[Dash of SAS] Marriage is not an achievement

Ana P. Santos
There is this persistent notion that getting hitched is an achievement. It's not and here's why.

I came across this Huffington Post article and just had to stop and read. It said: “Marriage is not an Accomplishment”.

Normally, I would have dismissed this article with a quick upward swipe because it just seems so obvious. Getting married is not an accomplishment. We’re long past the days when women were not allowed to work, borrow money or own property and needed a man for everything from financial security to a roof over her head. So while marriage is still a milestone worth celebrating, it is not an accomplishment precisely for the reason that the writer cites: for marriage, you only need a willing partner.


Two events made me stop and read the article and a third prompted me to write about this column about the persistent notion that getting hitched is an achievement.


From Denmark


On assignment in Denmark last May to look into the au pair cultural exchange program, I was asked if I would (also) like to focus on the more positive side of the program where former au pairs have gone on to get higher education, for example. Of course, I said, can you refer me to a respondent?


And on more than one occasion, the default answer to my questions was a referral to a Filipino woman now married to a Danish man. Full stop. 


I blinked. Seriously. Being married to a Danish man qualifies as a success story? My feminist heart winced, cringed and bled as I smothered the instinct to respond with snark or snarl.


I was not always successful.


At one point, I actually blurted out, “Getting married to a Danish man hardly qualifies as an achievement” — to two Danish men who I was interviewing.


I quickly followed up with an attempt at mollification: “I’m sure you’re very nice gentlemen and all but marriage in itself is not an achievement. It’s 2016!”


My unsuspecting targets raised their arms as a sign of truce and assurance that no offense was taken. (READ: A Filipina au pair’s success story)


To South Africa


The marriage equals achievement conversation followed me months later in South Africa. I was having dinner with two twentysomething journalists who were trying to process their ambivalent feelings.


Their friends were getting married or getting engaged and pictures of engagement rings, babies and weddings were inundating their feed. They were happy for their friends, truly. But they wondered why their friends didn’t seem as happy for them when they talked about their master’s degree or a major story they broke.


They were beginning to question themselves and wonder if their life had any direction.


Again, I blinked.


Two decades ago, the conversation about life’s accomplishments was more monotonous. Everyone was living up to the expectation to follow the Life 101 Playbook: Get a job, get married, have a baby.


My twentsomething phase was marked by a thinly veiled mad rush to get on the matrimonial bandwagon or risk being left behind.


Twenty years later, with so many more options open to them, women are still feeling the same pressure and are still facing the same expectation.


Whether she’s living in Denmark or the US (where the two young journalists are from),

no woman is exempt from the notion that personal validation and fulfillment rest on her finding a man to have and having children to hold.


How could I tell them otherwise?


I felt lame telling the girls that it was a phase and that at some point, they will realize that life’s validations don’t come from another person but from yourself.


They nodded in the same polite way the two Danish men did and our dinner conversation moved to another topic.


And then Angelina happened.

ANGELINA'S CHOICE. The Hollywood superstar files for divorce from husband Brad Pitt.  

The end of Brangelina


If you’re like me, you are saddened by the divorce of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Other celebrity marriages hitting splitsville made the headlines this week but none got the same reaction as Brad and Angelina. The public is simply not as invested (ok, fine, interested maybe) in the marriages of other celebrities. This was Brangelina, they were the gold standard for fighting for love (Team Jolie), for progressive parenting (who else has such a diverse household) and social awareness (Brad’s comment on marriage equality and Angelina’s involvement with the UN).


They weren’t supposed to break up — ever. But they did and as I gobbled up the news to find out why, certain details caught my attention.


First, the terms of the separation: no spousal support needed. And second, the headline of another publication: London School of Economics lecturer to divorce actor husband.


It was subtle but oh, so clear. The marriage failed but Angelina will not be seen as a failure. She and her six kids are going to be just fine because her marriage to Brad Pitt, her being a mother to 6 children are not the only things that define her.


Whether or not you examine this as masterful PR spin, you have to know that this is another defining moment for women.


The lesson here is: Marriage is not an achievement. But being the kind of woman who takes charge of her own narrative is. – Rappler.com


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