Will Marriage Give You Your Most Authentic Life?

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I have been thinking about security lately, not in an Ashley Madison hack kind of way, but the way we seek security in romantic relations and what we gain — and give up — to have it.

It was spurred by watching Vicky Cristina Barcelona again, the 2008 Woody Allen movie that explores the very human struggle between security and passion, dependency and freedom.

Can we have it all?

If you haven’t seen the film, in brief, the 20-something Vicky and Cristina are friends spending the summer in Barcelona with Vicky’s parent’s friends, Judy and Mark, and end up in a complicated love triangle of sorts with a seductive artist, Juan Antonio, complicated even further when his former wife, Maria Elena — a talented and tempestuous artist whose passion excites and destroys — reappears.

The no-nonsense Vicky is about to marry a New York lawyer whose bandwidth doesn’t deviate much beyond business, golf and buying a house in Westchester. The free-spirited Cristina is seeking something much more than that, but she’s unsure of exactly what she wants; she just knows what she doesn’t want. Cristina jumps at the chance for adventure when Juan Antonio approaches them in a restaurant and invites them for a weekend of sex, food and wine on a nearby island — “Life is short, dull, full of pain,” he tells them — and then, shortly after, moves in with him and indulges in a hedonistic life, including threesomes with him and Maria Elena. The one passionate night Vicky spends with Juan Antonio is enough for her to realize what she’ll be giving up by marrying her safe but boring fiance. For perhaps the first time, she lies to him.

It’s easy to see things are probably not going to end up well.

But, you have to define “well.”

WARNING: Spoilers ahead.

Forget Juan Antonia and Maria Elena — their passionate “can’t live with you, can’t live without you” relationship will most likely never change. It’s what happens to Vicky and Cristina that matters.

Despite her lust-as-misplaced-love for Juan Antonio, Vicky marries her fiance. She settles for a secure, safe but passionless future even if there’s been a fundamental shift in her. She appears to be doomed to follow in the footsteps of her hostess — Judy no longer loves her husband and although she is cheating on him, she tells Vicky she can never divorce him. She, too, chooses safety.

Cristina, on the other hand, realizes that although she wants nothing to do with Vicky’s secure but boring future, she doesn’t want to continue to be swept up in the passionate insanity in the Juan Antonio-Maria Elena household, either. She leaves, unsure of what’s ahead but again clear on what she doesn’t want.

In the end, only Cristina, as untethered as she may appear to most people, chooses to live an authentic life.

Which gets me back to my original pondering, what we gain — and give up — for the security of a romantic relationship, especially marriage.

Besides love, which remains the No. 1 reason, many of us say we marry because we want life-long commitment (for heteros perhaps, but not same-sex couples). The promise of that gives us a sense of security, that someone will always love us and find us desirable, even at our most unlovable and undesirable, and will have our back. Except we know that it doesn’t always work out that way, and despite being a wonderful spouse and despite all the great things you do for your partner, you can’t affair- or divorce-proof your marriage.

Marriage gives us a false sense of security that we will have what we want — or what we think we want — forever.

Even when we don’t. Sometimes, divorce happens. Sometimes it doesn’t and while we may stay together and continue that history, we may no longer love each other or find the other desirable. All that remains is the commitment.

So, what are we giving up by buying into the “security” of marriage? Will we be living our most authentic life by seeking that “security”?

Well, I don’t have the answers and while you may not, either, those are the questions you might want to ask yourself before getting hitched, along with asking if you could be happy with commitment that didn’t last a lifetime. Many of us who have been in multiple loving relationships — live-in, married or not — have already experienced that.

What’s your most authentic life?

Have the marriage you want by ordering The New I Do on Amazon, and, while you’re at it, follow TNID on Twitter and Facebook.

Originally published at omgchronicles.vickilarson.com.

Written by

Award-winning journalist, coauthor of “The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels,” mom, changing the narrative about older women

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