coming right out of la la land because in their opinion, there simply are no such things as fairy tales or happy endings. But recently, what I have realized is that like many other French people, I really could not care less about the piece of paper I would get from city hall if I’d get married here… I know it is not going to hold my relationship together. What will is being with someone who will commit to stick around when the going will get tough and who will not walk away the minute things get a little too complicated. So yes, I may not want the civil ceremony, but I do want the commitment ceremony, the exchange of the vows in front of friends and families… Next time around, I might even want to take his name and truly be a family. Because I loved being married… I loved knowing that there was this one person out there who wanted to be with me, who wanted to come home to me and tell me about his entire day… I loved feeling needed and I loved spending every day with my best friend… Our little world was just for the two of us and nobody knew anything about what we were about except for the two of us…

I also liked that ring on my finger… I would not look at it as “my” ring but rather as “his,” as a little piece of him that was with me all the time.

So marry me not if you really don’t want to… but still, be mine… Because I can only dream of someone who would put such a smile on my face…

J&CPhoto by Heather Forsythe

And  a special thought to my dear friend from Georgia who picked today to tell me that he finally decided to marry his longtime girlfriend and the mother of his children… So happy for you… You’ll see, marriage is wonderful…

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3 thoughts on “Marry me… or not

  1. Hi there!
    im living in lyon too. Although im not american from usa, im still american from venezuela, and yes…. we still have this conservative part about marriage, but we dont another option i mean or we live together or we get married. Here (fr) we have another option PACS … (or something like that) and there are a lot of people into that. Just another french way to be different.

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  2. Hello! I found this post really interesting because I had noticed that my French friends placed less of an emphasis on marriage than my British ones, which is counter-intuitive in a Catholic country. Do you really think it’s all about the ceremony being held in the Mairie though? I haven’t found a better explanation but it seems such a small reason for such a large trend, particularly when you consider the tax advantages of being married here.

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    1. I am not sure that France can truly be qualified as a Catholic country. I know that it remains the primary religion but I for one do not know anyone who regularly goes to church or even claims to be a Catholic. I have started wondering whether French people simply were not into celebrating rites of passage the way Americans are (sorry I don’t know much about the UK). I know that when I finished high school, I was simply expected to get my baccalaureat and when I did, I did not get neither recognition nor congratulations. In the US, finishing high school calls for a celebration. Same thing for college graduations, new jobs, engagements, birth announcements, etc. In France, I find that people do not celebrate those transitions or milestones quite as much. And when I have asked around why people lived together without getting married, I find that the answer I was given most of the time was that they simply were not ready or willing to claim their current relationship as ‘the (last?) one’. Like they needed to keep the door open… To be honest, I find that most of the couples around me are more into a “it is all good for now” kind of mindset and I sadly do not know anyone who claims they have found the one person they simply could not live without… maybe they have simply all mastered the art of detachment… As for me, I simply find it sad and chilling.

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